There is something special about The Terror: Infamy's visionary storytelling in dramatizing the horrors of Japanese-American Internment with actors of Japanese descent. Yet by adding a monster to the second season, the AMC series seems to be underplaying the horror of internment, says Inkoo Kang. "One of the most striking things about Infamy is how relatively little time it spends illustrating the damage wrought by internment," says Kang. "There are the requisite scenes of being abruptly forced to pack one’s life into two suitcases (the maximum number allowed) and the internees never being told where they would be sent or for how long. ('Two weeks,' Chester initially guesses. 'Or months. Tops.') Other details are accurate to the camps, too: Many were forced to sleep in soiled horse stables, and roving floodlights would render privacy, even when using the bathroom, a distant memory. But because the show’s depiction of incarceration hews closely to the concerns of the Nakayamas, who aren’t particularly ideological, Infamy also skips over some essential points, like the distress of rush-selling homes and businesses after FDR issued Order 9066, the key role that white California farmers played in spreading Japanophobia, even the depression many suffered in the camps. And because the monster, in the guise of a kimono-clad young woman (Kiki Sukezane), drives several characters to kill themselves in spectacular fashion, it’s possible that this more personalized and visceral aggression distracts from the rarely fatal but thoroughly dehumanizing violence of the state. But there’s power, too, in assuming the audience’s knowledge of the subject at hand—an implication that they should already know this history, and fairly thoroughly at that. (Asian American studies majors, rejoice!)" Kang adds: "The series doesn’t minimize the internees’ hardships, even if it somewhat underplays them. But it’s also a little strange to see the only major piece of pop culture about Japanese-American incarceration imply that its characters have even scarier things to worry about."
The Terror: Infamy too often shunts real-life terror to the side to dwell on a sinister, superpowered spirit: "The injustices the Japanese Americans faced would hit home even harder if we spent enough time with the non-Chester recurring characters to understand them intimately, but the spirit’s vendetta takes precedence," says Ben Lindbergh. "Frequent shifts in place and time further weaken our attachment to the camp community, while also creating confusion about the scope of the spirit’s power. In Season 1, the transgressing sailors, who killed an Inuit shaman and slaughtered a family of friendly natives, deserved their demonic companion; the menace seemed to be balancing the scales by punishing the explorers for their arrogance and recklessness. In Infamy, the presence of a murderous spirit seems gratuitous on top of the treatment the Japanese Americans are already suffering at the hands of an apparently uncaring country and its robotic, blank-faced military men."
It's a campfire tale that won't jolt you immediately, but it packs an unsettling punch that lingers: "Hollywood has been so uninterested in telling stories that explore and acknowledge the internment camps that I could have been completely satisfied watching The Terror: Infamy and being moved by the historical injustice alone," says Daniel Fienberg. "Or just listening to (George) Takei tell stories. In the same respect, the survival aspects of the first season probably would have been enough. Still, the supernatural elements in the first season were actively scary and disturbing, maybe more so when most of it was left to our imagination, with a claustrophobia that built episode-by-episode. Infamy is less visceral in the fear it generates and its buildup through the six episodes sent to critics is less dramatic, going for a tone that's more folkloric than horror. That's largely its intent, of course."
George Takei feels the urgency of The Terror: Infamy: "We were a threat to national security because of the way we looked,” said Takei, who spent part of his childhood in a World War II Japanese-American internment camp. “We were potential spies, saboteurs, fifth columnists. That sweeping statement, again, I heard as a senior citizen on Broadway — being mouthed by Donald Trump. It’s an American story that all Americans should know about, just like slavery, or what happened to the Native Americans. And yet our history books have been very mute on the subject.”