Season 1, Episode 6

A Mercy

With the end of their provisions in sight, officers contemplate a tough, risky strategy while struggling to raise the men's worsening spirits.


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It's January 1848. The Tuunbaq hasn't been seen in months.

In the Erebus Great Room, John Irving gives the lieutenants a rundown of their supply count after putrid cans of Stephan Goldner Tinned Foods Co.'s provisions were thrown out. He predicts they'll reach the end of their provisions by mid-winter of next year. James Fitzjames, now acting as captain, decides they'll start conserving "all things portable” and refrain from informing their men. After the meeting, Fitzjames meets privately with Thomas Blanky and asks him about "what actually happened" during Sir John Ross' expedition on the Victory ship. Blanky recalls spending three winters on the ship and the dire living conditions of the working men once they abandoned it. Blanky suggests doing something to take the men’s minds off their circumstances. "Once it's past all hope, the mind goes unnatural with thoughts," Blanky warns. The steward, John Bridgens, listens from outside the room.

Fitzjames rummages through Captain Sir John Franklin's private storeroom and finds a trunk full of carnival costumes.

On Terror, Captain Francis Crozier is tended to by his steward, Thomas Jopson. Jopson discloses his experience caring for his mother when she was weaned off of laudanum.

Cornelius Hickey visits Private Heather, still comatose, in the Erebus sickbay.

Dr. Henry Goodsir observes changes in Jacko as Jacko continues to eat tainted canned foods.

Hickey finds Gibson in the forecastle and pries for information about the lieutenants. Gibson mentions a list detailing an inventory of empty luggage. Lieutenant Little gathers the men and announces Fitzjames’ plan for a carnival party.

Out on the ice, Lady Silence guts a seal and eats. Afterwards, she arranges seal meat in a circle around her and sings.

The men haul supplies to the carnival site. Hickey talks to Thomas Hartnell and implies that Thomas Armitage, Terror's gunroom steward, owes Hartnell for not turning him in when they were punished for violence against Lady Silence. Hartnell regrets ever going along with Hickey's plan.

Lt. Little worries about all the supplies being used for the carnival, but Fitzjames asserts they can't "possibly carry all this, come Spring." He plans to leave the final decision to Crozier, but guesses the men must abandon the ship soon. "He was right all along."

Second Master Henry Collins enters the Erebus sickbay, looking for Dr. Goodsir. Dr. Stephen Stanley reduces Goodsir's title to "Mr. Goodsir" and asks about Collins' needs. Collins explains feeling like his mind is "against" him. Stanley recommends Collins keep busy. On his way out, Collins notices Stanley's sketch of his daughter.

In Franklin's store room, Fitzjames picks out an outfit for the party. A bead of blood trickles down from his hairline.

Jacko screeches in agony, then dies.

Henry Peglar, Terror's Captain of the Foretop, enters Bridgens' cabin. Bridgens takes out a copy of Xenophon's Anabasis and recounts the story of The March of the Ten Thousand. "They had to choose. They could either stay and fight against clearly unwinnable odds or they could walk out," Bridgens explains. "Begin to imagine how you'd prepare for such a journey."

On the ice, Lady Silence sees the Tuunbaq approaching. She asks that the creature accept her as its new shaman, then presses a knife against her tongue.

The men trek to the tented carnival, half a mile from the Terror.

On Erebus, Goodsir studies Jacko's corpse and finds a gray line across her gumline, just like he saw on John Morfin. Goodsir fetches Stanley immediately.

On Terror, Crozier asks Jopson to help get him to the party.

Goodsir realizes the men have all been digesting lead and suggests telling command immediately, but Stanley reminds him that it's not his decision to make.

At the party, the costumed men drink and sing while Private Heather's body is propped up against a wall. Crozier catches Fitzjames' eye and plans to end the party. Fitzjames assumes responsibility and maintains he wanted to "get the men ready.” Crozier gathers the men, insisting they be made aware of what's going on.

Crozier announces plans to abandon both ships as soon as there is enough sunlight in the day for safe travel. Crozier warns they could run into Inuit hunters on their 800-mile journey, but remains confident they are helpful people.

Lady Silence, blood dripping down her mouth after cutting out her tongue, walks into the party. Meanwhile, Stanley douses the surrounding tents in whale oil and sets them on fire. Afterwards, he stands before the men and lights his own self on fire. The men gasp in horror and rush to find a way out, crushing Heather's body in the process. From the other side of one of the tents, Hickey jams a knife into the canvas to tear it open and accidentally guts Dr. MacDonald in the process. The men escape while the whole site goes up in flames.

The next morning, Fitzjames helps arrange corpses. Crozier and Dr. Goodsir learn that Dr. Peddie was lost as well, leaving Dr. Goodsir as the sole medic.