At this point in AMC’s “The Terror: Infamy,” the meaning of the first episode, “A Sparrow in a Swallow’s Nest” becomes clear. As a refresher, remember that at the end of “Shatter Like a Pearl,” Yūko had control of Arthur who forced Chester (Derek Mio) at gunpoint to drive away from their encampment in a jeep. The other soldiers shoot at the tires, and the jeep crashes. Arthur dies, but from the duffle bag that Arthur was carrying, our zombie yūrei Yūko emerges and says, “Taizo.”
This episode, “Taizo,” begins with a young Hideo Furuya (Eiji Inoue) in 1919, on Terminal Island, San Pedro. He’s with his picture bride, a young Yūko (Kiki Sukezane) dressed in a white kimono. He’s drinking sake, quite pleased with his “exquisite” new bride, remembering how lucky he felt with Wilson Yoshida (James Saito) showed him her photo (Yūko was a photo bride) until she explains to him that she’s already pregnant.
Hideo was enraged and throws her out, but Yūko doesn’t know anyone in the US. Flash forward to 1920, Yūko is hiding among wooden crates at the back of the store with a baby bundle waiting for food to be thrown out. She eats what she can. Yet she finally acknowledges what the nuns know, “You did the right thing, dear. Children can’t be raised on the streets.”
Yūko leaves, distraught thinking, “What is a woman worth if she can’t raise her own child?” She finds herself on a bridge over the water and she looks into the dark water. A woman in a black kimono and wearing geta, Chiyo (Natsuki Kunimoto), speaks to Yūko who instead of a child, now carries rocks in her sling. While Yūko thinks that “all of one’s troubles” would be “washed away by the water,” Chiyo warns her that she is wrong, “Take it from someone who has lived a while.” Chiyo tells her that the “pain doesn’t need to be washed away” because “it will fade.”
Yūko still decides to commit suicide. She leans back to plunge back first into the water. We see her sink into the water. Then she oddly wakes up in a quiet, traditional Japanese home, sleeping in soft, deep shikibuton (layers of duvets). Behind her were beautifully painted golden sliding doors. In front of her, the tatami room’s sliding doors open into a hallway that opens into a courtyard that features a Japanese garden. The garden has a red bridge, perfectly cut lawn areas surrounded by carefully raked white gravel. The sakura is blooming and the maple tree leaves are red.
Yūko can’t remember how she got there. The woman she met on the bridge is serving her breakfast. She is famished.
Chiyo tells her, “I spent many years building my home.” A short noren curtain directly in front of Yūko is her family crest, yotsu hanabishi (or four flower lozenges).
The woman fusses over Yūko, calling her o-jōsan, or young lady (the subtitles translate as “child” which would be o-kosan). As Yūko is soaking in an o-furo while the woman combs her hair. Afterward, the woman gives Yūko a red kimono. Red is the color for girls in Japan.
Later, dressed in white, Yūko stands on the red bridge and looks in the pond there are koi under the red bridge, but she imagines the body of a girl in a red kimono. At one point, she mistakenly runs into the sand and sinks, with dark black hands in a red kimono reaching out for her and pull her down. The woman saves her, and Yūko finds herself again, waking up in the room. She wonders, “Where am I?” and then, “What is this cursed place?”
The woman tells her, “This is paradise” and tries to comfort Yūko that “we have each other now,” but Yūko insists, “I am a mother.”
Yūko never left the water. The woman explains, “You are scared. I know fear” which is “a ravenous hunger” for “restitution.” That hunger is what “the priests” call “onnen.”
Yūko deeply regrets her suicide, saying, “I made a terrible mistake” and now feels, “I am a mother; I must get back.”
Chiyo becomes more brutal, telling her “You are dead. It’s all lost, gone.” and then she reminds her, “you chose this. You went to the bridge on your own. I warned you but you choose oblivion.”
This is paradise, but with one buzzing insect and a gardener who constantly works on raking the white pebbles. For Yūko, it is hell. Although she fights Chiyo, Yūko eventually calms down and seems to have accepted her lot in death. Instead, she tricks the Chiyo into walking into the sand by talking to her about the woman’s daughter. Chiyo confesses her daughter, “She was like you– unreasonable, disrepectful, selfish.”
Yūko let’s Chiyo be pulled down into the sand by the black arms. She runs to the unfinished walkway, tests the ground, and opens the gate to find it blocked by dirt. Digging herself out of a grave, she surfaces out of the lawn of a cemetery as a blackened corpse. She died in 1920. It is now 1941, 21 years later.
Flashing to the current time, it is 3 July 1943 and Chester arrives at the Colinas de Oro relocation center. The soldier tells him, “Wake up buddy. You’re home.” That’s right. Chester goes from being in the Army back to a concentration camp.
Fumi Yoshida (Hira Ambrosino) believes that bad luck stalks Chester and that her Walt (Lee Shorten) is safer in Italy. Asako (Naoki Mori) is happy her son has come home.
Chester asks, “Where’s Luz?”
Asako explains that her father came and took her home. Asako gives him a letter from Luz. Chester looks at the grave grave of Enrique and Hikaru.
Fumi can’t stop. She tells Chester, The spirit follows you; it killed your sons; it drove Luz mad. It took my husband.” Asako slaps her, but Chester tells Asako, “She’s right the spirit does follow me. It followed me across the Pacific. The jeep crash was no accident. It tried to kill me.”
The spirit briefly possesses his mother, calling him, “Taizo.” Yūko through his mother tells Chester, “She is no mother; she’s a thief.”
Yūko leaves Asako’s body, and Asako recalls that Yūko “was inside. I was, too. I tried to control my body..I couldn’t do it.” There was “so much pain, so much desire, like a tremendous hunger.”
Asako understands that Yūko wants Chester, and when Chester wants to know why, she has to explain that Yūko was her younger sister.
Henry adds that “Taizo is the name she gave you.”
Asako explains, “I would never let my sister’s child be an orphan.” Asako tells Chester that his father was a soldier who died during the war.
Henry explains, “We feared the truth would hurt.” Although Henry calls Chester, “son,” Chester won’t have it, saying, “Don’t you call me that. She’s my blood; you are nothing.”
Yūko is lurking around now in her youthful body. It’s the evening of the 4th of July and fireworks are being set off. People are wandering around the camp to look at the fireworks. Yūko tries to take the baby of a woman in camp and falls backward into an open grave. She has forgotten that she cannot take someone that is not of her own bloodline into this paradise the other dead woman built.
Chester finds the inert body of Yūko with the baby. He consults with his mother, father and Yamato (George Takei). Yamato knows only bits from Kaiden. An unfulfilled soul needs a body to occupy so they decide to destroy her body.
Chanting, “Namidabutsu,” they paint characters on her face, legs, hands and use barbed wire to bind her and gasoline as an accelerant. Chester sets the fire. Dressed in white in her perfect world , we see Yūko with the characters on her face suffering. When she tries to flee using the gateway she had previously used, now it leads to fire. In the real world as the fire progresses, the characters written on her disappear on the Yūko in the perfect world.
In the real world, after the fire has been put out, there’s nothing left where Yūko’s body had been.
Now that you know Yūko and Asako are sisters, the sparrow and the swallow references make sense. In a Japanese folktale, the sparrow and the swallow were sisters.