Them is a case study rolled into a thriller-horror series, and it is a shame that the story runs out of gas.
This review of Amazon original Them season 1 contains no spoilers — the thriller will be released on April 9, 2021.
There’s no mistake that Little Marvin‘s Them wants to instil the Get Out effect — when an African-American family decide to move to East Compton in 50s America, the series fills it with hopes and dreams, but there’s a sinister outlook creeping under the enthusiasm — it’s the 50s after all. The series captures the move into a peaceful suburban neighbourhood with precision. It has white written all over it, and Little Marvin has created the opening episode in such a way that the Emory family moving in sticks out like an extremely sore thumb — it captures the black experience — it feels racist by default. There’s no misunderstanding of a theme here.
Them season 1 navigates a narrative where the white neighbourhood wants the black family out — it’s a fictional account of what happened to black families attempting to move into areas of “American paradise” during racial tensions of the 20th century. Every episode feels like an attack — it intense; the characters’ outlook is securely in the limelight. The anxiety can be felt through the screen — it encapsulates a father getting a new job in a white workforce and his children attending an all-white school. There’s no page unturned in what America left behind in recent history. Them is a case study rolled into a thriller-horror series, and it is a shame that the story runs out of gas.
Amazon’s Them brings a fictional account of the restructuring of housing in America between the white and black communities while merging the story of a black family being tormented by otherworldly forces on top of an overbearing white community. The story comes with a paranormal experience, coupled with the family having a traumatic past; there’s a reason why they moved, and the series dabbles with plenty of elements to prove a point. Often, the trauma, the paranormal experiences and the ingrained racism are intrinsically linked to revealing the black experience in America. There’s plenty of metaphors that hold weight. The cast is absolutely sublime in staying true to the story — it’s evident that their heart and soul are well and truly immersed in the experience they are attempting to create for the audience.
The issue is, the message of Them waters down when the story is stretched over 10 episodes. By the time you reach the conclusive chapters, it becomes a thriller-horror series that enjoys basking in the usual tropes. At a healthy six chapters, Little Marvin and the rest of the directors could portray 50s America, implemented the horror and platformed the trauma to make it a neat, conceptual experience. The series includes a filler chapter in the later episodes that tells the audience nothing new — this series only required to be a quality piece of work to provoke the audience’s mind.
But, and this is a big “but”… there’s plenty to appreciate in Them. It truly understands the history at play, and it’s directed with vision. I wouldn’t recommend writing it off, even if it does come with a couple of flaky chapters.