Episode 1 is difficult to watch as it highlights the ingrained racism that armoured white communities in 1950s America.
This recap of Amazon’s Them season 1, episode 1, “DAY 1”, contains spoilers.
The comparisons to Get Out are obvious but what’s truly terrifying from the first episode of Them is knowing that this happened to black families in suburban neighbourhoods. Episode 1 highlights “Day 1” of the Emory family as they settle into their new home.
To begin proceedings, episode 1 starts on a hot day — a black woman sees a white woman outside her house who has taken an interest in her home. The white woman starts singing about cotton fields and “Black Joe”, stating her father used to sing it to her. The longer she sings, the more the black woman is irked. The black woman asks her to leave as her husband will be back soon. The white woman asks if she can have her boy. This was creepy as hell.
Road trip to a new home
And then “Day 1” momentarily calms the nerves.
Episode 1 flits to a young black family on the road with their children; they are heading to Los Angeles. Text pops up that says, “Between 1916 and 1970, roughly 6 million African-Americans relocated from rural Southern United States to the Northeast, Midwest and West. Widely known as the great migration, many black families were drawn to California by the promise of industrial jobs and a chance to leave the Jim Crow South behind. On September 14, 1953, Henry and Livia ‘Lucky’ Emory moved their family from Chatham County, North Carolina to Compton, California”. The series then warns the viewers that it will present the events that followed the next 10 days in the family’s new home at 3011 Palmer Drive.
Welcome to the neighbourhood
And that strange, awful tension can be felt immediately as the Emory family arrive at their new home.
Betty Wendell is curious about who has moved in across the road, and she wants to look for clues. The Emory family drive into the suburban community, and there’s instantly a weird tension as white people look at them. The expressions of Henry and Lucky is obvious; it’s going to be a difficult settling-in period. Betty is alerted that the family has arrived, and she and her friends are in complete shock. Lucky looks across the street, and Betty and her friends look right at her. Henry diffuses the tension by waving at them.
“No Negro Blood”
And the circumstances involving their house purchase is revealed…
Daughter Grace Emory finds the basement, and there’s an eeriness to it as her mother tells her to move away from it. As Lucky looks at the purchase agreement, it says “No Negro Blood”, but the estate agent tells her that it’s not legal to prevent them from having this house. Henry already knew about these terms. As Lucky looks outside, plenty of white people are waiting outside. She’s angry at Henry for not telling her about the “Negro Blood” rule. Henry tells her he is tired of running. Lucky readies her gun and tells Henry that none of these people will get a warning if they cross them. You can tell she means it.
School run and a new job
Them season 1, episode 1 highlights how immediately difficult it is for the Emory family to go about their daily routine. Racism is rife in this community.
The next day, Betty and the neighbours set up their chairs and tables outside their house to watch the new family continue to move in while constantly playing music. Lucky looks outside and sees the neighbours all set up and watching, and she’s mortified. Her daughters ask if there if they are playing music for them. The oldest daughter, Ruby, is worried about how long this is going to continue. To get to the school bus, Lucky sneaks Ruby out the back.
Henry heads to his new job, and the receptionist assumes he’s a kitchen worker. He has to ask for the engineering department three times before he’s finally heard. A black colleague shows him around, and he’s impressed that he’s moved to Compton. When Henry walks into the engineering offices, there’s a slight silence as he enters before he walks to where he needs to be.
The song returns
When Lucky returns home, her daughter Grace sings the “Black Joe” song, and her mother tells her to stop. Grace will not tell her mother how she learned the song, so Lucky slaps her. She hugs her daughter and apologises.
Getting “Them” back
Betty and her friends end the day by discussing the black family. She believes they look exhausted because they came from somewhere worst — she wants to get them out by making their neighbourhood even worse from where they came from. Betty refers to the black family as “Them”. The men of the neighbourhood gather and also plot how to get the black family out. The level of disgust you can feel while you watch these scenes is almost unbearable.
At the end of the day, the Emory family play their own music and relax in their new house. In the middle of the night, Grace wonders where the family dog Sergeant is, so she checks out the halls. Downstairs, she sees a tall figure, but because it’s night time, the young girl cannot make out who it is. The person reveals their hands and then grabs Grace by the neck.
The next morning, Lucky checks up on her daughters. When she looks at Grace, she sees a mark on her neck and asks who did it to her. Grace tells her parents that someone took their dog. Henry looks around the house frantically and eventually reaches the basement. When he gets to the bottom, he finds their dog dead. The family are in hysterics, realising what happened. Their cries can be heard from the streets. Lucky grabs her pistol and screams down the streets — she tells them to stay away from their home. Henry grabs her and brings his wife back inside. The way this scene is directed is abundantly obvious; it’s angled in a way that makes the black woman look like an erratic monster — from the lens of the white person at the time, seeing a young black woman scream down the streets.
Them season 1, episode 1 is difficult to watch as it highlights the ingrained racism that armoured white communities in 1950s America.