Them: The Scare Season 2 Review – Improvement Over Its Predecessor Still Lacks Identity

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: April 26, 2024 (Last updated: 5 weeks ago)
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Them: The Scare Season 2 Review - Improvement Over Its Predecessor Still Lacks Identity
Them Season 2 | Image via Prime Video
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Summary

Them: The Scare is superior to its predecessor but still possessed some of the same issues, obscuring worthwhile commentary with try-hard terrors.

Prime Video’s Them was never intended to please everyone, and Season 2 of the anthology series, subtitled Them: The Scare, isn’t either. This is perhaps just as well since it didn’t please me very much, despite being undeniably well-made and well-acted.

The format is a bit confusing. I didn’t even know, for instance, that the first season was titled Them: Covenant, or even had a subtitle at all. And The Scare isn’t a great title, is it? It’s too generic for a start, and it doesn’t even read well with Them.

But whatever.

Season 1 was set in the 1950s, and followed a Black family who moved from North Carolina to an all-white L.A. neighborhood. It was a parade of misery with a lot of social commentary on its mind but little idea of how it all might coalesce into a workable narrative.

Season 2 is set in the 90s, which is an equally politically tumultuous period, and is more of a crime thriller about an LAPD detective, Dawn Reeve (Deborah Ayorinde, who was in the first season), investigating the murder of a foster home mother.

Them occupies a weird middle ground of wanting to be arty but mainstream, frightening but thoughtful, aware but not preachy. It has always lacked a strong viewpoint beyond the obvious – racism is bad, racist people are awful – and a coherent way to filter commentary through the mechanics of the horror genre. The Scare doesn’t particularly improve in this regard. It has excellent performances and certainly looks and sounds the part, but it trips up in bringing all that together in a way that is engaging and scary.

Sure, the first season had scares and so does this one, but they’re isolated terrors, specific moments and images that linger for a while but not in that lasting, creeping way that proper horror does. Them wants to be something, that much is certain, but I’m still not convinced it has any idea what.

I still blame American Horror Story for this. The influence that show has had on TV horror is indescribable, almost like nobody can remember how bad and stupid it got at its worst. But there’s nonetheless a certain appeal to an anthology format, to the idea of a show being able to completely reboot itself between seasons without losing its most essential identity. The Scare certainly improves on its predecessor – on this, it seems, everyone is in agreement – but it never had that much of an identity to lose.

But the performances! Credit must be given where it is due, and Deborah Ayorinde is great in Them. It’s a different role from what she played previously but no less nuanced, eschewing some of the usual jaded cop archetypes in favor of someone who recognizes the importance and responsibilities of law enforcement. She’s a compelling anchor throughout all eight episodes — which is too many, for what it’s worth.

And blaxploitation legend Pam Grier is in this, though not nearly enough. This is especially confounding to me, since why would you enlist the services of Jackie Brown herself and then leave her by the wayside so often? Sure, I’m glad she’s here, but more Pam Grier is, in any context, better than less Pam Grier, and it feels like Them is missing a trick.

But don’t let any of this put you off, even though I must concede that it might. For genre fans, Them Season 2 has a firm handle on the visual construction of good horror, and there are enough moments of effective technical flourish throughout that you can kind of justify sticking around for the long haul.

Sure, it feels like a longer haul than I’d like, and I’m still waiting for a totally coherent use of this concept. Maybe Them will strike it lucky the third time. Until then, there’s something here worth sifting through a sometimes unimaginative abundance of trauma and cruelty to find. At least, I think there is.

I also broke down the ending of Them: The Scare Season 2 and how it connects to Season 1, if you’re interested. That could also affect Them Season 3 if it ends up being greenlit. 


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