Them: Season 1
April 17, 2021 11:44 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

In the first season of Little Marvin's new Amazon horror anthology show Them, which follows 10 days in the lives of a Black family moving to Compton in 1953 during the course of the Great Migration, the horror arises as much from the racism endured by our protagonists as from the spooky occurrences happening in their new house.

Reviews of the show have been widely mixed. In the AV Club, M Shelly Conner writes that "if discomfort is the point, the show overshoots it. If visceral pain for a viewership that may be desensitized to Black trauma on- and off-screen is the point, then Them succeeds in it." In a strongly negative review, Angelica Jade Bastién says in Vulture that "I am comfortable calling it one of the most anti-Black pieces of pop culture I’ve seen in the last few years, one that left me spent after the grueling process of watching its virulent imagery."

Here's series creator Little Marvin giving an introduction to the series and discussing the public's reaction to it (neither clip contains significant spoilers, though they do show brief clips from the show).

There is some pretty strong stuff in this show, even for the horror genre, and viewers would be well advised to take its content warnings seriously.
posted by whir (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I watched the first episode before reading any reviews. That episode in particular wasn't brutal, but it was aggressive. It is beneficial to me, as a white person, to see with my own eyes a room full of pretty white women say their racism out loud. Anything to destroy the engrained biases I have. I know, in a logical sense, that white women (and men) of any class, demeanor, or culture are anti-black. I have never seen it, though. That's part of privilege. I know, logically, to never say "Someone like that would never..". But thats not what was taught to me. Women in pretty dresses and nice makeup who bake pies aren't evil, they can't be. That's what I was raised to believe. I need to unlearn that.

I thought the episode was shot beautifully. I loved that Lucky and Henry practically radiate on screen, and Betty is overly washed out and the edge of her lipstick is always wrinkled and her eyebrows are basically nonexistent. The suspense was so well crafted. I was absolutely enthralled the entire time.

After reading the reviews I am unsure if I will continue watching. It seems white reviews tend to skew more favorable, though 2 of the top 5 on metacritic are Black writers.
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:34 PM on April 17, 2021

This seemed like Amazon's attempt at a Lovecraft Country type of show. Unfortunately, unlike LC which explored black trauma on both an individual and group level, Them wants to explore the "terror of white supremacy." I agree with Angelica Jade Bastien's analysis particularly: "It is a stunning refutation to Hollywood’s belief that representation behind and in front of the camera will fix its inherent racism" and "it has nothing new to say about whiteness."

Unless the reviews change as the show goes on, I'm going to let this one go.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:03 PM on April 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Given the existence of Jordan Peele's "Us," when I first saw the Amazon listing, I wondered if it was a response of some kind.

I powered through all 10 episodes this weekend and finished this afternoon. It was shockingly violent in ways I didn't expect, but I enjoyed it inasmuch as you can enjoy Family Goes Through Serious Shit movies (and I feel like reducing the movie to that theme doesn't do it justice at all.) It's an era of history I was aware of, but I wasn't aware of that era in that particular part of the country.

I didn't think the subplot with Alison Pill and the True Blood milkman was needed.
posted by emelenjr at 2:39 PM on April 18, 2021

(Small disclaimer, my handle is from an old T. Rex song, it does not refer to my skin color.)

My wife and I watched this all the way through over the last week and a half, an episode a night. I have some rather mixed feeling about it. It was a tough watch because each member of the family is rather damaged, and it's not til episode 9 that it's revealed that it's the result of a single ghost. (An old Dutch preacher. The family was damaged before they got to their new home, and episode 5 reveals the trauma and it's a short episode that was very, very hard to watch.

The subtitles reveal that the father's 'ghost' is you can call him that, is referred to as "tap dance man". Spoiler: He's the only ghost that doesn't seem to be the old preacher. The others get a moment of speaking with the preacher's voice when they are defeated, he does not.

I thought the milkman was almost romantic in a comic relief sort of way. (Perhaps it's telling that the character who drugs, abducts and confines a woman in a fallout shelter is the most comic relief this show gets.) The entirety of Allison Pill's character and her not-sp secretly gay husband could have been cut from the show with no loss to the story. It mad a bit of sense to see her fuming, but once she goes to her father for money to move and it's revealed that her father expects to continue abusing her with her mother's permission, that trauma from her past doesn't excuse or redeem her utter racism.
posted by Catblack at 7:37 PM on April 18, 2021

Not even one giant ant? Disappointing. (Thinking about it, Earth vs the Flying Saucers would make an interesting series or heck, even Zontar The Thing From Venus if set in the 50's but retold with modern sensibilities on gender and race.)
posted by SPrintF at 7:41 PM on April 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

I’m two episodes in, and the second episode made me hyperventilate to the extent I had to pause the show and breathe into my hands. I don’t think this has ever happened to me before, and I’m an absolute gorehound who watches 100+ horror films a year. This probably says more about the kind of year I’m having than the show itself, but I can’t say it was an enjoyable experience, so I’m unsure if I’ll continue to watch. I’ll be led by your responses, I think.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 1:53 AM on April 19, 2021

For what it's worth, I thought this show was really good on average and I don't much agree with the Bastién review. There were definitely some extraneous elements - the whole milkman subplot and the closeted hubby don't really do much for the story; I guess I see what they're trying to do with the "violence begets violence" cyclical nature of trauma theme, but it seems like a distraction more than anything else, and as Catblack noted, it's a little late to be introducing sympathetic arcs for her character by that point. Also, though I thought the settler-era flashback episode was well-done, overall the supernatural elements seemed like the weakest parts of the show. Partly that's because most of the horrors the Emorys experience are depressingly easy to explain without needing old Swedish(?) ghosts to move the plot forward.

Still, as a pure genre work I thought this was really well done, measured by how tense I felt for almost the entire time I was watching it.
posted by whir at 8:14 AM on April 20, 2021

Hard pass from me. The directors are four white men and one Black woman -- who only directs one episode. I see what you did there, guys. I was going to check this out, but the tone of the reviews combined with the non-diversity of the production team changed my mind.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:41 AM on April 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

« Older Taskmaster: Series 7...   |  Movie: Dark City Beneath the B... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments