Trauma is a terrible thing. Each and every person may experience it at some point in their lives. So, when you bring four characters together to form a family, placing them into equally hostile environments, each one is bound to react differently. Amazon’s Them follows the Emory family as they flee the Deep South to encounter something sinister in Compton, California during the 1950s.
There seems to be a whole lotta evil compacted into this limited anthology series. Does it involve the not-so-hidden hatred proudly possessed by handful of gossip queens making up the most unwelcoming neighborhood committee? Could it come from the the teasing teenagers at a nearby high school? What about the military-grade PTSD suffered by the patriarch? Or does it come from the shadow person playing games with the youngest member of the family? Something supernatural is definitely afoot in this newly integrated neighborhood.
As introduced in the series premiere, “Day 1,” our main characters don’t receive much peace after someone strange and incredibly creepy wanders up to their house, seeking permission to take away their child. Just as the displayed text outlines, six million African-Americans relocated from the rural South to the Northeast, Midwest and Western U.S. between 1916 and 1970 during a time period known as the Great Migration and this is when we find our main characters moving into a house, sight unseen. Within the first few days, they’re already feeling unwanted.
“There’s something bad in this house. I don’t like it.”
Truer words have never been spoken… and by one of the youngest — Read: smartest — characters of the show. Slowly but surely, it seems like each family member is slowly losing their minds. Always remember: It takes crazy to defeat crazy, so it feels like the storyline is progressing nicely toward a major battle for sanity by the season finale.
The ongoing theme for this series seems to explore the terror of being Black in 1953. Sure, there’s some ongoing dark secrets and social commentary that’s slowly developing, but after watching two episodes, I’m most interested in the spooky shadow person lurking deep within the basement. What kind of purpose does it have? Did it follow the family to California? What will it take for the adults to finally decide to confront it? Here’s to hoping the youngest character summons the strength to defeat it.
Now, let’s get back to the blatant racism. The show was written to be painful to watch, and painful it is. Little Marvin has definitely succeeded on that front. Some critics have described this show as fictionalized, despicable history and “black trauma porn,” all of which is fair. But for a show that will only air 10 episodes, it seems like the showrunner may have bitten off more than he could chew for the first season, as there’s just so much drama going on, there’s no way every topic can be fully explored surrounding each family member within that timeframe. That was my takeaway, at least.
Are these characters slipping into insanity? Them produces bizarre scenarios that are so cringe inducing and hard to watch, they’re laugh-worthy. As in, this scenario can’t get any worse, right? And how do I respond when it does? An inadvertent and sympathetic laugh, hoping the painful situation doesn’t last much longer. I don’t know, maybe I’m the one who’s losing it. I cannot wait to see more from this Amazon series in order to find out how much terror I can withstand for these characters.