Their review: Star rating: 3/5 stars (three stars)
Every country and landscape has its kinds of evil that lurk in every society that it searches. It’s just which side we’re on. Racism is a monster of a problem that haunts America and many countries to this day. You have to be the highest level of ignorant to deny this fact. Amazon Prime’s latest offering, Them: Covenant, comes at a time when people are smelling tea and finally checking their privileges. The show zooms out the lens and shows us the horrors of racism and how it is no less of a ghost. But does stretching it for 10 long episodes do any good? Read on.
Discard: Deborah Ayorinde, Ashley Thomas, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Melody Hurd, Alison Pill, Liam McIntyre, Ryan Kwanten and the ensemble.
Their review: What is it:
In 1950s America, a family of 4, Henry (Ashley), Lucky Emory (Deborah), their daughters Ruby (Shahadi) and Gracie (Melody), after a heartbreaking tragedy, join in the second significant historic migration from North Carolina. Henry, a World War II veteran, landed a job at an aeronautical engineering company in East Campton and bought a luxury home in the same locality. To their horrors, the predominantly white landscape is not welcoming and begins to disturb.
Their review: what is good:
Racism as a subject in itself is enough to create tension, and we have already seen the harm it has done to the black community, through various films and shows. With Love Craft Country & Watchmen being the more recent examples, the filmmakers have now started to induce unusual elements to make the conversation more intriguing and interesting. They find their place in the same family and mix color discrimination with literal horror showing that there isn’t much of a difference.
What wins for me as an Indian spectator, who has not experienced the toxic culture of color discrimination, is the overexaggeration on the evil side. And by that, I don’t mean their thoughts on newly relocated black people, but their ways of triggering them. Created by Little Marvin, primarily directed by Nelson Cragg and produced by Lena Waithe, Them tries to convey just how horrible and haunting life in a racist environment is. The first trick the Whites play is for all the ladies to surround Henry’s house with their chairs and broadcast their radios at high volume to create a deafening cacophony. You can imagine how irritating life in the midst of such people must be.
Four black people move through a locality that is home to immaculately dressed clothes in bright colors while people, with the brightest red lipstick and every hair in place. The tension begins with the word go. Thanks to the opening nightmare streak, cut to the family moving to East Campton. There is always a gasp because the tension is at its peak and it is truly an achievement as it is not easy to keep the pressure always high and expect the viewer to not leave the tab.
What works in Little Marvin in Them’s favor is the fact that they introduce a side story of each family member fighting a supernatural ghost, respectively. Basically, we are seeing a two-level battle. First, the white humans against the family and second, the family with its own ghosts. For my part, I was more petrified by the first.
And why shouldn’t I be? Supernatural ghosts, at least, don’t have a brain to make sense of it. What about the living, breathing embodiments of the monsters, who throw lavish dinners to discuss how to scare the black family away from their locality. Alison Pill’s Betty is a devil who seems to have mastered racial slurs as she addresses Henry and his family with the most humiliating of them. We know how shitty-headed whites had, have and will continue to hate black people. Manufacturers are doing everything to remedy this fact.
Oppression comes from all sides, just because they have a high melanin content, and for some reason, that’s not a good thing in the eyes of the crowd who say they’re from a worse place. Marvin does an incredible job of showing how the community is not only degraded, but also used by others for their profit. Let it be the real estate company that throws them in the pit knowing the results, to make a lot of money. Or the boss who makes Henry work more but backs off when profit sharing is mentioned. Or in flashback, when the same Blackman is hailed for finding water underground, he is later referred to as a thief of his own horse.
All of this is backed up by a great team of actors. Deborah Ayorinde as Lucky in Them is what we call going through the trauma. This woman is acting with her eyes, and there’s no way you can’t be moved when she cries or cries out in pain. Ashley Thomas as a father brings a delicate pride to his performance. He’s there to protect the fragile pride and a jerk, the castle is in danger of crashing. There is honesty in his behavior. When he bows down to people to keep his children safe. Or when he stuffed his mouth with paper towels and screamed so no one could hear him.
Shahadi Wright, Joseph and Melody Hurd bring maturity in their actions, which was not expected. For example, Melody acts as if she sees an alien existence in front of her so natural that you believe her even though you know it’s not real. Alison Pill deserves special mention for being an evil of the first order. Her smiles are enough to cut glass, and the robotic smiles only add to her dangerous kitten.
The camera work is for the nicely scary lack of work. The camera captures Campton in sunny light and vivid colors, but still haunts when she leans over the whites watching the Black family.
Their review: what doesn’t work:
The dragging race of it all. 10 episodes was too long a time to define the show. The two flashback episodes in particular could have been shorter parts of two different episodes, as we almost knew both already and the other didn’t have much of an effect on the main plot.
This brings me to the induction of the phantom element. There is no doubt that the family fighting their own ghosts was a layer that I admired and loved, but there was not a single element that connected these supernatural beings to each other. It seemed that the writers had multiple ideas and had seen racism in different levels and ways, that they decided to introduce a pointer each with a different ghost.
Alison Pill’s Betty was an interesting and intriguing character. It also has a lowered side, and we’ve seen previews of it. But this is quickly forgotten and suddenly begins a whole new angle in its story. I didn’t see this coming in the theme diagram and looked out of place. You will see.
What has also been forgotten is the facade created by real estate agents. A round table discussion between the best “men” in the association in episode 5 is one of my favorite scenes from the series. It not only tackles deep-rooted racism, but also the seismic behavior of men to show their importance. When a male agent in the same room said to the only female, “Don’t give a fuck about succumbing to the weaker nature of your gender,” I expected more from this conversation and a powerful response. But unfortunately, manufacturers quickly forget about it.
Their review: Final words:
It is a great idea to make people understand the issues in their society in a creative way. They manage to do this with a few flaws. But at the heart of it, the concept is honest, and I suggest you give it a chance.
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