Before I step into my criticisms about the new series “Them: Covenant”—the new anthology series now playing on Amazon Prime Video brought to life by creator Little Marvin and executive producer Lena Waithe—I will say that it’s binge-worthy.
No doubt you’ve seen how the series and the creators have been called out via social media for looking a lot like Jordan Peel’s “Us” and leaning, hard, on the style and subjects explored on HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” which is also set in the racially explosive world of America in the 1950s.
“Them: Covenant” is about the deep pain and the lasting trauma that is part of the African American experience living in America, on stolen land that was literally cultivated by the blood, sweat and tears of African slaves and their descendants.
Here, in every episode, a well-meaning, dreaming African American family suffers terror that is both real and supernatural. This two-pronged assault is a challenge for the viewer, especially when the white aggressors don’t seem to pay for their ill deeds. Sounds too familiar with the realities of living in the white man’s world.
“Them” is about the Emory family and their part in The Great Migration, in which
many African American families fled from the bloody South to avoid explicit Jim Crow racism.
The Emory family is moving from North Carolina to Los Angeles for what they hope is a better life in the always sunny Southern California world, and yet a singular tragic event continues to hang over them. Henry (Ashley Thomas) is a war veteran working for an engineering firm. His wife Lucky (Deborah Ayorinde), a former teacher who becomes a stay-at-home mother, raising their two children (Shahadi Wright Joseph, Melody Hurd).
The moment the family pulls into the driveway of their East Compton home, their white neighbors are angry to the maximum. I mean the threat outside their home is real and terrifying but then something inside their home, their specter, gives life to the terror inside. Fear is everywhere they turn.
“Them” starts strong with the first few episodes being the strongest, exposing the family’s fragile and cracking mental states. However, throughout the show’s 10 episodes, this “terror” begins to lose its intensity, and the show drags along like a rotting corpse.
What’s great about “Them” is what happens in Henry’s real world, a place of frustrations about being demeaned in his job; Lucky’s need to spend time with other African American people; Betty’s hidden feelings under a fake smile.
The supernatural aspect with the visions and the ghosts seems almost like an afterthought. Meaning, this series would have been just as scary without the supernatural element.
I will not provide spoilers. “Them” should be watched. There is a lot of education cleverly provided in the first three episodes. Plus the entire show looks amazing, properly
capturing the ’50s vibe.
Also, the creative team didn’t tip-toe around the brutal reality of what African American people had to deal with, using the Emory family and other African American people as examples. African American people (here and in real life) were shot, maimed, beaten and lynched.
“Them” creator and executive producer Little Marvin doesn’t want anyone to look away. Rather he wants you to look long and hard at the ugly history of this stolen land—the United States of America, using Compton as a focal point.