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Them

Amazon’s Them Ending Explained- Black Vera, The Black Hat Man, Da Tap Dance Man, And That Covenant

I saw the first two episodes as part of SXSW and immediately knew Amazon had a hit on its hands. A week later, I watched the rest of the episodes and knew Them transcends entertainment. It is horror with both a capital and lower case H. It is terror screamed into the night and fervently whispered to a loved one as tears roll down your face. Nothing could have prepared me for the life-changing experience of Them.

It’s not often that a horror series or film would affect people so profoundly. The first season of Amazon’s horror anthology redefines what fear is. In the case of Season 1, there is horror of almost every kind. There are psychotic home invaders that give the infamous baby bashing scene in Nightingale a run for its money, ghosts, demons, killer Quakers, creepy kids, evil cheerleaders, serial killers, amputations, cannabilism, kidnapping, and rape. With all of that, the most impactful element is hate. Racism, misogyny, fear, distrust, and greed all stem from that place. Hatred of yourself and others who you deem different than you, and contempt for life as a whole. Them may have delivered enough supernatural scares to keep you up at night, but it’s the hate that will stick with your forever. Here’s everything you need to know about Them, the ending, and what it all means.

The Emory’s have traveled to East Compton, California, after a terrible tragedy. They left North Carolina in hopes of a better life. Henry is an engineer who just took a new job with huge potential. Lucky is a school teacher who went through something unspeakable. Ruby and Gracie are sweet girls who are wary of the move, new people, and their mother. Like most young girls, they fear becoming her even if they sometimes admire her.

Unfortunately, the Emory’s find racist, reactionary neighbors who will go to any lengths to scare them or physically remove them from their community. Henry’s new company is a constant barrage of microaggressions while the girls each have different issues to deal with at school. One of which is the single most disgusting display I have ever seen. Throughout the ten episodes of Them, the Emory’s all come face to face with their fears and insecurities, all while navigating the genuine threats of hate-fueled neighbors. There are four separate entities, all from the same demon. Each one is designed to infiltrate the mind and soul of the Emory’s. Each of the family members has a distinct vulnerability the demon exploits.

Before the story is complete Lucky saves each of her family members by helping her family confront their personal demons and thus defeating the very real one haunting them, along the way, several of the awful bullies who live in their community get kidnapped, shot, and axed in the back. They had it coming.

What happens at the end of Them

The powerful ending of Them is a culmination of all of the converging storylines. Betty, who George Bell had kidnaped, was shot as she tried to run away from his farm. She chose George to go to in the first place because he was the opposite of her husband. He was aggressive, quick-acting, and obviously in love with her. She drove to his house that day to ask him to kill the Emory’s. Her hate for them ultimately got her killed.

Betty’s husband Clarke, who had been abused by Betty throughout, was a closeted gay man. He lashed out at Marty when he called him a slur and broke his leg in a cringe-worthy but satisfying scene. He then drove out of the neighborhood, presumably for good. Betty hated him because she viewed him as weak. Ironically the male aggression she was drawn to killed her.

Lucky, who was institutionalized and scheduled for a lobotomy, escaped to her home and helped each member of her family fight. She singlehandedly beat The Black Hat Man and took at least one small piece of Evil out of the world. The family who had been beaten and bullied by the neighborhood came defiantly out of the house, ready to face whatever is next.

Likely this won’t be good news, however, as Lucky will be forced to return to the institution, and Henry will face charges for hitting the man outside his boss’s house, shooting the cop, and shooting the neighbor who cut off his finger and tried to hang him. Ruby and Gracie will enter foster care, assuming no one believes she axed the dead neighbor in their basement.

The housing scam in 1950’s California was a real thing.

The real estate scam depicted in Them was very real and instrumental in the segregation of communities that still exists. Black families had a difficult time getting bank loans, and when they did, they were often unfair and borderline illegal. The federal government had a significant role in the ruinous real estate practices that kept Black families from owning and living in quality homes. Simultaneously the government was disinvesting in black communities. It created a system where Black families paid higher prices for inferior housing because they felt they had no choice. Entire white communities often rejected Black families for no reason other than fear and propaganda.

They were frequently targets of “rent to own” schemes and other unjustice practices that lured Black families in with the promise of homeownership and low payments only to bankrupt them and foreclose on their houses at a profit to the banks and real estate companies. These practices extended as recently as the early 2000s before the 2008 market burst. Black families were 50% more likely to receive a subprime loan than their white counterparts. These loans are typically more expensive with higher interest rates. The problem persists today.

Miss Vera

Miss Vera haunts Gracie because disappointing her teacher is the worst thing she could imagine as a sweet little girl. She represents obedience and strict adherence to societal standards of the time. Gracie desperately wants to make her parents proud and please Miss Vera. By making Miss Vera a monstrous figure in her life, she is being told she will never be intelligent and educated. She is a teacher like her mother so for Gracie to have to stand up to this figure is all but impossible.

Miss Vera is defeated when Lucky holds her, and Gracie rips up her picture from the book saying Miss Vera would never be like her mama. There is not a specific Miss Vera, but the concept of the schoolmarm is not new. Additionally, in 1948 Vera Miles won the title of Miss Kansas and later became a Hollywood starlet. The patrician beauty was the perfect picture of white womanhood. She is best known for her role in The Man That Shot Liberty Valance. Her last name is the same as the little boy who first appeared to the Black Hat Man Hiram Epps.

The Black Hat Man and his boy

As he became known after his pact with the Devil, the Black Hat Man was Hiram Epps before the terrible events in his town was originally a man of God. In Episode 8, Covenant II, we learn he lost his entire family and adopted a young orphan named Miles, who appears under a bush shortly after Hiram prayed to God. Hiram was asking for guidance in finding the strength to love God in the face of his tragedy. All alone and scared of losing his sight without anyone to love or be loved by, Hiram was vulnerable to Miles, who was actually the Devil.

Miles worked on his adopted father from the beginning making him more distrustful of his community. He also set him up to instigate strife among his peers. When the young couple with the broken wagon wheel arrived in town, Hiram initially treats them with respect even if the rest of his community does not. By the end, though, Miles had convinced him that the bible instructs him to do unspeakable things to them.

When Hiram forced them into slavery, blinded them, and burned them from the church rafters, he sealed his fate. Not only did those poor people die, but Hiram unwittingly became a slave himself to the Devil. He would be immortal and have his sight restored as long as he ruined life for any person of color who chose to live in East Compton. If he failed to destroy their lives, he would go to Hell. Miles twisted Psalm 133:1. The passage, which is about communities living together in unity, becomes only about segregation and violence.

Lucky can break Hiram’s covenant with the Devil by rejected his offer of Chester reborn in exchange for creating more pain for future generations of People of Color. As badly as she wishes she had her baby boy back, she isn’t willing to let The Black Hat Man hurt any more people, including her family. Lucky makes Hiram confront the weak-minded pathetic man he has become. She refuses to accept the deal, and he is sent to Hell.

Ruby’s friend

The perky white teenager that befriends Ruby does not exist. She is another insidious persona the Devil takes. Her job is to make Ruby doubt herself and embrace her desire to be white. This girl comes to Ruby several different times to get her into trouble and tap into her darker desires. Her wish to be popular, be a cheerleader and have a boyfriend are all exposed, but her insecurity over her skin color is her biggest insecurity. The heartbreaking scene in Episode 7 was Ruby’s attempt at becoming white.

Later, when Ruby must face her demon, the girl convinces her she is becoming her mother. Most girls in their teen years rebel against the idea that they are becoming their mothers. It is a natural right of passage that is made worse because of the horrific things they have seen Lucky do in North Carolina and after moving to California. Not only does Ruby wish she looked different, but she also is terrified she will become mentally unstable like her mother. Ruby can defeat her with Lucky’s help by rejecting the notion that her mother would ever hurt her. A small part of her believed her mother might have hurt baby Chester instead of the family of lunatics that invaded their house.

Da Tap Dance Man or the Blackface Man

The most emotional scenes stem from Jeremiah Birkett’s ferocious betrayal of the Da Tap Dance Man. He appears to Henry because he is the manifestation of all of his rage and impotence. He is at the business party because Henry feels ignored and ridiculed. This particular image is chosen because Henry feels like he has to put on a good show for his boss, family, and community. Black men especially were told to be subservient and docile less they appear too aggressive. Never mind that their white counterparts reveled in hideous displays of male toxicity.

He believes Lucky’s rape at the hands of the family that terrorized her and killed Chester in North Carolina was his fault. He took Ruby and Gracie to the movies the day the intruders came. The enormous guilt he feels for not protecting them takes the shape of the angry minstrel man. When Lucky gets through to Henry and he shoots Da Tap Dance Man he wipes away his makeup to reveal he was a white man.

There is a long and unfortunate real history behind blackface in minstrel shows. The shows were loud, boisterous, and entirely degrading to Black folks. It provided an opportunity for Black men to be in showbusiness, but unfortunately, they had to perform humiliating stereotypes to do it. Figures like Jim Crow and Lazy Richard were examples. Da Tap Dance Man was an amalgamation of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and the black slaves depicted in the shows.

Henry can defeat Da Tap Dance Man by realizing no one, but himself defines him. The white man that hides beneath the makeup wants him to be angry, violent, and self-loathing. Blackface symbolizes the worst of America’s white people. He is our burden and shouldn’t be Henry’s or any other Black man. We invented that repulsive thing, and we should be embarrassed, not the other way around. Henry realizes this and reclaims his power.

The utter powerlessness the Emory’s feel throughout the series is impactful. As a white woman living in America, I can’t imagine what it was like in the past and continues to be now for People of Color. Them gave me just a taste of the kind of things POC face daily. I thought I understood. After watching Little Marvin’s incredible series, I realized just how ignorant I was. The fictional demons are scary. Some of the imagery is frightening. The bone-breaking cheerleaders, for example, gave me nightmares, but the violence humans are capable of scares me most. Them should make you uncomfortable. If it doesn’t, you must not be paying attention.

The American Dream can be real. For many, it’s anything but. Hate is contagious filth that rots from the inside out. America is changing. We are flawed but trying, and insightful shows like this are part of the process. No one should ever be attacked or scared in their own homes. It is the covenant we make with each other. To be respectful and kind and follow society’s rules but push back when those rules are oppressive and wrong. Them is a spectacular genre piece but also a groundbreakingly insightful series. I hid behind my hands, I jumped, I cringed, and I was embarrassed and sad by the things I saw. Mostly I never want to hear “cat in a bag” or the ridiculous saying, “there used to be a time when being male, white, and 21 meant something”.

Amazon’s Them is streaming now.

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