Episode 2 of Them begins back in North Carolina 1946. Lucky tentatively awakens Henry, telling him to head down for dinner. He’s sleeping on the floor and clearly suffering badly from his time in the war.
Lucky serves up some peach pie for the family but Henry struggles to concentrate – and eat. He suddenly grabs the plate and throws it across the room, storming out. Ruby is shocked, but Lucky reassures her daughter that he’s just tired. As we soon see, Henry is actually suffering from PTSD. During the war he was experimented on. The serious mental scars that he’s been left with are somewhat quelled when a stray dog shows. Henry picks it up and decides to call it Sergeant.
Back in the present, police arrive at the Emory household following the gun incident. Thanks to Lucky’ lack of action, the police don’t act on this and head back to tell Betty they’re not pursuing the charges. Instead, Henry shows the officers his dead dog in the basement, which is what triggered Lucky’s episode.
When the police leave, Henry buries their dog. Lucky is not happy and confronts her husband. Henry looks sternly at his wife and reminds her that Gracie can’t talk about this strange spiritual woman she’s been seeing. At least not around the police anyway.
In the basement, Lucky finds Gracie staring into the darkened corner at this mysterious figure named Mrs Vera. According to Gracie, Vera smells like dead things. As Lucky stares at the same spot, she too starts to experience this same sensation. This strange spirit suddenly screams at Lucky, prompting the windows to flutter. Lucky snatches up Gracie and hurries back upstairs.
Meanwhile, Betty continues to scheme, heading off to see Midge and talking about the Emory house. Specifically, she asks her to team up to get their new neighbours out. Only, Midge is actually moving – and she’s pregnant too.
At work, Henry is confronted by his boss, Stu Berks, who admits he batted for him with the board. After some small talk about TV sets, they talk about work. He accuses Henry of goldbricking, until he eventually opens up and admits that their family dog died.
Handed a file, Henry heads upstairs to the brilliantly white office rooms where a slick shade of yellowy beige descends over the scene. It’s beautifully done too, with Henry breathing heavily and taken back to his time in the war where he was experimented on.
At school, Ruby finds herself subjected to racial abuse from all the kids around her, who make monkey noises when she speaks up. Eventually she heads up to the front of class and receives a note from the teacher, telling her to leave for disrupting them. In the office, she meets a kind girl called Doris who encourages Ruby and tells her that “you’ll come around.”
Meanwhile, Gracie and Lucky head to the hardware store together, where the latter eyes up a whole wall of axes. She immediately starts to hallucinate, with the store owner encouraging her to take up a weapon.
Betty does nothing to quell Lucky’s murderous thoughts, filling up Midge’s petrol tank with sugar that evening. Inside the house, the family are none the wiser to what she’s done.
Instead, Lucky and Henry dance around their problems. As they sit down to eat, Lucky does her husband absolutely no favours when she produces a slice of pie for him to eat. Given the flashbacks of his past, it’s clear this obviously disturbs him. Still, he forces the pie down, tears stinging his cheeks.
The scene then cuts to the garden outside where Sergeant’s grave suddenly starts to ooze what looks like blood.
The Episode Review
Them returns here with another technically sound episode. Say what you will about the storyline, the camera work and aesthetic are absolutely gorgeous. The fade shots, the artistic swipes and the split screens all lean into a sort of hybrid between Sam Esmail, Hitchcock and Jordan Peele. The result is something that feels both wholly original and distinctly familiar.
So far, the story has worked well to show that this family clearly have a lot of psychological issues. They’re not only disturbed by their past but also distracted by their present too.
The ominous figure of Mrs Vera is clearly something that’s going to be explored in more detail for the episodes ahead and that does look quite promising. However, I do hope the show doesn’t descend down the route of constantly throwing jump scares our way.
Given the artistry here – and the recurring motif of a pie – the show sets things up nicely with that ominous ending. Roll on the next episode!