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S01.E10: Day 10


TexasGal
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As you mentioned in a previous episode  @txhorns79 - I could have really lived without the Betty backstory/side story stuff.  I’m not sure if I was meant to feel sorry for her but nope, I pretty much just cheered when she got shot.  The whole milkman with underground chamber stuff was so unnecessary.  

Much less time was spent “humanizing” her husband but I ended up liking him more.  Which I’m sure WAS planned because he was pretty much the only white person on the show who wasn’t plotting against our heroes.

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3 hours ago, TexasGal said:

As you mentioned in a previous episode  @txhorns79 - I could have really lived without the Betty backstory/side story stuff.  I’m not sure if I was meant to feel sorry for her but nope, I pretty much just cheered when she got shot.  The whole milkman with underground chamber stuff was so unnecessary.  

It was just too much, and really went nowhere.  Maybe they wanted to show Betty's behavior was being driven by things other than pure racism, but it was not necessary and just got way too weird.

I also did not understand the ring of fire.  Was that the house that caused that, or was Lucky supposed to have gotten magic powers?   

I honestly felt like the whole thing was a missed opportunity.       

 

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So now that I'm done with Season 1, I have a lot of thoughts that are all over the place. 

I feel bad because the show just invites comparisons with Us and Lovecraft Country, and that just isn't going to end well for Them. The characters in LC were more fleshed out, the historical research was more in depth, things generally were better balanced. I felt like this would have been better as a two hour-ish movie. All you had to do is condense the plots with the Reverend and Betty and keep the focus mostly on the family.

I don't think we got nearly enough development of the family. Given that Lucky had her child murdered and she got raped by white people, how could they have even contemplated moving to an all-white neighborhood when there was a perfectly good black neighborhood with people that they knew? That is something the show glossed over, along with the notion that Lucky was raped. I think if you are going to introduce such a serious thing happening to a main character, there's an obligation to talk more about the trauma. It almost would have been better to just stick with the kidnapped/killed baby. 

Also, I think it was too unclear if the baby murder/rape was real or if Lucky had just had mental issues from the start. And similarly, I think that the show could have hit harder on the notion that these were supernatural phenomena happening rather than just psychological ones.

Finally, the ending is a little abrupt and unsatisfying. Yes, Our Heroes achieved victory over Devil Rev. But they are facing an angry mob, where Lucky had just escaped an asylum by wounding two employees and Henry shot and wounded a white man whose version of events is more likely to be believed than not, and of course Ruby killed a man.. I guess there is no real room for a happy ending given that's where things are. But maybe they could have worked it out so that things were different. 

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17 minutes ago, Chicago Redshirt said:

But they are facing an angry mob, where Lucky had just escaped an asylum by wounding two employees and Henry shot and wounded a white man whose version of events is more likely to be believed than not, and of course Ruby killed a man..

Not to mention that Henry killed a cop, and assaulted that man on the street in front of his boss' house!  As to Lucky, I thought she killed that doctor.  There was enough blood and bashing of her head to make me think if the woman isn't dead, she's close to it.

 

23 minutes ago, Chicago Redshirt said:

Also, I think it was too unclear if the baby murder/rape was real or if Lucky had just had mental issues from the start.

I think it was real.  Henry's guilt around not being there for Lucky when she was under attack was a big motivator for his ghost tormentor. 

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9 minutes ago, txhorns79 said:

I think it was real.  Henry's guilt around not being there for Lucky when she was under attack was a big motivator for his ghost tormentor. 

I too believe it was a real experience ultimately.

But I should say that because TPTB unnecessarily injected doubt because it is such an over-the-top awful crime that three strangers just decided to stake out the Emory house, wait till Henry and the girls were gone for to commit a rape-murder, and since there was the suggestion that she herself had committed the killing of the baby herself with almost no reference to her having been raped. 

 

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What a mess. Beautiful cinematography, fantastic acting, great music, terrible story telling. I had a really difficult time following it.

The supernatural angle was completely unnecessary. Suburbanites gone insane would have been believable enough. In fact, until the historical  backstory episode, I theorized that the family was going mad because of the abuse. There would have been interesting social commentary there - the psychological manifestations of the trauma of racism.

But instead they went with spirits. Meh.

Edited by DB in CMH
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33 minutes ago, DB in CMH said:

The supernatural angle was completely unnecessary. Suburbanites gone insane would have been believable enough. In fact, until the historical  backstory episode, I theorized that the family was going mad because of the abuse. There would have been interesting social commentary there - the psychological manifestations of the trauma of racism.

I didn't mind the supernatural angle, but it did feel like they made things much more complicated than they needed to be.  As an aside, I went on classmates.com just to look at the yearbook from Compton High School from 1954 (the year after this show is set).  There were already a number of black students attending that school.   Not a huge amount, but certainly enough to where it wasn't really reflective of the fictional all white school Ruby was attending.   

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1 hour ago, txhorns79 said:

I didn't mind the supernatural angle, but it did feel like they made things much more complicated than they needed to be.  As an aside, I went on classmates.com just to look at the yearbook from Compton High School from 1954 (the year after this show is set).  There were already a number of black students attending that school.   Not a huge amount, but certainly enough to where it wasn't really reflective of the fictional all white school Ruby was attending.   

I guess that's a better way to put it. The supernatural stuff didn't bug me, so much as it felt unnecessary. There was more than enough story there to tell without complicating it by adding evil spirits. They could have had just about everything that was there (including the imaginary friend, and the caricature in blackface) by explaining it in a different way - the product of PTSD.

Edited by DB in CMH
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To dive in a little deeper to this show versus Lovecraft Country, there was a specific episode of LC that dealt with black folks moving into a White neighborhood. Here's some of the compare/contrast that made me think that LC did a much better job with similar subject matter.

1. It made sense for the one LC character to want to move to the white neighborhood, as she was a civil rights activist and a Bohemian. It really didn't make sense for the Emorys to want to move to East Compton.

2. The heroes in the LC episode were heroes. The Them characters were basically victims through and through, except they were seduced into committing at least one killing and possibly another.

3. The focus in LC was on the Black characters. Them wanted to give the White characters equal billing, which I think was a mistake. (I'm kind of salty that Allison Pill got a featurette about playing her character but neither of the Black leads got featurettes about playing their roles. (One of them was included in a featurette about the Tap Dancing Man, which was also sort of weird, because why not get the actor who played him to talk about the challenge of taking a walking stereotype and imbuing it with menace?

4. LC knew to include some humor and some victories for its characters. Them just went from one bit of horror to another with little comic relief or other notes.

5. There were a lot of period specific references in the LC episode, including to Emmett Till, a Chicago boy who was murdered when he went on a trip down south. Them seemed pretty generic. 

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On 4/12/2021 at 12:48 AM, Chicago Redshirt said:

3. The focus in LC was on the Black characters. Them wanted to give the White characters equal billing, which I think was a mistake. (I'm kind of salty that Allison Pill got a featurette about playing her character but neither of the Black leads got featurettes about playing their roles. (One of them was included in a featurette about the Tap Dancing Man, which was also sort of weird, because why not get the actor who played him to talk about the challenge of taking a walking stereotype and imbuing it with menace?

 

There is something about Allison Pill that gets on my nerves, so I definitely second that.  I had the same reaction to the Tap Dancing Man featurette, I thought they were going to talk to the actor.  Nope.  But I did learn to my surprise that the actor that plays Henry is British.  (shrug)

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On 4/11/2021 at 3:48 PM, Chicago Redshirt said:

So now that I'm done with Season 1, I have a lot of thoughts that are all over the place. 

I feel bad because the show just invites comparisons with Us and Lovecraft Country, and that just isn't going to end well for Them. .....

I don't think we got nearly enough development of the family. Given that Lucky had her child murdered and she got raped by white people, how could they have even contemplated moving to an all-white neighborhood when there was a perfectly good black neighborhood with people that they knew? That is something the show glossed over, along with the notion that Lucky was raped. I think if you are going to introduce such a serious thing happening to a main character, there's an obligation to talk more about the trauma. It almost would have been better to just stick with the kidnapped/killed baby. 

I was overall disappointed with how things ended.   But it looks like they have a Season 2...I can't see how Henry, Lucky, and Ruby get out of their predicaments over people they killed, even if it was warranted, given the time period.   I agree that the main family didn't get enough focus.   They could've rewritten 95% of Episode 9 and continued to focus on the family and their trauma.   Perhaps delve more into why the husband felt they had to move to Compton and not a neighborhood with other blacks.    Given what Lucky went through I would think they'd want to be in a more comfortable area.

While it was nice to see "Jason Stackhouse", he was totally not needed in the show and it was annoying that the show was trying to use him to make us feel sorry for Betty.    Nonetheless it was satisfying to see her get shot DEAD by him, though.   I can't lie there... 😉 

On 4/11/2021 at 4:11 PM, txhorns79 said:

Not to mention that Henry killed a cop, and assaulted that man on the street in front of his boss' house!  As to Lucky, I thought she killed that doctor.  There was enough blood and bashing of her head to make me think if the woman isn't dead, she's close to it.

 

I think it was real.  Henry's guilt around not being there for Lucky when she was under attack was a big motivator for his ghost tormentor. 

Yeah I don't know how they can get out of it...unless they call the NAACP stat and I can't even see that helping.

On 4/11/2021 at 10:04 PM, DB in CMH said:

What a mess. Beautiful cinematography, fantastic acting, great music, terrible story telling. I had a really difficult time following it.

The supernatural angle was completely unnecessary. Suburbanites gone insane would have been believable enough. In fact, until the historical  backstory episode, I theorized that the family was going mad because of the abuse. There would have been interesting social commentary there - the psychological manifestations of the trauma of racism.

But instead they went with spirits. Meh.

OMG...that was such a missed opportunity with exploring the backstory of the psychological trauma of dealing with the overt racism day-in, day-out.    They almost had it right with Henry and Ruby's imaginary ghosts but didn't quite bring it home. 

On 4/12/2021 at 12:44 AM, DB in CMH said:

I guess that's a better way to put it. The supernatural stuff didn't bug me, so much as it felt unnecessary. There was more than enough story there to tell without complicating it by adding evil spirits. They could have had just about everything that was there (including the imaginary friend, and the caricature in blackface) by explaining it in a different way - the product of PTSD.

Most definitely.

On 4/12/2021 at 12:48 AM, Chicago Redshirt said:

To dive in a little deeper to this show versus Lovecraft Country, there was a specific episode of LC that dealt with black folks moving into a White neighborhood. Here's some of the compare/contrast that made me think that LC did a much better job with similar subject matter.

1. It made sense for the one LC character to want to move to the white neighborhood, as she was a civil rights activist and a Bohemian. It really didn't make sense for the Emorys to want to move to East Compton.

2. The heroes in the LC episode were heroes. The Them characters were basically victims through and through, except they were seduced into committing at least one killing and possibly another.

3. The focus in LC was on the Black characters. Them wanted to give the White characters equal billing, which I think was a mistake. (I'm kind of salty that Allison Pill got a featurette about playing her character but neither of the Black leads got featurettes about playing their roles. (One of them was included in a featurette about the Tap Dancing Man, which was also sort of weird, because why not get the actor who played him to talk about the challenge of taking a walking stereotype and imbuing it with menace?

4. LC knew to include some humor and some victories for its characters. Them just went from one bit of horror to another with little comic relief or other notes.

5. There were a lot of period specific references in the LC episode, including to Emmett Till, a Chicago boy who was murdered when he went on a trip down south. Them seemed pretty generic. 

I wish I could see the rest of Lovecraft Country.    I saw the premiere episode for free and was hooked with the concept especially with the character that visited places for the purpose of seeing if it was a safe spot for blacks to visit.    Hopefully it'll come out on DVD soon so I can watch the rest of the season.

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1 hour ago, Meedis said:

I was overall disappointed with how things ended.   But it looks like they have a Season 2...I can't see how Henry, Lucky, and Ruby get out of their predicaments over people they killed, even if it was warranted, given the time period.   I agree that the main family didn't get enough focus.   They could've rewritten 95% of Episode 9 and continued to focus on the family and their trauma.   Perhaps delve more into why the husband felt they had to move to Compton and not a neighborhood with other blacks.    Given what Lucky went through I would think they'd want to be in a more comfortable area.

While it was nice to see "Jason Stackhouse", he was totally not needed in the show and it was annoying that the show was trying to use him to make us feel sorry for Betty.    Nonetheless it was satisfying to see her get shot DEAD by him, though.   I can't lie there... 😉 

Yeah I don't know how they can get out of it...unless they call the NAACP stat and I can't even see that helping.

OMG...that was such a missed opportunity with exploring the backstory of the psychological trauma of dealing with the overt racism day-in, day-out.    They almost had it right with Henry and Ruby's imaginary ghosts but didn't quite bring it home. 

Most definitely.

I wish I could see the rest of Lovecraft Country.    I saw the premiere episode for free and was hooked with the concept especially with the character that visited places for the purpose of seeing if it was a safe spot for blacks to visit.    Hopefully it'll come out on DVD soon so I can watch the rest of the season.

Unfortunately (or not), the show is an anthology series like American horror story, so we probably will not revisit these characters.

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I didn't mind the supernatural elements. I thought they worked to metaphorically demonstrate different aspects of what's figuratively (and in the Emorys' case, literally) "haunting" Black people in a white nationalist America:

Henry is haunted by the minstrel "Tap Dancing Man" because that's how America expect him to be, this servile and farcical caricature that lives to oblige and entertain white people in order to be "nonthreatening" and allowed to exist within white society, if only on the lower rungs. He'll never be truly seen or accepted, much less respected or allowed upward mobility, like his white colleagues. Lucky is haunted by the representation of white supremacist interpretations of the Bible that Preacher Epps espoused, which are used to justify slavery and poor treatment of Black people (even today). For Lucky, Western religion and God have failed her, evidenced in how she reacts when the people around her say it was "God's will" that she was raped and her baby murdered.

Ruby is haunted by white beauty standards, and never able to feel beautiful as a Black girl. She's shown in the first episode going through a magazine with only white models featured, and she's bullied and terrorized at school for her race, even her "friend" belittles her beauty through microaggressive "for a [Black] girl..." compliments. So all she wants is to be white in order to feel beautiful by white America standards and be accepted. Her story gave me Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" vibes. Gracie is haunted by white/Euro-centric education pedagogy through Miss Vera. Black students often also face more persecution from school administration (singled out, harsher punishments, etc). I wish they'd given more time and depth to this, though, Gracie seems to be in class for only 15 minutes of screen-time. She's too young to be taught the more advanced white-washed histories, but they probably could've shown the teacher using all-white "Dick and Jane" examples for the class to kind of mirror her sister's own exposure to non-diverse media. 

I also didn't mind getting the backstory with Betty. I think it was meant to demonstrate that out of all of Betty's problems (her financial problems, her loveless marriage, getting kidnapped by the milkman) - none of it had anything to do with the Black family moving in next door. Much of it was the result of living in a patriarchal society (the bank won't let her individually take out the money from their account, but let's her husband unilaterally drain it; her husband used her as a beard to protect himself from homophobia, which is itself a manifestation of the patriarchy; the milkman's kidnapping was to show that white women are more likely to be targets of sexual assault by other white men, especially someone they know (like her father, too), than by menacing Black strangers a la "The Birth of a Nation" - it also symbolized being literally "trapped" in domesticity, living and dying amongst the other "domesticated animals"). And yet the Emorys become the center of her rage even though they've done nothing to her, and are later scapegoated for her disappearance by the other neighbors despite having nothing to do with any of it.

I agree that it's weird for a Black family who has already faced such tremendous trauma due to a hate crime by white people would move directly into an all-white neighborhood. It takes incredible bravery and fortitude to break those barriers - and those barriers should be broken -- (like the Little Rock Nine who faced so much terrorization and abuse for daring to be the first students integrated into formerly all-white schools), but it seemed like this family wouldn't have chosen to be the ones to do it after what they'd already faced. Honestly, Lucky's rape and Chester's murder didn't even add much to the story, given that we later see at the end of the series further horrendous violence against the family, it really only seemed like they wanted that shock value from sexual assault and baby murder. I feel like their move to the all-white neighborhood would've made more sense if Chester died as the result of the institutionalized racism of the Jim Crow South, instead of a random hate crime.

Maybe Chester is dying from some kind of illness, he's got a tremendous fever but the family only has one car and the rest of the family is away (or Henry is at work). Lucky has to get to the hospital. She waits at the bus-stop, but the bus-driver denies her - the front of the bus is barely seated, but the back of the bus is fully packed. She begs for help and one of the back passengers gets off to let her have a spot, but once she gets to the hospital she's one of the last to be seen (the doctors would triage white patients first) and by then her crying, feverish baby has gone quiet in her arms. In an effort to escape this systemized racism that has already cost them one child - and to try to give their other children a better quality of life (the other family members should have also had flashbacks to their own experiences in Jim Crow south - we only see them in the segregated theater having a relatively good time, but they could've also shown Gracie forced to drink from a disgusting segregated drinking fountain, Ruby's terribly-funded all-Black schools falling apart, the family getting kicked out of a diner under new management that now has "whites only" in the window). Hoping for a better life and future, Lucky and Henry agree to go move West, where there's no Jim Crow laws and where they wrongly believe they won't face the same kind of racism of the South. They chose the all-white neighborhood because they think they'll be able to put their daughters in better schools, get better healthcare treatment in that richer area, etc. It would make more sense.

The backstory of the town with the Preacher Epps and the two escaped slaves was unnecessary, super weird, and detracted from the pacing and message of the series. It would've been better to just suggest that the ghosts haunting the family are manifestations of their neighbor's and nation's hatred, or projections of the Emorys' fractured psychological states after facing so much vitriol and racism no matter where they go. There didn't need to be a "reason" for why that specific suburb was "cursed" - all of white America would be similarly "cursed" for the Emorys wherever they went. Racism was built into the culture in order to justify slavery, and persists through socioeconomic scapegoating and cultural indoctrination. Having the Devil turn Preacher Epps all the villagers violently racist almost lets actual racists off the hook - it's not their own unexamined prejudice and hate, the Devil just made them do it. The Emorys would likely face this same vitriol anywhere in white America, so trying to make a "reason" that this specific area is "cursed" with that backstory of the Amish village getting fooled by the Devil into killing those two Black people totally muddled the message of the series. I did like the idea that racism is wholly destructive, both for the victims of racism (who unjustly bear the brunt of it of course) but also its perpetrators are poisoned and harmed by their own hate (since the whole village is burned alive because they were so focused on murdering the Black couple). But they could've had that message at the end where instead the modern-day suburbanites try to burn down the Black family's house in a fit of mob violence, but the fire spreads and they accidentally burn down their entire neighborhood. I feel like that would've been a more satisfying ending: at least then the neighbors get some comeuppance, and if you want to get really hopeful and optimistic the family could have escaped somehow. Though on the other hand I can see why they wanted to go with the "Get Out" original "bad ending," where there usually is no conveniently happy ending for a Black man facing the police, or a Black family facing down a hateful mob in the throes of a racist frenzy.

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Some of the scene changes were so abrupt that I felt like I missed something important.  At one point, when Lucky is cradling the crying baby, it seems like the devil/priest is urging her to do “something” but I can’t figure out what he wants her to do.  Then it seems like she’s agreeing, and all the perimeter characters are menacingly holding what looks like forks(?) towards her.  Then, after rocking the baby and crying, she says something unintelligible and suddenly she is there alone with the devil/preacher and all the bystanders are gone.  It happened so quickly, darkly, and was so muffled that neither my husband nor I could figure out what I suspect was a crucial scene.

Also, when the father wiped the blackface off of his tormentor, I couldn’t tell who the person was who was revealed.  Was he someone we had been introduced to, or was it just a random white man?  The scene was so muddy, I couldn’t tell who I was looking at.

Thanks for any clarity.  I wanted to like this show much more than I did, but I was left depressed and confused.

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22 minutes ago, LoveIsJoy said:

Then, after rocking the baby and crying, she says something unintelligible and suddenly she is there alone with the devil/preacher and all the bystanders are gone.  It happened so quickly, darkly, and was so muffled that neither my husband nor I could figure out what I suspect was a crucial scene.

She says "I'm right here," a few times as she clutches the baby, she then flashes momentarily back to the farm happily clutching the baby, then I guess she seemingly realizes none of it is real (we see her clutching nothing) and the spell is broken.  It isn't well explained.

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That's it? That's the ending? Come on, that's a major cliffhanger, even if they defeated the magic spirit creatures, we still have no idea what happens next, with the angry mob, and I think this is an anthology show, so will we never know? 

This show got pretty intense, I feel like it will immediately get compared to Lovecraft Country and much of Jordan Peels work, especially Us, combining supernatural horror with the horrors of racism. While I thought a lot of this was quite well done, especially the acting, I came away feeling pretty underwhelmed. I was just fine with the supernatural element, but I think that it could have tied into everything else going on better, with the deeply messed up backstory and the crazy white neighbors and all of the moving parts, it just felt like too much was going on. They could tie it into the actual story or just thematically, and they kind of did with the little girl especially, but there was so much happening they could never give the ideas they had the attention they needed. Because so much was going on, I feel like we didn't get to explore what we got well enough. 

This had a lot of good ideas, the acting was great the cinematography was beautiful, the costumes and sets looked so vibrant, but the scripting itself needed work. 

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Sadly the show didn't stick the landing and the ending was underwhelming.

Betty's entire plot being dispensesed with in the first five minutes was a let down. I was picturing something truly horrific for her like the milkman bleeding out from his injury so no one would know she was trapped below ground. It would be like Poe's Cask of the Amontiado (or however you spell it)

Anyway Epps was right about one thing...no happy ending. As soon as the credits role Henry would be arrested for assault and the gun would possibly be linked to the murder of a policeman ending in a trip to death row. Lucky will be arrested for assault and possibly murder depending on the lobotomists condition. Ruby is heading for juvy at best or at worst a real prison for the axe murder (self defense for sure but everything we saw on this show....no way she gets a fair trial) Only the little girl has a chance for any kind of life but she'll never live with her family again after they all go to jail.

To summarize the show started off excellent when the early episodes dealt with the racism but the back half where the supernatural took center stage was lacking...it was kind of a mini version of what happened to UNDERGROUND...great first season but collapsed and burned in the second.

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On 4/11/2021 at 10:48 PM, Chicago Redshirt said:

I'm kind of salty that Allison Pill got a featurette about playing her character but neither of the Black leads got featurettes about playing their roles.

Deborah Ayorinde has a featurette about what it was like for her to film episode 5.

I never had the impression the show was trying to make us think that Lucky's rape and the murder of her baby boy might not have happened. All Lucky's "crazy moments" had to do with seeing/feeling ghosts and it was clear early on that ghosts are real in this show's universe.

It was weird to have the main living antagonist Betty be swept out of the main storyline a few episodes from the end and then be summarily disposed of in a way that, again, had nothing to do with the main storyline. I would've vastly preferred Lucky sticking an ax in her head or some other end that directly had to do with her hateful, psychotic behavior towards the Emorys. So glad Lucky at least got to slap her once.

It's an anthology series but that doesn't mean there might not be some type of crossover. Though it is hard to imagine the Emorys having any fate other than three of them going to jail/institution/juvie and Gracie being taken in by relatives. Maybe that was the reason for including a supernatural element, so that the Emorys could at least triumph over something. The covenant's broken now and the Reverend et all off to a well-deserved hell.

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