Spoilers ahead for Season 1 of Them. When the Emory family arrives at their new Los Angeles home in Amazon’s thriller Them, little Gracie Jean is clutching tight to her Miss Vera Says book. The book’s purpose is fairly simple: to instruct young readers how to be “good girls.” (Sample passage: “Good little girls are humble. Good little girls are sweet. Good little girls are soft...”)
Gracie, who’s just about to start kindergarten, thinks of the book’s titular character as her teacher — though her mom, Lucky (Deborah Ayorinde), reminds her she’s not a real person. Indeed she’s not, but the terror conjured by Miss Vera in Them absolutely is.
On the family’s second night in California, Gracie awakens and goes downstairs to find a terrifying Miss Vera sitting in the dark. The towering figure slowly skulks toward Gracie before lunging forward to choke her. After escaping, Gracie begins referring to her once beloved teacher as “nasty old Miss Vera,” especially after revealing she “took” (read: killed) the family dog.
Gracie tells Lucky that she hears Miss Vera walking down the hall at night, but always smells her first. According to the youngest Emory, Miss Vera reeks “like dead things.” Moments later, it becomes apparent that only Gracie can see Miss Vera when Lucky comes face-to-face with the invisible monster in another terrifying basement scene. After Gracie reveals that Miss Vera “didn’t start messing with” her until they arrived in Los Angeles — despite having had the Miss Vera Says book for “a while” at their previous home in North Carolina — viewers learn that the spirit is tied to the family’s new house.
Throughout the course of the show, it’s revealed that there is an otherworldly character preying on the fears and insecurities of each family member in order to break them down psychologically. For Lucky, it’s The Black Hat Man, while patriarch Henry (Ashley Thomas) is stalked by Da Tap Dance Man and their other daughter Ruby (Shahadi Wright Joseph) sees an imaginary classmate named Doris. Though Miss Vera only presents herself to Gracie for most of the series, she works through the little girl to torment Lucky as well. She teaches Gracie to sing a song called “Old Black Joe,” which has a highly traumatic significance to Lucky. In a later scene, Gracie also repeats the phrase “cat in the bag” — arguably even more traumatic for Lucky — at Miss Vera’s command. In the end, however, it’s the Miss Vera Says book that, in part, holds the key to the family’s survival.