Welcome back, Heathens! It’s been far too long since our last chat (17 months to be exact. That’s almost two pregnancies!). WGN’s Salem finally returns to us so that we may bask in its glory. The season premiere found the show playing catch-up with all of the characters, and while it seems hit all the right beats, it did seem to be going through the motions a bit. Still, it was a devilishly entertaining as ever, with plenty of new plot developments to carry us through the season.
The lack of Janet Montgomery hindered “After the Fall” quite a bit. Salem just isn’t the same without her. While she was largely absent throughout the episode, her Mary Sibley’s presence loomed over all of the plotlines of the episode. This is most true for Tituba, who spends the majority of the episode trying to resurrect her (and succeeding by the episode’s end). It turns out that Tituba is the new seer (called it), thank to her eating Petras’s eyes last season. She is now capable of seeing the future, and while it would have behooved the show to focus more on Tituba’s new talents, it makes sense that it would want to shine a spotlight on Mary’s resurrection before delving into Tituba’s powers.
Mary’s death leaves John Alden a broken, albeit stronger, man. With her dead, he has nothing left to live for so he just doesn’t give a fuck. This is a wise reinvention of Alden’s character, who was a big bag of dead weight last season. The grudge he held against Mary never rang true and made the character less likable since, like Anne pointed out, it is his fault she became a witch in the first place. His rivalry with Sebastian will no doubt carry on throughout the season, but his partnership with Isaac (née the Fornicator) is what intrigues the most. Once thought to be a dispensable character in the pilot, Isaac has emerged as the heart and soul of Salem.
Mercy makes a brief appearance this week, and she is busy running a halfway house for ex-residents of Knocker’s Hole (the red light district of Salem) and playing violent games of Cat’s Cradle with them while also drinking their blood. Her storyline is the most disconnected of the episode, as the most interaction she gets with any of the main characters is her spying on John and Isaac through a window. This disconnect was a problem with Mercy last season, so hopefully the series brings her in the the main arc more this year.
Anne has evolved quite a bit since the series began. Now that she is fully embracing her powers, it opens up a whole world of potential storylines for her this season. Her imprisonment of Cotton is shocking, but it’s debatable how long this game of Misery can last before it starts to wear thin. For now, it’s at least tragically humorous to watch. The rules behind the magic aren’t consistent though. Why is Cotton able to get a slap in at Anne? George Sibley was never able to accomplish such a feat. It may be that Anne is allowing him to without her realizing it (because of twue wuv), but it was a bit jarring at first.
Finally, we come to the Dark Lord. Lucy Lawless was such a commanding presence last year as the Countess von Marburg, that the Dark Lord pales in comparison to her. Oliver Bell simply doesn’t have the same screen presence as that actress. It’s not that he’s a bad actor. Quite the contrary, he has actually improved since last season. It’s just that as a character he’s kind of obnoxious. It’s too early in the season to really make a judgment on the character, but this episode didn’t make him enough of a menacing presence (Mercy was more menacing).
“After the Fall” was a solid premiere for Salem. While it suffered from a lack of Janet Montgomery (and if we’re being honest, Lucy Lawless), it served as a good catch-up episode that didn’t drag once. Season 3 hasn’t lost and of the fun that filled the second season, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
- Grossest Moment: Since Salem prides itself on its gore (and why shouldn’t it?) I thought this would be a fun weekly tradition to have in the Random Notes. This week’s grossest moment is definitely Mercy’s game of Cat’s Cradle. That almost harder to watch than the rack scene from Saw III.
- Runner up: The Dark Lord’s brother, who seems to be made of cockroaches. Blech.
- Something I am legitimately worried about is where Salem will go after the Dark Lord is defeated (if he is defeated). What kind of Big Bad do you follow the Devil himself with?
- Sebastian visiting his mother’s corpse gives me a glimmer of hope that Lucy Lawless will return this season, if only for an episode like Stephen Lang did last season.
- John straight up just watched that lady get her throat slashed. He didn’t even try to help her. Good work John.
- “His every breath is an intolerable risk to us, not to mention smelling awfully of rat.”
- Isaac starting the mob mentality to let John Alden go was a brilliant move on his part. Go Isaac!
- “That overreaching thing. All her promises lie even now rotting in her sarcophagus. Would you like to join her?”
- “How dare you bring that traitor into our midst. There is no place in the Essex stronghold for even the corpse of Mary Sibley.” -Those Essex witches sure can hold a grudge, can’t they?
- “Did I choose to slaughter innocents? Choose to start a plague? Raise the devil himself? No. Mary Sibley chose to do those things. Me? I had no choice. Didn’t even realize I was born a witch, but Mary Sibley chose to become a witch. Why? Because you chose to leave Salem and left her no other course. So perhaps this is all your fault!” -Anne is so much more entertaining when she’s pissed off.
- Another example: “If you move or speak against me, Brown Jenkins feasts on your insides.” -Poor
- “English? Better call it ‘anguish.’ Sounds like the whimper of whipped dogs.” -Seriously, I have missed the zingers on this show. Keep ’em coming!