The bitch is back! Mary’s arc in the early episodes of Salem’s third season have been reminiscent of the Buffy’s arc in the early episodes of the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While the heroines (well, one heroine and one antihero) of each respective series have different end goals, they both have to deal with life after resurrection. Whereas Buffy was ripped out of Heaven by her friends, Mary Sibley was pulled out of Hell. It wasn’t the same Mary Sibley that returned to us this season (much like Buffy returned somewhat different after her resurrection), and it isn’t until the end of “Night’s Black Agents” that we see remnants of the Mary Sibley we know and love.
Mary’s reckoning has left her powerless and weak so this episode is all about her gaining the strength to fight back against her son and the Sentinel. First she must face her own personal demons. Mary has done some awful things. One of the biggest problems with the first season was that Mary was not a character the audience wanted to root for. It took a good eight or nine episodes before she was able to earn any sympathy from viewers. Season two did wonders for the character as it explored her motivations behind her terrible actions, and season three is now forcing her to face some of her misdeeds. In the case of one unlucky accused witch, she must literally face her as she watches her hang again. Mary has solidified herself as a sympathetic character, but seeing her remorse for her past actions is a crucial and necessary occurrence in the series.
The Dark Lord continues to pale in comparison to the high standards set by Lucy Lawless’s Countess Marburg last season. Marburg was a near-perfect villain. The Dark Lord has been a bit of a disappointment ever since his arrival at the end of last season. It’s unclear whether it is Oliver Bell’s acting or a just the fact that the idea of a child possessed by Satan is infinitely more terrifying that the actuality of a child possessed by Satan. The Dark Lord just isn’t that scary or intimidating, and Salem hasn’t been doing much with the character to make him feel like a true Big Bad (the Sentinel is more intimidating). Seeing him actually do some evil by torturing poor Anne is a necessary evil for the character. Of course it’s awful, but we should expect nothing less from Satan. Hopefully the writers keep this trajectory for him, as a season without a good villain is hardly a season at all.
Cotton had his own side story away from Anne this week and as humorous as it was, it was a little too silly, even by Salem‘s standards. While out in the woods he hitches a ride with a fellow Puritan couple who turn out to be followers of the Dark Lord. Apparently it’s easier to farm when you sell your soul to Satan as opposed to being a loyal follower of God. Who knew? After suffering some abuse (and dog urination), the end game of this subplot becomes clear: get Cotton and Tituba to share the screen. While we don’t get to see much of their partnership, it’s a fascinating pairing. As I mentioned last week, Tituba hasn’t had much to do all season except stare into the camera so giving her someone to share the screen with brings a significant amount of life to her scenes.
As is par for the course with Salem, John is stuck in the least interesting subplot of the night. Even the cliffhanger isn’t that interesting. After rescuing his sidekick, he interrogates the Frenchman about his relationship with Sebastian and then steals the Angel’s Tears from him. Before he can get any more information out of him the Native Americans arrive, presumably to kill them. Obviously, this is not going to happen (the Frenchman may die, I suppose). Did Salem learn nothing from last season? Sequestering John away from Salem was a bad idea then and it’s a bad idea now. The sooner he gets back to Salem and Mary the better. Shane West is a fine actor, but he’s frequently given the worst material in the show. Quite frankly, it’s boring.
“Night’s Black Agents” brought back Mary’s strength after her reckoning and characters were shuffled around, bringing about many new alliances. Season 3 has yet to kick into high gear, but it still manages to keep you interested in where it’s going, even if the journey there hasn’t exactly been as thrilling as Salem has been in the past.