Betrayal was the name of the game in “The Witch is Back” an episode of Salem that saw Tituba and Mr. Dinley reveal their allegiance to the Dark Lord, Mary get a proposal from her son (gross!) and John doing….something no one cares about.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first, because this was a pretty strong episode of Salem. The episode opens in media res with the conclusion of the Indian attack on John and his little assistant (who I just recently found out is named Billy). She is mortally wounded and he realizes that she’s actually a girl, and she tells him a story about how she has always wanted to meet him. Then she dies. That’s sweet and all, but this entire subplot is so far removed from everything going on in Salem that it’s superfluous. I know I sound like a broken record when it comes to anything John Alden-related, so this will be the last time he’s mentioned in these reviews unless something good comes out of his scenes. Who is Billy? Why should we care about her? Assuming she comes back from the dead (which is entirely possible on Salem), maybe we will get an answer, but for now it feels like an unnecessary diversion from all of the Salem subplots.
Much like John, Mercy and Isaac are off in their own isolated story. It will most likely come into play with the main arc at some point, but for now Mercy is just doing her own thing with all of her birds (both literal and figurative). Mercy-haters got a real treat this week when Isaac let all of her literal birds out of their cages, followed by Mercy getting stabbed repeatedly by a group of men. Mercy and Hathorne’s relationship came out of nowhere, and the latter’s newfound loyalty to the former is puzzling, but it was nice to see Mercy take a blow. How this will connect with Mary and the Dark Lord is a question for another episode.
Mary spent the majority of the episode investigating the Dark Lord and reconnecting with Tituba. Mary and Tituba’s relationship has been one of the most fascinating parts of Salem ever since the pilot. While it has always been a tense relationship, the two women have more in common than they would ever care to admit. Both made a contract with the devil in exchange for power. Mary to avoid being branded a fornicator and Tituba as an alternative to life as a slave. More often than not, their relationship has leaned more towards guarded, with the women spitting acidic barbs at each other. We see a glimmer of a reconciliation tonight, and it’s a welcome moment between them Unfortunately the reveal that Tituba is working under the orders of the Dark Lord is bound to throw a wrench into things, but we can at least enjoy it while it lasts.
As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, The Dark Lord hasn’t been much of an imposing presence this season. “The Witch is Back” begins to remedy that with the continuation of his torture of Ann. While he still comes across more as a spoiled child than a threatening villain, the scene of him slashing Anne was a much-needed injection of menace into the character. Also nice was seeing him get to interact with Cotton, who has been having quite a journey this season. Who would have thought that the drunken man-whore we saw in the first season would be such a sympathetic character two seasons later? That whoring around has come back to bite him in the ass though, as Anne discovers that he has at least one bastard child out there.
“The Witch is Back” saw Salem bounce back from a lackluster episode last week. It kicked many of the plot lines into high gear and brought characters together, making for several entertaining scenes. It’s still not matching some of the best episodes of Season 2, but it looks like Salem is finally starting to have fun again.