All the pieces are starting to come together on Salem. After five episodes of fragmented narrative, all of the characters are slowly but surely starting to come together. It’s taken a bit too long to get to this point (this season would have benefited from a 10-episode order instead of 13), but “Wednesday’s Child” was a table-setting episode if there ever was one. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we’re six episodes into the season and we’re still waiting for the season to get to the point already. It was not a bad episode of Salem by any means, and maybe when the season ends it will look better in retrospect.
Season Three has been a rocky season. It hasn’t been bad, per se. That hasn’t been Salem’s issue since the first half of Season One. It’s just been painfully slow. At this point last year Countess Marburg had arrived in Salem and George Sibley had just been murdered. The season was moving forward at a rapid pace. Season Three has not had the same momentum as last season and “Wednesday’s Child” has made that fairly obvious. A lot has been happening, but the plot hasn’t been moving forward. The characters are still compelling, but the series isn’t as engaging to watch as it has been when its at its best (read: most of Season Two). It has also lost the sense of fun that it has had in the past, making many of the proceedings dreary and a bit of a chore to get through. We’re only halfway through the season though, so there is still plenty of time for Salem to course-correct.
This slowness is most apparent in Anne’s storyline this week. We knew from the get-go what she was going to do with Gloriana, but the Salem presented the reveal as an episode-ending twist. It generates a yawn rather than the intended gasp. And isn’t Cotton going to wonder how Anne’s belly got so big so quickly? Initially a conservative and spoiled child, she showed glimpses of intelligence last season but has now regressed to a jealous shrew. Anne Hale is just a frustrating character. With only four episodes left in the series (more on that in a bit), why are we seeing Anne steal a pregnant woman’s baby? Yes, the baby is supposedly Cotton’s, these rash actions put Anne in Mercy levels of unlikability. It’s not a storyline that is worth pursuing, especially since facing off against the Devil himself is the
season’s series’s endgame.
Speaking of Mercy, why is she still on the show? Elise Eberle has brought the appropriate amount of menace to the role, but the character wore out her welcome back in Season One. Her inclusion this season takes up valuable screen time that can go to someone like Mary. Mary really has gotten the shaft this season, hasn’t she ? Once the protagonist in Salem‘s first two seasons, she has now been put on the backburner for much of the season. Season Three has shifted the series into an ensemble series. No longer is Mary at the forefront of all the storylines. Everyone is getting equal amounts of screen time this year, which is good for all the actors, but it has hurt the heart of the series. That heart is Mary. Mary’s reckoning was a crucial turning point for the character, but Salem has glossed over the emotional toll it has taken on her. In “Wednesday’s Child” she is a part of Sebastian’s arc, when it should be Sebastian who is a part of Mary’s arc.
It wasn’t all bad in “Wednesday’s Child” though. Sebastian’s manipulation of Mary to rid her of John Alden was an inspired moment of villainy even for that character. Tituba manipulating John to kill the Sentinel brings a much-needed sense of urgency to that story and makes John relevant again. Finally, The Dark Lord’s master plan is also showing some momentum and he continues to be creepy by giving his mother her wedding gown (gross). All of this made for a passable episode of Salem, but it didn’t live up to the standards it has set for itself.