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[TV Review] “Salem” Series Finale: ‘Black Sunday’

salem series finale review

Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a television series close on such a pessimistic scene. Salem has never been one to shy away from graphic depictions of, well, anything, but to have its last scene feature one of its main characters looking into the depths of Hell? That was just brutal. “Black Sunday” was a brutal episode of television in general, and while many of the characters didn’t make it out alive, at least our two protagonists got to ride off into the sunset together.

From here on down there will be ***MASSIVE SPOILERS***. You’ve been warned. If for some reason you’ve never seen Salem but still plan on watching it, know that I’m giving the series finale a 4/5 (the series as a whole would earn that same grade). There, now you know the journey is worth it and you can go start the first season on Netflix right now. Salem is worth watching from the very beginning. Go along for the wacky and incredibly disturbing ride.

As a series finale, “Black Sunday” did its job. It is unclear how long Adam Simon and Brannon Braga had to prepare a fitting end for their sorely under-watched (and under-promoted) series, but they crafted a series finale that, for better or worse, granted all of its characters (and viewers) closure. It did run into a few pacing issues (Anne’s evolution into the big bad of the season came on much too quickly), but Salem didn’t have a lot of time to work with, so that is forgivable. As a whole, “Black Sunday” was a solid way to close out the series.

After all, the only thing viewers want from a series finale is closure, and boy did “Black Sunday” deliver on that front. Let’s take a quick glance at everyone’s fates, shall we?

  • Mary Sibley – Living happily ever after with John Alden.
  • John Alden – Living happily ever after with Mary Sibley.
  • Anne Hale – Ruling over Salem while instigating the Salem Witch Trials.
  • Cotton Mather – Trapped in Hell for all eternity.
  • Tituba – Trapped in a cage for all eternity. Oh and she has no mouth. And no eyes.
  • Mercy Lewis – Dead.
  • Isaac Walton – Dead.
  • Sebastian Marburg – Dead.
  • Countess Marburg – Dead (for real this time).
  • Little John/Big John/Dark Lord/The Devil – Dead(ish).

To say Salem cleaned house would be an understatement. Sebastian was the first to go, which was probably for the best. The character never really earned his keep on Salem (it was a little surprising he stayed on for the third season), and while it was fun to have the threat of him and Countess Marburg constantly looming in the background, it never really paid off. That being said, the catharsis earned from seeing Anne murder her mother was incredible.

Little John was aged up in a sublimely graphic dismemberment (see header image) that brought a newly adult Dark Lord to the series. It’s a shame that Salem is over, as Big John could have made for an interesting fourth season villain (I’m very curious to know how the season was originally meant to play out). I’ve complained for most of the season that Little John was never that imposing of a villain, but now it is clear that there was a reason for that: a path was being forged for Anne Hale to emerge as the Big Bad.

salem finale

It’s understandable that Salem had to bring forward a new Big Bad, but the journey there did feel a little rushed. It’s fascinating to watch this demure little girl from the first season morph into a Grand High Witch, but it happened over the course of two or three episodes. Tamzin Merchant has been great in the role, but she did get a bit cartoonish in her villainy here. Anne’s arc, however implausible, was still great fun to watch and the entire sequence where she simultaneously visited with Isaac, John, Tituba, Mercy and Hathorne was glorious. Salem also gave us its biggest reveal yet. After believing that Salem was an alternative take on the Salem Witch Trials, the finale showed that it was actually a lead-in to the Trials. It was a wonderful reveal that cemented Anne Hale’s status as an evil mastermind. Apparently everyone was playing checkers while she was secretly playing chess.

Isaac, Hathorne, Mercy and Tituba were afterthoughts in the finale, showing up only to be dispatched by Anne. Ashley Madekwe grew into the role of Tituba after a rocky first season (she improved greatly after she abandoned her English accent) and did her best with the little material she was given this season. I confess that I was hoping the character would have a better ending, but she really dug her own grave in the end. Isaac, Hathorne and Mercy have felt like they were on an entirely different show, constantly separated from the main arc of the season. It was no different in the finale, and the series dispatched of them as if they didn’t matter (they didn’t, not even poor Isaac).

If the finale was an exercise in bleakness (more on the bleakest moment in a bit), the light at the end of the tunnel was Mary Sibley. She finally got her happily ever after and was able to escape Salem with John Alden. Montgomery has been a force of nature for three seasons, and “Black Sunday” made up for the actress being given the shaft for much of this season. Her performance as Countess Marburg was spot-on (her reaction to the news of Sebastian’s death was perfection). Salem has always been Mary’s show, so to see her end the series in the arms of her true love, as schmaltzy as it is, is appropriate. This is a woman who has (figuratively) been to Hell and back. She is due some respect, dammit. I only hope that Salem‘s end sends a plethora of job offers to Montgomery. She’s absolutely magnificent.

Last is Cotton. Poor, poor Cotton. He was able to redeem the horrible acts from his past with a self-sacrifice that was noble, but misguided. While the world didn’t end, he merely postponed the inevitable. Now he is stuck in Hell for all eternity. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Cotton was going to get yanked out at the last minute. Maybe saved by a remorseful Anne Hale, perhaps? You would be wrong though. Cotton’s fate is a truly shocking one, and those final images will be burned in my brain forever.

salem hell

Is this the bleakest final shot in the history of television? I think so.

If Salem has to leave us, then “Black Sunday” was a fantastic way to send it off. The third season had its issues, but everything was wrapped up in a neat and satisfying little bow in the end. I look forward to whatever Brannon Braga and Adam Simon give us next. May it last longer than three seasons.

Random Notes

  • Is anyone else just a little miffed we never actually got a Lucy Lawless cameo this season? Her voice doesn’t count!
  • “Anne Hale, I warned Mary Sibley about you long ago.” -Preach, girl.
  • “I already carry the child you will make your new home. And mine was an immaculate conception, as it should be.” -Anne did have some killer lines this episode, didn’t she?
  • “You said you’d be back in a year.” -So happy than Mary got a happy ending. At least someone did.
  • Why didn’t the age up Little John at the beginning of the season? I guess they couldn’t have Cotton go to Hell that early in the season, but that would have helped this season a ton.
  • How did Big John now detect that Mary was no longer Mary? He’s not stupid. What gives?
  • Thank you all for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as I have, flaws and all. It really was something special, and I hope more horror fans discover it on streaming services in the future (Just get past those first 5 or 6 episodes! Mary gets better! I promise!).
  • Seriously though, how disturbing and soul-crushing was that final scene?

salem hell

salem hell 1

salem hell



  • Go Ace!

    It was a fun show, with a bleak ending. It’s not perfect by any means, but definitely worth checking out,

    My only gripe is..what happened with John and the stuff the Indians did to him? Didn’t they tell him he would die/be bound to the land or whatever?

    • Pablo Cavalieri

      Well, he dies…so the indians thing is gone.
      Then Mary resurect him before she dies…voila, a new clean John lives again LOL.

  • AndYouWillDeal

    WOW, that was dark as hell…no pun intended. I enjoyed how Mary and Anne switched places throughout the span of the show, and I think in season 2 it was hinted that Anne would become the ultimate big bad, as she’s shown in the book of shadow as a dark, multi armed, tree goddess. Poor Isaac, nice guys finish last 🙁 And I even felt bad for Mercy. Tituba’s ending though, that was pretty disturbing too.

  • ChaosHD

    Mary didn’t deserve a happy ending. It should of been her that sacrificed herself instead of Cotton, to atone for everything she caused. Then John and Cotton should of destroyed Anne and saved the town. Voila, perfect ending.

    • tanyaleigh

      You mean ‘have’ not ‘of’ Drives me crazy and I see it all of the time.

  • Lady Bathory

    I love Salem! Soooo sad that it’s over 🙁
    The fact that Anne Hale came out on top is pretty fantastic, though! She’s my favorite (her and Mercy Lewis).
    John’s and Mary’s fate was too good, in my opinion. Mary has always been a tragic villain AND hero, and deserves a happy ending. But John Alden has been, no offense Alden fans, a rather unecessary character since season 2.

    • tanyaleigh

      I agree with the character of John, what was the point ?

  • tanyaleigh

    Worst series finale of all time. Mary and John did not deserve a happy ending. Nor did Anne Hale. My favorites Cotton , Issac, Mercy and Sebastian got served up ignominious deaths. I had hoped Anne would see the error of her ways. I didn’t like one thing about this finale after watching since the beginning. I wanted Mary to burn for an eternity in hell not Cotton . I disliked the constant teasing of the return of Lucy Lawless, that was lame!

    • Aw what’s your beef with Mary? I think she more than atoned for her sins over the past 2 seasons.

      • tanyaleigh

        I never liked Mary, she was cruel beyond reason much the same as Anne became.

  • Gastón

    It was literally the worse series finale i’ve ever seen. I watched many series and some ended better than others, but this finale was simply insulting. All the Isaac story was for nothing, the poor Dorcas ended orphan once again and the people he tried to save literally kill him. Mercy and Hawthorne have potential to do at least SOMETHING important in the finale, but It’s ok let’s just let the crazy red bitch kill them too.
    Anne is simply too dumb to be the ultimate villain of the series I can’t even…
    I know they have to ended all the stories and loose ends BUT FOR GOD SAKE THEY WERE HUNDRED OF BETTER ENDINGS THAN THAT.
    This is how you ruin a show in one simple episode. This is what we get the faithful fans who watched Salem from the very beginning: A big FUCK YOU in the face. SO FUCK YOU TOO.

    • Gisselle Jazmin

      Lmao! Sooo true. I can’t it still upsets me.

  • Lauren C

    I thought the finale was magnificent- or at least it had me completely entranced. Except, YES, that final scene! And then its just OVER!???!! I can’t EVEN. Cotton!!! 🙁 🙁

  • Donna Lou

    i have loved Salem since the beginning,, the finale left me with my mouth hanging open!
    the only thing i would have done differently is poor Cotten! God Himself should have reached into hell and pulled him out!
    now THAT would have been a great ending!

    • Gayle Miller

      Totally agree, Cotton didn’t deserve Hell. Once Satan was murdered by Ann, Satan should have switch Cotton soul with his murderer Anne. Because it has taken centuries to resurrect him this time, and Ann hasn’t any guarantee she can perform the ritual. Besides He was here, who wants to go to hell and start over. If Mary wasn’t good enough (AKA The Countess) Anne could have shown she was the best witch for the job. If I was Satan, I would be extremely upset at being murdered.

  • J Jett

    i admit i’m very late to the party but i just started watching this show tonight (just finished up ep.1 of season 1) and i’m liking it thus far! looking forward to watching the rest of the show/the seasons.

    • It’s sooooo good!

    • CeCe Says Ugonlearntaday

      KEEP WATCHING!!!! This show will blow you away.

  • ma_r_x

    Grand Final. Anne Hale, as in massacre of Valentine’s Day (Godfather), kills “human” devil, his mother, the judge, his witch and the tribune of the people, shuts up and locked up Tituba (which may be useful in the future) and banishes John Alden and his beloved Mary Sibley. In all this, her husband Cotton Mather end up in hell, alive (he will returns in future). She becomes the one and only queen of Salem. In the final scene the child protected by Isaac Walton is the only citizen of Salem who doesn’t applaud his advent. This little girl will be a central figure in the fight against the intent of Anne Hale to return the devil in his son. Because it is well to remember, Salem did not become the richest city of the US and the world! 😀

    • Hammertime

      I’m pretty sure Cotton is toast. Theoretically they could all be resurrected but there is no more Salem. Cotton’s sorry fate gave the finale it’s “punch.”

  • Thrash13

    Salem was a real pleasure to watch the last few years, and I was fairly happy with the ending. Anne Hale’s transformation from her first appearance to the last was truly remarkable storytelling and a real fun thing to watch.

    I’m happy the directors ended this show without overstaying its welcome. Each of the seasons were fun to watch for various reasons, and the ending was solid. That’s all I ask for in a series.

    Lastly, I’m also pretty sad Lucy Lawless never made an official appearance in character this season. She was great in season 2!

  • AriesSiren

    It was one of the most hard-core horror shows I’ve seen in a long time. I watched it from beginning to end and it was just awesome.

  • CeCe Says Ugonlearntaday

    I absolutely adored this show. It was an amazing horror/love/drama period piece. Was horrific and lovely in the same breath. It kept me captivated to see what was next. i’m truly going to miss it. I was sooo looking forward to what the next seasons could bring. This series will alwayz have a special place in my heart because I am from Boston Mass and I have been to Salem(yes on Halloween too).

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