Salem Season 3 Episode 3 Review: The Reckoning

Mary Sibley’s son gets named on Salem as the skies glow red with The Reckoning.

This Salem review contains spoilers.

Salem season 3 episode 3

It appears that Mary studied more for her finals than The Sentinel, but he’s still giving out the final grade. The Sentinel underestimated a child’s love for his mother, or in this case, the lust, and assumed that an execution attempt warrants death. It doesn’t. Mary lives to see another day and learn another lesson. I just love the classroom that The Sentinel builds for her.

So after last week’s sermon from the mount delivery, Anne Hale (Tamzin Merchant) and Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel) got it on for the first time and he was savage and sweet. But it looks like Cotton has both dry mouth and morning sickness. Watching Cotton put all the ingredients of the vermin cure in his ale mug, all I was thinking was: he really should stir that stuff up. I had the same feeling when John Torturro’s character hurriedly drank his skin cure on The Night Of. But Cotton keeps it down long enough to deliver the speech, the town and last call to the duplicitous Baron Sebastian Marburg (Joe Doyle).

It looks like the writers of Salem are allowed one curse per episode. Tonight it was bullshit, which was rampant in the horse-driven township. The disguised little “boy” scout hide under the blankets of the carriage cuts through this with the impudence of youthful rebellion. It was fun watching John Alden try to rein in the wild buck.

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Hathorne was tamed entirely by the town’s dominatrix Mistress Mercy Lewis (Elise Eberle) without the crack of a riding crop. I’m not exactly sure why Mercy would have taken that tongue-lashing though. The guy is a festering pustule, to quote A Lion in Winter, and the idea that he’s all up and in her kind of puts you off your food. But both his lips and eyes say yes. Hathorne definitely gets the better part of that deal. He’s already at Mercy’s mercy, why would she give him such an insider bargain? But it does make him a better town leader. He is the one who urges calm when the town’s richest members, besides Baron Sebastian Marburg (Joe Doyle), demand the town throw out the refugees and build a wall.

He also sidetracks Isaac the Truthteller fairly handily. We can see his mind moving as he is confronted by the amateur Columbo as the pincers of truth nip at his new arrangement. Jeremy Crutchley, who plays Hathorne, projects without telegraphing the entire thought process with a few shakes of the head. He fucks with the fornicator’s head over issues of personal justice and leaves the marked man to be picked at by the town gangsters. They should have taken the clump of hair they scalped back with them to Mercy.

Salem isn’t a heavy show like Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, so when they pull back into subtlety they still go about it larger than life. Mary’s inner prison reminded me of the world at the center of Hellraiser. The scene where Mary is stripped of her elements is very visually arresting and perfectly captures the concept at the center of the visuals. It’s a little to well-framed for me, the angles a little too perfect, but it is imaginative and artsy in the best way for TV. The scenes, while extremely visual, say more than they show.

The concept that the Sentinel is so old that he is the architect of the earth is very intriguing. Using this to explain the inner landscape that he’s created as Mary’s prison give it a depth that the audience has to fill in with its imagination. That’s the best part of horror, the unsaid. Salem is, for the most part, very upfront about their magic and mysticism, so when they employ the mystery of implication it carries more weight.

So, Mary Sibley’s son was possessed by Samael. This is some heavy shit, actually. Samael is the angel of death and the snake in the Garden of Eden, offering up knowledge like an apple from a teacher. We barely see the surface of his contempt for all things human under Oliver Bell’s human face but we can taste it. When the boy demon catches the pieces of ash on his tongue like a demented Peanuts character catching snowflakes in December we must remember that the flakes are burnt pieces of the skin of former Deerfield citizens. The actual reckoning was hotly rendered.

The clenching of fists to shut people up is as good an actor’s shortcut that encapsulates sympathetic magic as the twitching of Samantha’s nose on Bewitched, Zeena Schreck, another mythic former devil’s child, remarked recently when asked for a quote on the practice, and suggested the producers of Salem bring her on for an episode of gimmick casting.

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I was so relieved to see Brown Jenkins return to Anne Hale. Now that the toad is gone with the wind, it’s the most familiar face.

“The Reckoning” was written by Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson and directed by Wayne Yip.


4.5 out of 5