This Salem review contains spoilers.
Salem season 3 episode 5
Salem, season 3 episode 5, “The Witch is Back,” brings back an old friend and an even older foe.
What a day Billy (Emily Skeggs), the poor kid that idolizes John Alden (Shane West) as a savior, is having. First she gets to see her hero fulfill every promise his legend foretold. He destroys an entire troop of unkillable native Americans in full battle array. He recovers himself from a wound in time to continue fighting. She gets to save his life. Only to be numbered among the honored collateral damage that the famed Indian Killer leaves in his wake. She even steals a kiss as she unveils herself as the victimized survivor of a savage attack where the men showed up a day late and a dollar short. Billy proves herself a worthy soldier in the fight to tame the new world’s wilderness, feeding the Essex trees with her blood.
Personally, I don’t see how either one of them would have made it through the initial onslaught, but this is WGN and not the History Channel. It is a television tradition that it takes a village to take down a series star. Alden is bigger than life on the small screen and dispatches warriors over and over. Each one has to be killed two or three times, because they have the zombie powers of the great spirit of the bloodthirsty woods. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Billy. It seems a shame to build such a deep history for such a short arc.
“People are not animals,” says the little demon, “they’re puppets, dolls, toys.” Wooden soldiers wouldn’t make it out from under the Christmas tree in his house. Little John (Oliver Bell) does not play well with others, to say the least. Even other witches get strung and opened up just to depress the Sentinel.
Wholly Moses, did Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel) have to be that good? The newly proud pappy has come forward to fulfill his part in the new Jerusalem. Increase Mather’s son does it for love, just like he offed his old man. Anne Hale (Tamzin Merchant) may be a witch, but she’s his witch for richer, poorer, better or worse. Salem be damned.
Mather is the Dr. Spock of the New World. After the Bible, no one has sold more manuscript than the pious penman. He is chosen to transcribe the story of the fall from the devil’s point of view. Personally, I think a man of god would be thrilled to hear a firsthand account and indeed, he gets a little star struck when the Sentinel talks about the last time he saw god face to face. After the scribner sniffs his response to the loss of face with a dismissive “we call it hell,” the Sentinel comes right back at him by simply stating “We called it home.” Who would have thought the dour Sentinel would be the comic relief on Salem? Standing there all stony face and angry, a petulant muscleman in leather armor. Truth is blasphemy, he jokes.
Isaac the Truthteller gets the word out by releasing the carrier pigeons and Mistress Mercy Lewis (Elise Eberle) gets the message. Betrayed by her protective thugs, Hathorne (Jeremy Crutchley) comes fully into his own. He chooses sinister slavery over honorable freedom. Watching this, I believe he is motivated by love and not political ambition. The political intrigues lose a major opponent as Marilyn Manson’s barbarous Dinley makes a delicious reappearance to shave a couple votes off the top.
Baron Sebastian Marburg (Joe Doyle) brings back Countess Marburg, played by the iconic Lucy Lawless, who has looked better. Though that doesn’t deter Sebastian in the least. “There’s no difference between a love spell, a love sonnet or a longing look,” the Countess advises. “Give her what she wants before she wants it and soon enough she will want you.” This is quite sound magical advice, and it has a very good track record for success. It works better, of course, when you wash it down with blood. He even braves a little psychic backwash to gain the answers to his darkest prayers. It’s fun to watch Sebastian play the cat and mouse game with the demon spawn and his ever-watchful Sentinel. Intrigue within the insidious is most intriguing.
The tempestuous Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery) gives in to the storm but not quite to the infernal desire. Two Mary’s was good enough for his father, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, but who wants to marry his father? One Mary is fine for the little devil, who is not quite so greedy as his imperious father. But then, Samael has his own plans for god consciousness and his vigilant brother turns out to be a little too empathetic to let them be.
Tituba is playing a very dangerous game, turning over traitors while dropping dime to the devil. Mary says her first order of business is not to trust anyone. That includes the former slave turned cats-eyed seer. Mary turns a blind eye toward the inveigling of Cotton Mather, who is passing himself off as a kind of visionary to keep his wife in the dark. Anne Hale’s attempts to come into the light, however, uncover an unsightly past. As to the future, it looks like the Sentinel can stand some watching.
This was an excellent episode, fraught with danger, sad goodbyes and warnings of worse to come.
“The Witch is Back” was written by Adam Simon and directed by Nick Copus.