Salem Season 3 Premiere Review: After the Fall

The town of Salem’s new management is devil-may-care at best as season 3 opens the hellgates.

This Salem review contains spoilers.

Salem season 3 episode 1

Salem, season 3 episode 1, “After Fall,” opens in a post-devil-ruled town surrounded by angry mobs and a French-Indian alliance waging a brutal guerilla war in the perimeter. The witches of Salem signed a contract with the devil and are now thinking of reneging because Satan’s son is a little too particular about the fine print.

“History will say the devil was born in Salem,” says Baron Sebastian von Marburg (Joe Doyle) as he invents new age in the new world. “But what is the devil? The devil is the light that reveals the path on the dark side of desire, wishcraft.” Yes, the witches’ needs appear set to be met until they actually ask for something, even if it’s something they already have.

John (Oliver Bell), puts down the Essex witches in a heartbeat. The upstart old crones, lost without his mother, think they are exalted but the young devil, forever trying his hand at new technology, invents the first overhanging ceiling fan.

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See, “this land isn’t your land,” he tells them, “this land is my land” and, apparently, this land wasn’t made for thee and he, or Him, as the Powerpuff Girls might have called him. Oliver Bell is quite the frightening little monster child. This is no Eddie Munster, he’s cold and calculated and not playing the devil’s spawn as a kid at all.

“Their god is dead or lost in senile slumber, not ours,” continues the Baron. “Our god, their devil, is alive.” Salem is in the grips of a devil-may-care local rule and the Baron quickly rose through ranks of the town’s power center on his mother’s bad name. There are plenty of powerful people in the town who pray to god and worship the devil.

Hathorne, played by Jeremy Crutchley, is becoming quite a fine villain. Last season he was sleazy and manipulative in his rise to power on the town council. Now that he has it, he’s becoming a megalomaniacal joy. Heartless enough to starve the refugees at the gates, he is ruthless enough to feed them after Isaac, the former town fornicator, now Isaac the Truthteller. Iddo Goldberg gives Isaac a lot of depth. He is a Machiavellian figure to Hathorne, and yet a kind of double agent, acting on behalf of his personal favorite witches and John Alden.

We get to see a little of how Captain John Alden (Shane West) got his reputation. He’s very fast and accurate with the musket, but finds sometimes you can’t keep a good man down. The same could be about the bad women in his life, as he buries his beloved witch Mary (Janet Montgomery) in a far-too-shallow grave. Well, at least it’s become shallow after Tituba gets to it.

Tituba (Ashley Madekwe) takes on the new role as seer because she ate the former Seer’s eyes last season. They didn’t go down too well, apparently, because she comes down with a bout of prediction indigestion. Her visions are positively stomach-churning. She goes straight to the cooks, still busy at their cauldrons. I love the old witches in the woods doing the ritual that will make Mary’s death alive.

Cotton Mather (Seth Gabelas) and Anne Hale (Tamzin Merchant) have a complicated relationship. The first time we see Cotton, he is on the run and we hear an eerily seductive voice tracking him. Of course, it’s just his wife, one of the most powerful witches in Salem, roleplaying a game of cat and mouse. Perhaps I should say rat, because the cat in this game is on the run.

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Brown Jenkins, Anne’s rat familiar, is the only creature safe from the hellish wrath of a woman scorned in her own bedroom. Who would have thought it could double as a kind of puritan-era ankle bracelet, keeping Cotton under house arrest?

Like Popeye, Anne hale doesn’t know her own strength. Her hands come out of nowhere, strangling John Alden against a wooden beam or shutting Cotton’s holier-than-thou mouth. Anne Hale is from the Angelique from Dark Shadows school of witchcraft. She did it all – delivering a child to the devil, stuffing her husband with mind-controlling vermin – for love and is completely unappreciated.

Mercy Lewis (Elise Eberle) is running a kind of home for wayward girls. It’s not exactly free. She extracts her pound of flesh, in increments of ounces and pints. But she plays a mean game of cat’s cradle. Very mean, that is until you see the cat that’s being strung deserves little pity.

The bone fractures and impossible angles that the old man goes through are extremely well done. Almost hard to watch, but Salem has done far more stomach churning effects than this. As a matter of fact, the scene with the bugs crawling out of Satan’s less than angelic brother outdo it just minutes later. Something about how they crawl over the face and eyes is really effective. These are not complaints, by any means. Bring on the gore.

The newly arrived fallen angel, by the way, is a very quick study, learning the language of the new world in the time it takes most people to say the word “English.” The whimper of whipped dogs sounds good coming out of his mouth.

Lucy Lawless is not in the credits but Countess Marburg opened her eyes in this episode. I hope that bodes unwell for the future. I did notice that both Isaac and Hathorne, not to mention most of the hag-witches, could do with a clipping. I’m wondering when this town is going to get itself a barber.

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“After the Fall” was written by Brannon Braga and Adam Simon and directed by Nick Copus.


4 out of 5