Salem, season 2 episode 5, “The Wine Dark Sea” is a deceptively fun episode that turns the screws a little tighter on the thumbs and other sadomasochistic teasings.
Countess Marburg (Lucy Lawless) takes her recommended daily blood dosage in pill form, how modern. I wonder who her pharmacist is. Apparently Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery) is a much better drug and Marburg is Bogarting that joint with luscious lips. “Tears in wine” is addictive and it’s comforting that Marburg sees Sibling as a worthy foe. It foreshadows fun things to come. I like the ingenious suspension system that the Countess has rigged up for her trip, essence on tap in days before tap water.
For once Cotton Mather (Seth Gabelas) is correct. Alden tears hundreds of pages of first editions apart in search of a couple spells, but he could have saved time and resale value if he just asked his gagged ex-partner where to look. Speaking of looks, the kid that plays Mary’s son has got the whole balance of fear and defiance down. The little voyeur is a handful.
George Sibley is finally coming to his senses. First Michael Mulheren, who plays the most powerful man in the village of Salem and its surrounding area, channels Ned Beatty from Network in full view of the entire town as a congregation. It is a very dramatic scene. Hathorne declares himself Moses and says he’s going to lead them to the promised land, in this case North Carolina, where he keeps his promissory notes. Then he asks the flock how long it will take to reach their destiny behind a man who cannot walk and the man gets out of his wheelchair.
Sibley could be a healed brethren in a tent revival. But no, it’s not the holy ghost in Hathorne (Jeremy Crutchley) that got him to his feet, it was his hubris. Pride goeth before a fall and Sibley isn’t ready to let his wife take a fall lying down with a frog in his throat. He gets up on that altar, I mean pulpit, and rains fire and brimstone on the good puritans of Salem. The heavens open up to this guy with thunder claps and a light show. Sibley says it’s God who’s whistling his approval, but we all know it’s a little lower than that.
Now, this isn’t to say that Hathorne’s a good guy. He’s a twisted man who wears a twisted hat and walks a twisted mile. He is Barnaby from March of the Wooden Soldiers, the baddest man in town, but unlike Barnaby, we don’t like him. Admit it, you’ve all seen Wooden Soldiers and you love the old guy even when he’s extorting Bo Peep into marriage. That’s because Henry Kleinbeck, who played Barnaby, was only 24 when he played it. Hathorne dried up at 30 and he’s looking to suck the moisture out of young Anne Hale, and not in a good Dr. Wainwright (Stuart Townsend) kind of way either.
Hey that mouse looks familiar. A love spell. A good old-fashioned love spell, that’s what’s been missing from Salem. Of course old fashioned was even an old fashion at the time of Salem. Anne Hale (Tamzin Merchant) and Cotton Mather, they make quite a pair. What with his family tradition of witch hunting and her family’s long term service to the dark daddy in the den. She has great timing too. She just missed, by a two-inch door frame, John Alden (Shane West), who she introduced herself to under a dinner table in the pilot.
There was a classic Fawlty Towers episode, “Waldorf Salad,” where a guest complained that her starter prawns were off. I thought of that as Mercy Lewis (Elise Eberle) prepared for a light brunch of flayed fornicator. You can say a lot of things about about Isaac Walton (Iddo Goldberg), he’s a nice guy, he puts others ahead of himself, but he’s not what you’d call appetizing. He only makes Mercy’s mouth water because she’s already half baked.
But all of this is preface. The big moment tonight was the first meeting between Mary Sibley and Countess Marburg. Two powerhouses of magic in a faceoff, that is after Marburg fixes her face. Sibley shows up unannounced and really heats things up. It was a fun moment to watch acting-wise. Both characters have something to hide and when an actor has something to hide they have a whole other world of possibilities at their fingertips.
Countess Marburg dispatches Tituba (Ashley Madekwe) very quickly. A light touch on the eyelids and she’s out for the night. This leaves the two rival queens to size each other up. Marburg brings a new level of dexterity to the art of multitasking, though someone should remind her to shut the tap.
There’s nothing more fun on TV than watching two equals go at it in a cat and mouse game. My favorite episode of Star Trek, “Balance of Terror” was based on my favorite submarine movie, The Enemy Below (well, second favorite, nothing beats Yellow Submarine), and my favorite moment in each is when the adversaries admit they wish they were on the same team. This time they’re going to go for it and you know only one is coming out in one piece. The Countess is already going to pieces, but Mary hasn’t developed a daily regimen to keep herself together.
“The Wine Dark Sea” was written by by Turi Meyer and Al Septien.