Salem, season 2 episode 10, “Til Death Do Us Part,” was a very exciting episode. It raced to a finish and left you wondering who actually won. It was enough to make one’s head spin.
Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery) is hot. I’m not just saying that because sex with her is a spiritually mind-blowing experience. I’m saying it because of the flames shooting out of her fingers. The upstart witch who invoked the Grand Rite has the power of 2001 maniac mother birds inside her and her talons are ready to play Cat’s Cradle with Countess Marburg’s (Lucy Lawless) entrails. She means it too. Mary wants to mess with the royal dental records and leave her absolutely unrecognizable.
Baron Sebastian von Marburg (Joe Doyle) would know Mary anywhere. He’s been waiting forever to find a new mother he can suckle. His own mom missed out on the chance to sacrifice him on the altar and he has abandonment issues. Once again he is being overshadowed. Mary’s kid (Oliver Bell) is a vessel for the rebirth of the devil in the world under a specific comet that’s cruising just for him. What a lucky little kid.
John Alden (Shane West) has finally calmed down. His righteous prejudice against all things witchy is finally pointed in the wrong direction. Alden can talk like a reasonable person now that he’s got something real to care about. His whole witchcraft feeding frenzy was misguided and he really is better of being guided by the witches themselves.
I missed Tituba (Ashley Madekwe) tonight. I suppose she can’t be trusted but it’s a shame she’s going to miss out on all the fun while strapped up in a cage. Hathorne tries to trap Anne Hale (Tamzin Merchant) in the clutches of her mourning clothes. I’d like to see her spill some of his blood and see what it opened. But Hale finally cages the good reverend after he finally gives in to his inner demons.
Cotton Mather (Seth Gabelas) is slamming people up against walls and threatening them. He’s even being reasonable when necessary. He almost turns Sicilian when he catches Hathorne trying to churn Anne Hale’s butter. When did Cotton Mather grow such big balls? Who does he think he is? Isaac the Fornicator? And what’s up with that little fucker? He challenges Mary Sibley. Says she’s not who she used to was. Then he makes a doll out of Dolley.
Both Gabelas and Iddo Goldberg have grown exponentially over the past season. Their characters went from reactors to actors and the actors react from opposite sides of what they were. Mather tried to drown his weakness only to find that it was his true strength. Isaac found a new love who gave him a new lease in life and wrested the control Mary had over him. His eyes are clearer and yet he descends into the madness of mourning. While Cotton matures before our eyes in the face of battle with a true demon, you know, one with the head spinning backwards and the “your mother sews socks that smell” schpiel.
Lucy Lawless is flawless, even as little pieces of her start falling off. People have recurring nightmares where their teeth fall out and that little drill bit from tonight’s episode probably worked on several subliminal levels. That’s the kind of detail we can happily blame on Stephen King, even if it did come out of Tommyknockers. Salem is big on so many levels, but it does have its subtleties. It isn’t trying to carry the dead weight of a super-serious show like Penny Dreadful, but it has explored some vastly deeper territory. The tantric sex magic is one fine example. The little details that Countess Marburg gives about the first Mary, the mousy little thing that gave birth to the rabbi Jesus, are wonderful pinpricks of near-taboo.
I’ve spoken about the acting, plot and magic on Salem, but this episode’s cinematography was fantastic. Several times we saw Mary Sibley framed in such a way that she looked like the classic witch of the audience’s collective unconscious. But the best shots were saved for the rescue. Without giving too much away, after a betrayal John Alden comes riding out of nowhere into the darkness in a hood like he’s the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. The scene is somehow iconic. It perfectly captures the look and the feel of nursery rhyme horror. It was the most exciting segment of the series, which has had its share of exciting moments.
The trick kind of fails, but it buys time and hope.
I think it will be a great shame if Mary Sibley kills Countess Marburg. I have this particular problem with all horror movies and TV shows. Ultimately the lesser of two evils wins. Besides the fact that I like seeing shows that, as Billy Preston once sang, “let the bad guys win every once in a while,” there is the idea of species preservation. It is appalling to me that if anyone ever actually finds a bigfoot, the first thing they’ll do is shoot it in the ass. So it is with ageless monsters.
Countess Marburg has been around forever, and for all we know wrote the very first song. She is a wealth of information and history. Think about what science could learn from a creature who has lived that long. What we could learn about the whole planet from the stories. Dr. Wainwright (Stuart Townsend) would poke and probe and cut her open and count the rings to see how old she was if he were still alive. I’m glad she outlived the sanctimonious scientist.
But, of course, the countess will be killed. Just like they always have to kill Dracula or the creature Dr. Frankenstein creates. If someone does actually summon a demon from the pits of hell, why is it always about some kind of conquest? Where are the Fausts of TV, who want knowledge? Give the devils their due, they’re not completely useless, you know.
“Til Death Do Us Part” was written by J Kelly Souders & Brian Peterson and directed by Tim Andrews.