A lot happens in Salem, season 2 episode 8, “Wages of Sin.” It is the payoff to so much that had been promised and yet Salem manages to flip expectations. Last week they gave us a small insight into the enlightenment a magical night of sex will bring. This week they don’t have time to take even a puff of an after-sex peace pipe.
The scientist and the sorceress make a promising pair. Even in the light of day they seem to complement each other. But the good doctor isn’t quite as bright as you might think. Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery) reminds the doctor that they are at war and he must make a supreme sacrifice: all his notes on the plague. To Dr. Wainwright (Stuart Townsend), a scientist whose life’s work depends on the notes commits them to the fire. But, what was he thinking? If the apple figure was as integral to the plague as Cotton Mather believed it to be, wouldn’t you think it be worth mentioning to Mary? I was glad when he went for a dip. Served him right, the dumb quack.
Are we to trust Baron Sebastian von Marburg (Joe Doyle) to his own devices? Of course. He’s growing on me. The doctor was enthralled into the world of magic during the best sex of his life. Here comes a guy, in those repressed times, who offers to continue his education and he doesn’t think to worry he might get assaulted in the woods. Good thing mommy doesn’t know.
To paraphrase Groucho Marx parodying Eugene O’Neill, pardon me while I have a strange interlude about the telepathy sequence. Dr. Wainwright says he is giddy as a school girl to be getting some intense tantric initiation after he runs into the countess’s son. Maybe he’s a little too enthusiastic after that conversation. He is the third wheel in a chat where two of the participants stare at each other in silence for several seconds – actually furrow brows and wiggle eye at each other, they might as well be waving semaphore flags – and he doesn’t think they’re talking about him? The physician should recognize it. He seems to know his way around treachery. He throws Cotton Mather (Seth Gabelas) under the horse and buggy quick enough.
Hathorne (Jeremy Crutchley) is finally showing some promise. He gives Cotton enough rope to hang himself and then doesn’t trust the hangman to measure the weight with a handshake. Anne Hale (Tamzin Merchant) is too wrapped up in her own deforestation to offer much help.
Tituba (Ashley Madekwe) has once again been reduced to scullery maid. She opens the episode by taking the spent head of Increase Mather to the trash and ends it in bondage. And not the bondage she was looking forward to. Tituba wanted a little witch hunter action, especially after the hot, women’s-prison-movie-worthy catfight she has with Mary.
Salem is painting John Alden (Shane West) and Mary Sibley as a love story of the ages. Mary Sibley, the former Mary Woodrow, was the wife of Samuel Sibley in the late 1600s. She taught the historical Tituba how to bake puppy snack witch cakes to see visions. Her niece was Mary Walcott, the daughter of Captain Jonathan Wolcott and his wife who was also named Mary Sibley. Walcott started the events that turned into the Salem witch trials of 1692.
John Alden was a fairly well-known sailor when he stopped off at the Port of Salem in February 1692 after ransoming British POWs in Quebec. He was accused of witchcraft in May and broke out of jail. He surrendered himself the authorities after the hysteria died down and was cleared by proclamation. Much of what we know about the witch trials comes from statements Alden gave Robert Calef for the book More Wonders of the Invisible World. Like many famous seafarers have known for a while, seamen and women don’t mix (courtesy of The Simpsons’ Waylon Smithers) and like many marines, or frontiersmen, John Alden doesn’t know he left a son in this port. West plays the newly devoted father with nuance and a wary subtlety.
“Tell me what you’ve done with him or I will rip the truth out from your heart,” Sibley tells Countess Marburg (Lucy Lawless) when she shows up in her son’s (Oliver Bell) bedroom. It seems the little lamb is going to be led to slaughter. Marburg tells Mary, that like that other Mary in the supposedly good book, she will be honored to make the greatest of all sacrifices: She’s going to star in Rosemary’s Baby on NBC. Well not exactly. When Countess Marburg is describing the role Mary will play in the brave new world they are creating, she unabashedly compares her little Damien to Jesus the Christ.
Lawless is a wonderful dark version of the angel Gabriel. The angel of the annunciation becomes the angel of the renunciation in the light of a dark comet. I liked that she used the phrase magical “workings.” I don’t think I’ve heard that on any previous supernatural shows, even those who’ve done their research.
A very exciting episode that gets rid of dead weight we didn’t even know it had. See you in hell.
“Wages of Sin” was written by Al Septien and Turi Meyer and directed by David Grossman.