Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Salem Season 1, Episode 4: Survivors

Someone’s finally doing something about poor Mercy (the girl who does horrible things like bite off her own finger and cough up nails), her dad decides to exorcise her. With what appears to be a Catholic exorcism no less, which may make him even less popular than the witches with the puritans. Part of this involves cutting her stomach – and a snake slithers out.

Again, I have to think any sensible person in Salem at this time has to be thinking “hey, Canada isn’t that cold, I’m going north.”

A stranger arrives in town to pick up a parcel from a boat – which has been quarantined because of a flu outbreak that has killed 5 – a quarantine ordered by George (meaning Mary, of course). Mary’s busy taunting her dear husband on the balcony about how she’s going to have Mercy declare the blacksmith a witch. This is before electricity you have to get your fun somehow

Anne and John have a little meeting in the graveyard (it’s a vehicle for John to be angsty. And someone get that man a cough sweet, the hoarse-throaty-I-wanna-be-wolverine voice needs to end) where discusses how her father is a wonderful man and totally not a witch who removed a cursed doll from her room, no, not at all! All of this quite possibly heard by Hale.

And John who is so outraged by the vicar deciding to kill people on the basis of superstition… decides to tell Cotton that Anne has been bespelled – and further implicates Hale. Cotton is sceptical, which is all kinds of wrongly amusing, and in between declaring how everyone has secrets and shame, he storms up and gets quite angry that Glorianna is getting up close and personal with the new man in town and is outraged at the idea the man may hire her for sex! (Only Cotton may do that). This could escalate but the man sees John (who looks stunned) and hurriedly and politely leaves. John denies knowing him. John is a dirty rotten liar.

Mercy’s dad takes her out for a little walk when they run into Mary who quickly puts some bad woo-woo on her. Despite all Mary tries, Mercy has a terrible fit but doesn’t accuse the Blacksmith (even when prompted by a passer by) – Mary tells Tituba that they’ve lost control of her.

The witches meet, Hale, as ever, ready to put the knife in Mary over losing Mercy, Tituba ready to defend Mary and snarl at Hale and Rose taking Mary’s reassurance that all is well to be a guaratee. Hale also warns them that if someone doesn’t deal with John’s suspicion he will himself – but Rose won’t back that, telling Hale to earn John’s trust but at the same time telling Mary she’s telling the other witches her plans will go ahead soon. Which sounds less like a vote of confidence and more like “they had BETTER go ahead soon!”

Mary goes to Cotton and plays on all his daddy issues to try and fire him up into a witch hunting frenzy. She succeeds in driving him to drink. Hale goes about his business more gently – with a party invitation for John, but John is more interested in tracking down Lieutenant Hook, the new man in town. John doesn’t like him much (they apparently fought together) and wants him gone – and Hook wants an introduction to Mary. Hook has some secrets from John’s past and is willing to force his will via blackmail – overheard by Tituba.

Mary sets off to the party while George, left behind, stabs himself in the leg again – and uses the blood to keep writing the word “witch” on a piece of paper. On her way Mary is stopped by Hook who wants to get his cargo off the ship – she refuses. It’s a quarantine. Quarantine means no going on board.

Cotton goes to see Mercy and her nervous father – and finds both a herb used in exorcism and the cut on her stomach (he is shocked and appalled because Cotton is setting new hypocrisy records this episode)

Time for the party – Mary is not pleased that Hale has given his daughter Anne a necklace with Valerian Root (anti-witch nastiness) to protect her – and burn Mary’s fingers. Cotton rushes to Mary to tell her the goodness that Mercy is free from witch possession thanks to Catholic ritual! As I expected, a Catholic in Salem is rather less welcome than a witch and Mary holds this as further proof of how terribad awful Cotton is.

Hale invites John to make a big grand speech on how he can help against the witches – which backfires since John raises the possibility of the rulers of Salem being witches, not the commoners. After the party Hale tries to reach John again – saying his daughter was spelled but he didn’t say anything out of worry for her. He’s just a concerned father – and John doesn’t buy it and says as much to Hale.

Glorianna is waiting for Cotton at the church and not having him playing the “oh I pity you, you sinful whore” game and seduces him, ripping apart his sanctimony as hypocritical, exposing his chasing off of Hook not as “pity” but as envy – even sentiment. Then he grabs her by the throat – she protests and he forces her to the stairs and rapes her, throwing coins down around her afterwards.

Hook sneaks into the Sibley house to see George, assuming he can and will overrule his wife – and the mute and hardly mobile George gives him the piece of paper with “witch” scrawled on it. Hook is clearly disturbed and leaves silently, with the letter. He goes to see Mary and uses the note to blackmail her into letting him on the ship. She agrees, that night… oh he’s not wise to trust that.

Tituba is shocked but Mary is focused far more on Mercy – they need to put a familiar back in her. Tituba doesn’t see how it can be done, but Mary plans to prey on the same wish that lead her to witchcraft – that for a better life. In theory anyway because she just seems to say “open wide, here snakey snakey” and Mercy is possessed again.

Tituba heads out to deal with Hook. As an extra twist – the parcel Hook is retrieving is a mystery to him as well – he’s retrieving it for Rose, the elderly witch. Tituba goes to John and sells a good lie – Hook is their enemy, he intends to rob Mary and forced her to let him on her ship by threatening to spread the rumour that Mary and John are having an affair.

Hale decides to give his daughter a command to not see John again (as her father, her “lord and master”.)

Hook gets his parcel – and runs into John. There’s more hints of a huge number of men John killed, sparing only Hook if he promised to keep away. Bad Hook! Not keeping your promises is naughty and gets you strangled and added to the pile of quarantined bodies (does he expect people to lose count?). Inside the chest Hook had is a delicately carved box.

John and Mary have a regret filled “we can make this sexual tension last for a whole season despite the complete lack of anything resembling chemistry between us” moment. And Mary goes back inside to find Mercy holding the blood stained snake familiar in one hand – cackling “I know what you are.” She then disappears.

Well that backfired.

Salem continues to cross lines. There is zero story or character reason to include Glorianna’s rape – his hypocrisy has already been shown repeatedly, even his contempt for a prostitute can be shown without resorting to this. It’s unnecessary, it’s vile and it’s thrown in just because this show likes to cross lines often for no other reason than to do so.

There’s one stinking hot mess, Tituba’s another – being both the evil corrupting Black woman leading the White lady astray AND said White lady’s slave at the same time (because even though Tituba is advising Mary, it’s becoming clear that Mary is still the one in charge).

Does Salem display the misogyny of the time in blatant terms that we’re supposed to be shocked and appalled by? Certainly – but then by throwing in gratuitous rape and the evil corrupt woman (even Hale seems more moral than Mary) who powers their demonic pacts through abortion it perpetuates another form of misogyny as pervasive and more than the “I am father Lord and master!”

In plot terms – please move along any day now. And no, Alden-with-the-wolverine/batman-voice does not need a dark back story.