Saturday, June 14, 2014

Salem, Season 1, Episode 7: Our Own Private America

Out to sea, a ship is becalmed and everyone on board is ill – not the most pleasant sea voyage. And to make it even less fun, there’s a witch hunter on board and he is so very very very sure that there’s a witch on the ship who is responsible for all the trouble even as the captain points out that they have already checked everyone.

In Salem, Mary displays Rose’s decapitated head to Magistrate Hale and makes it clear she is tired of his shenanigans. She won’t have any more going behind her back, she is the boss, she is in charge, she will lead the Gran Rite and anyone who disagrees with that can also face the chopping block. Hale kneels and abases himself, swearing loyalty and obedience and promising to spread word to the others that Mary is the boss. Now, treachery addressed, they’ve still got 8 more innocents to kill and they’re on a deadline. Mary, being all kinds of efficient, has a plan to kill 3 more off.

Over to the Hale household and Mrs. Hale tries to explain the Magistrate’s odd behaviour and disappearing to Anne – daddy is a spy for an undisclosed foreign power (not the French, after all, there are limits apparently) either way it doesn’t matter – piffling politics. Anne objects to treachery being so easily dismissed and Mrs. Hale responds with a swift backhand – apparently calling the traitor a traitor is naughty. Anne is scornful of her mother (and calls her a liar) for being in such denial – but Mrs. Hale presents her reasons: once you know something, you can’t unknow it.

Hale himself is at the brothel enjoying watching 3 of the women make out with each other until he gets a message on the skin of one of them; it’s from the ship, from the witch on board who is sure they are hidden and can keep the witch hunter becalmed. Hale wants to prevent the hunter from arriving but he hasn’t bothered to warn Mary the hunter may show up; Mab (fellow witch and brothel madam) disagrees but Hale is still playing his little games.

Back to Mary and Tituba  and the problem of finding out where John has stashed the Malum which is super duper important. Mary has the great idea of entering John’s dreams. Tituba isn’t a fan because a) it’s dangerous and b) she thinks Mary wants to do it so she can have sexy times in John’s head. She overrules Tituba (of course) and goes into John’s head… to have sex

She breaks the dream when she scratches his chest – and John wakes with her nail marks on him.

On the ship, the witch hunter finds his witch – the captain. After a bit of torture he breaks the spell that holds the winds, kills him and takes over the ship. Sailing west

To Mercy, who is sharing witchy tricks with her friends (and we learn one of them, Dolly, is being set up with a Joe Barker and she isn’t a big fan of the idea). Mercy’s little tricks do make Dolly leave in fear (under the excuse she has to go to her “bundling” with Joe). Mercy is all kinds of elated that her spell worked and is gleeful with Mary.

John visits Cotton who is indulging in his usual pastimes of crisis of self-doubt heavily mixed with immense daddy issues. John does think that Cotton’s constant questioning and doubts can be an asset though before they go on to the topic of dreams – and Cotton has a big, elaborate theory about dreams, but largely that they are tempting desires you should probably choose not to follow.

And to the bundling – a bundling apparently involves Dolly and her intended spending the night together in the same bed – but sewn into bags so they can’t do anything naughty (the fact they’re sharing a room with Joe Barker’s parents would probably be quite inhibiting too). Things are horrendously awkward until Mercy’s spell kicks in and Dolly sees Joe covered in boils and then something moving in the bag with her. She screams and gets up, tearing the bag, which annoys Mrs barker because that teenage humping bag is a family heirloom (which means generations of horny teenagers have been pressed together in that bag… there is not enough bleach in the world. I think I’d get out of bed screaming too).

Mary goes back into John’s dreams for more sex – but at least remembers her mission this time and asks where the Malum is. She sees they’re rolling around on Giles’s grave and concludes this is where he’s hidden the Malum. She wakes and Tituba warns her what a bad idea all this dream sexing is.

The next day, Dolly’s mother and Mrs. Barker snarl at each other in the street – apparently the Barkers have a bad reputation and Dolly’s mother plays on it (though she’s still angry at Dolly for ruining the match – she may not like the Barkers but they have money). Mercy is furious at the way Dolly is treated.

John is feeling some of the aftereffects of the dream sexing – hallucinating naked women and passionately kissing a very surprised Anne Hale. He rushes to the brothel and orders “at least 3” sex workers. He ends up with 5 and doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself very much.

Next stage in Mary’s plan is to show Mercy how to leave her body, to go to Dolly’s mother (Mrs. Trask) and terrify her, making her see Mrs. Barker. After the argument in the street and their unpopularity, the Barkers will be accused as witches. Mercy gets the body jumping thing quite well but messes up her instructions – having Mrs. Trask slit her own throat rather than scare her. Not quite to plan…

Mary can’t resist dropping in John’s dreams again – but it all goes wrong. First Anne joins them, then she flashes back to the often hinted of horror in John’s past, with him running through the woods murdering men, soldiers, trying to escape him – and in the dream Mary (in a decidedly unpuritan dress) also runs from him in terror. She escapes only when Tituba manages to force her awake. Tituba comforts her but is also annoyed that Mary went back and left Mercy alone to walk outside her body for the first time.

While Tituba goes to get the Malum, John wakes all agitated and goes to see Mary – one look and they throw themselves at each other. Poor Tituba’s night doesn’t get better because while collecting the Malum she hears of Mrs. Trask’s death. Aie Tituba, having to run herd on these damn fools all the time. Tituba is not impressed with Mercy’s little improvisation; but Mercy makes her case – she’s sick of the girls of the town being beaten and used, they won’t take it any more. Tituba seems to have sympathy with that.

In town the mob carries out Mrs. Trask’s body and tries to break down the Barkers’s door – with fever is high and everyone saw Mrs. Trask and Mrs. Barker fight. And John Alden isn’t around to play the voice of reason – which leaves it to Cotton to demand proof and demand that Magistrate Hale intervene. Hale is quite happy to let it continue, of course, and uses the excuse of not being able to stop the mob. Cotton speaks up and convinces everyone to put the Barkers in the gaol so they can then seek evidence and proof (this speech is awfully overwrought); Magistrate Hale is forced to agree. Gloria is very impressed afterwards and offers sex – which he refuses because he doesn’t want to be her customer any more, he loves her. He promises it will be different after the witch hunts are finished.

The witch hunter from the boat arrives in town with lots of ominous music and fog effects.

Back at the Sibley house, Mary pushes John away having sudden doubts. He parrots back Cotton’s theory about dreams – only he wants to live in them – but Mary isn’t willing to be so simplistic. John doesn’t see any problem – Mary doesn’t love her husband, doesn’t have kids and they don’t care what others think. But she says no, he has to go, it’s not possible. When he says no, she again refuses “I’ve gotten all I need from you”; John asks what she’s hiding and she refuses to say, so he leaves in a sulk. She collapses in tears when he’s gone.

Cotton is distracted by a bonfire – the Barkers have all been burned as witches. He questions who authorised that after his grand speech – the new witch hunter did. His father, Increase Mather (yes, his name is Increase). Increase is not impressed by his son’s questioning or learning or reason, nor does he care if the Barkers are innocent – God can judge them and give them a trial, they don’t have to. He sees Cotton’s doubt as appalling and Innocent is far happier to see hundreds of innocents die. Increase treats Cotton like an unruly boy, a child. Cotton’s daddy issues are going to go through the roof!

John arrives at the bonfire and Isaac seems to be losing it – he tells John he thought he would save them but now thinks they may not deserve saving.

Increase visits Mary to critique some art and catch up – he and Mary are old friends (he definitely has a thing for her). He’s just come back from the court of the King who has claimed all of America and more wars against the “heathen savages”. And now he’s here to burn lots of witches and he does want to see his friend George – Mary’s husband.

Mrs. Hale is, well, not an interesting character, but represents and interesting viewpoint that has to stem from the position of women in her society, as has been a repeated issue presented in Salem. Does she suspect terrible things about her husband? Of course she does. But what can she do about it? She has to live with him – she has no real option of leaving him and if he is brought to justice for any reason then what happens to her? Mrs. Hale’s fate (and relatively comfortable life and position) are inherently linked to her husband. If you can do nothing about it, then ignorance and denial is the easier path rather than finding the truth and then having to ignore something unforgiveable.

Again we have a reminder of women’s position in this time and place – with Dolly forced into a marriage. Not just forced into a marriage but it’s clear her family regard the Barker’s with contempt – but they’re willing to sell their daughter for the money the family has. And we see this as Mercy’s fundamental motivation – she is pushed to witchcraft and magic by rage over everything she and girls like her have to tolerate and endure. Through powerlessness she seeks the only power available to her that lets her vent a whole lot of rage.

John’s dream seems to imply Native Americans were involved in John’s murders somehow – I fear more badness on the horizon.

John’s “let’s just live for us” is also something that needs unpacking – because there have been clear consequences for people in this society before – Isaac was flogged and branded, for example. Maybe John can be spared that because of his position and being a man – but even aside from the witch element, could Mary ever afford to be that cavalier?