Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Salem, Season 2, Episode 3: From Within

As if disease and filth weren’t enough, now we have something down a well luring people with children’s laughter then dragging them in. This is not helping

Mary’s trying to teach her feral child table manners – and not to kill passing doves and carry their corpses around (at least not to the dinner table!)

She has other problems with Hawthorne speaking up for power again – demanding a magistrate be put in place (especially since accused criminals are being locked up with plagued inmates). Hawthorne naturally puts himself forward and again snipes at Mary’s gender.

Time for an election over supper at Mary’s house – and she realises, as she tells Tituba, that she needs George to make Hawthorne back off. This quickly turns into an argument about Tituba hiding her son from her. They both threaten each other

We’re also introduced to Corwin who has apparently been Mary’s servant for years even though I’m sure we’ve never heard of him before now. Mary’s all touchy because Corwin didn’t speak up against Hawthorne. So now Corwin will be Mary’s candidate for Magistrate – especially since he’s a witch as well, though like Hale before him, he’s leery of how much attention Mary is attracting to them. John spies on their meeting (remember he plans to kill the Magistrate).

Meanwhile the very burned Mercy has her father bring her friend Dollie to her. She’s the only one of her followers who escaped and unharmed and Mercy intends to use her for epic revenge, of course. She goes to minister to Isaac – but whether because of her own inclinations of Mercy’s orders I don’t know.

Mercy is controlling her abusive father by controlling his “shrivelled manhood” so I take it he is one of the men whose penis she stole.

Isaac is convinced he’s going to hell for being a fornicator still, though Mary reassures him, basically scorning the idea that physical pleasure is sinful and pointing out how damn weird it is for a god to give humans body that feel such pleasures and then forbid them. Dr. Wainwright overhears and approves for much fun snark. She warns him that people are starting to mutter things about the doctor (because Salem likes its accusations) in a weird kind of flirty exchange surrounded by the sick and dying.

He decides to show her his etchings while he admits that he can’t understand how the plague is dead (while simultaneously showing some pretty amazing foresight of epidemiology) and admitting to a morbid fascination with the dead; part of his scientific research into where the soul is in a dead body. Which he thinks is the thyroid. Really this guy is super creepy at flirting. He tries to prove his theory with erotic strangulation and Mary telling him not to be gentle. This leads to kissing before Mary pushes away

Back to the opening credits and the girl who was pulled into the well stagers out of it, walks across town and vomits something unpleasant into the Sibley’s water supply

Inside, Mary finishes feeding her familiar and she actually talks to her husband George who has resorted to begging finally. It turns out Hawthorne is an old enemy of George’s anyway so she wants his help to endorse Corwin as magistrate and to shore up Mary’s authority.

And at supper he appears to do just that, endorsing Corwin and staring down Hawthorne for not respecting his wife’s (and his) authority. Unfortunately for Mary, John tracks down and kidnaps Corwin on his way to supper so he can ask about all the witches in Salem using his special woo-woo native American blade. But John is disappointed because Corwin is far more afraid of Mary than John – as he should be since Mary and Tituba manage to cut out his tongue from a distance

And between courses, no less. Still the special Native American woo-woo hides John from them.

Without Corwin, Hawthorne becomes magistrate and before he leaves he blames Mary for everything wrong in the town with more gender put downs.

With this threat and reminder, Mary emphasises again how important George is to them even as Tituba dismisses him. Mary’s also very willing to dispose of Corwin despite Tituba’s shock and disapproval that she would turn on one of their own. Mary is more afraid of the Hive being exposed – but also suspects that they may have a traitor since John used magic to hide himself.

On the road from Boston, Cotton and Anne continue to flirt decorously while debating their relative fathers. She also wants to know whether he thinks all witches are inherently damned – and Cotton is clear he thinks choices damn or save people not whether they are born evil.

They’re stopped by watchmen outside of Salem who, first of all, demand money to let them pass the quarantine and then attack Cotton for fleeing before the plague hit. Another man tries to rape Anne and she launches him faaar into the air with magic. They manage to overcome their attackers and ride on into town.

Mercy’s minions, her dad and Dottie, suffocate Isaac in his sick bed.

Mary tells a bed time story to her kiddie before taking a bath – in the tainted water (after teasing Dr. Wainwright by almost undressing in the window with him looking). The countess uses the water to nearly drown Mary and taste her blood.

I get that this show is trying to go for creepy & sexy – while last season it seemed to aim far more for grotesqueries, this season is aiming more for creepy & sexy than yucky. But I think, like the first season, sometimes it tries too hard – like the sexy strangling and beautiful pictures of flayed people.

It speaks volumes of George’s character that he is willing to support Mary. This was his chance to denounce her – and yes there’s a threat there (and even a promised reward) but by what Mary said and how he reacted I think the true motive depicted is pride. He is the leader of Salem, even if he’s powerless and Mary rules in all but name, he DOES rule in name. His name is the one with the authority and power even if he can’t use that, even if he suffers constantly under Mary’s control. It is still his name, he is still in charge and it’s always been clear, for all the relatively limited time George has appeared, this is very important to him. George would rather remain Mary’s suffering prisoner – and have his authority unquestioned – than admit weakness and cede control to Hawthorne and be free. His importance to Mary also emphasises the gender struggle throughout this show and which underpins so much of Mary’s character – precisely because she is so powerful and privileged in Salem. But no matter how wealthy, how politically influential, no matter how magical and mighty, she can never cast aside the sexism of the times which is an important note.

After last season, I find Tituba’s shock that we “swore to protect each other” rather laughable. Witches were sacrificed, Tutuba herself was tortured and she and Mary can’t go two minutes without snarling at each other. Where did this sudden loyalty come from?