Countess Marburg and her son continue to be creepy and incestuous and they speak ominously of a “true consecration” which Mary must finish for the Grand Rite. The countess is all very impressed by Mary. They’re finally heading to Salem. She also has a terrible rotting skin condition which she bathes in blood to cure - lots of Bathory connections of course.
At the Sibley household we have more from the creepy son and Tituba being duly snarky about Mary playing slave with Dr. Wainwright. Hawthorne is plotting against Mary again, so she enlists her abused husband again - forcing him to beg and grovel.
John has tied up Cotton and is having a proper temper tantrum even as the woowoo he has is clearly not doing him good. Cotton is not impressed by him ripping up all of his books and is rather concerned by whatever has happened to John and the dark woo-woo ravaging him. Cotton does get the chance to tell John how much Mary loves him which probably doesn’t help matters
Anne has her mousey familiar and she’s all Disney with it. Hawthorne interrupts her before she can burst into song to force his way into her home to try and to poke her into accepting his protection again. He pushes that by mentioning witch rumours against her (after her magically attacking a guard outside of town) - and pushing her to marry him. He doesn’t even try to be subtle - she marries him or he has her accused as a witch.
Anne goes to see Mary and finds the creepy son who is very very very creepy. Mary isn’t impressed by Anne’s plight - she tells her to marry him. The way for a woman to be safe in this world is to marry a powerful man, just as she did. Anne continues to refuses so it’s plan B - marry Cotton. Sure Cotton has kind of crashed and burned, but he’s still from two very powerful families. This is much more to Anne’s liking - though Mary cynically informs her she must use magic to make him as the question since he won’t (he loves Glorianna, his books, his booze and his self-pity - which is a pretty scathing but accurate description). She instructs Anne in the love spell. She uses Anne’s need to make her tell Mary all she knows about the Countess
That done she goes to see Cotton who answers the door at John’s knife point; she wants his advice on whether to marry Hawthorne and accept the safety and security he offers. He mentions love which she points out is pretty irrelevant given the circumstances. She also goes for a kiss - he’d probably be more poised about all this if it weren’t for the knife sticking into his back. Well since that didn’t work it’s spell time.
Anne goes home and justifies herself for why she has to spell Cotton even though she knows it is wrong. She sacrifices her little mouse familiar for the spell - sacrificing something she loves. She then tenderly buries the mouse - and is watched by Joh doing so.
Anyway, on to Hawthorn’s plotting - he’s decided that between plague and witches and who knows what else that Salem is a terrible place to live and they should all get out - conveniently to land his family owns. He also makes creepy sexual comments because Salem. He also calls himself Moses which must be blasphemous but he does seem to be winning the crowd. He attacks George for his weakness and infirmity (because he’s throwing ableism to his misogyny and generally aiming for first in the terrible person award) even as Mary desperately tries to get her hubby to speak up.
And George stands, walks to the pulpit and thunderingly condemns Hawthorne’s arrogance in an epic speech. His speech is so epic he even gets convenient lightning to punctuate it (though by Mary’s magical vial that’s probably the countess’s doing). The minutes storms agree with you, most people are going to get in line, let alone superstitious puritans.
Mary tells Tituba about the countess coming and Tituba freaks out. She tells how a lot of the old breeds of witches, she lists off several, weren’t killed by witch hunters but by the Countess.
Since George did well, Mary promises sexual favours to come - and George willingly opens his mouth to swallow her familiar again
Mary goes to confront the countess alone, which Tituba thinks is a monumentally bad idea. Still she goes and magically burns down the countess’s ship by magically striking sparks on the magically flammable hold that magically causes fire. Or, y’know, just sets fire to it while rhyming unnecessarily.
Duly distracting the sailors she goes to the Countess’s amazingly decorated cabin where her creepy mirror shows her and Tituba back at her house (I think Mary’s astrally projecting). The countess appears and is unimpressed by Mary’s little powers. Luckily for Mary, she just wants to talk - while also walking around Mary’s house at the same time (yes she can do both at once because she’s super-duper). Countess mocks Mary and the Essex witches power and their hive - and how they need a Queen Bee. Mary isn’t inclined to bow before Lucy Lawless (which just shows how wrong Mary is) especially since the Countess has repeatedly tried - and failed - to complete a Grand Rite; which Mary succeeded. After more word fencing, the Countess tells Mary she hasn’t attacked Mary’s hive at all (well except for the whole drowning thing) - someone else is attacking them. Mary is quick to call upon the supreme goddess Lucy Lawless to ally with her - and the Countess seems somewhat open since she degrades Mary’s hive - and how Mary is totally far too good for them.
To prove that she’s left a present… which is ominous. When she and Tituba wake up, they find George dead, water (the Countess’s signature) pouring from his throat.
Mercy continues to go down her dark path, now eating bits of Isaac. She intends to eat him to death and turn him into a ghostly assassin. Dolly is sad and horrified by what Mercy has become and tries to help Isaac afterwards.
Mercy and her father have a fun exchange - he says she’s damning herself, she says he damned her to hell long ago so she may as well rule it (which is a stark look at how Mercy views the abuse she suffered and, again, a harsh look at the misogyny of the time that would condemn a raped girl). Dolly can’t let Mercy eat Isaac because she loves him now - so rushes to the rescue. As they escape, Dolly clobbers Mercy’s father with a hammer.
Mercys is rather excessively dramatic about them leaving.
Mary’s stark advice to Anne, along with Hawthorne’s continued attacks of Mary put the misogyny of Salem starkly forward. We can see why Mary is so unsympathetic - because marrying a powerful man for the sake of safety is exactly what Mary herself had to do. Last season we saw many of Mercy’s followers abused by men and needing the protection of men, forced into relationships they didn’t want or marrying being the sole concern of their family. Ultimately, while what Anne faces is horrendous, it’s the same position Mary and so many of the women have faced which really shows why Mary is so unsympathetic.
It was interesting to see George stand and speak - he’s, of course, a terrible man which has been well established - but this reminds us that there was a REASON why Salem followed him. He was a terrible man with a talent for thunderous speeches. Which of course contrasts blatantly with how broken he is with Mary
Mercy represents something I mentioned at the end of the last season - how a recurring theme of the show is people in terrible, impossible conditions being forced to do terrible things (this is, again, far better shown with Anne who KNOWS what she’s doing to Cotton is wrong - but she has no good choices). How they become evil because they’re driven to it - here we have Mercy who only ever wanted to protect her fellow abused girls but has now become a creature of evil and vengeance who is now preying on some of the most vulnerable people in town - Isaac and Dolly. To a degree, through Dolly’s eyes, I think they are doing a better job than the first season, but it’s still shaky and lost in their messages of the corrupt evil of witchcraft in general and trying to play up various grotesqueries around Mercy. I think we’re focusing too much on what a terrible person Mercy is now that we’ve lost what led her to this.