Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Salem, Season 2, Episode 6: Ill Met by Moonlight

After receiving Countess Marburg’s gift, Mary and Tituba hurriedly use magic to save George’s life. But as they resurrect him, he drowns again and Tituba despairs at Marburg’s power. Tearfully, Mary tries more desperate and bloody spells to try and save George before Tituba drags her away, wailing and crying (is she actually grieving for George beyond just the power and influence he represents?).

They cannot save him – he is lost, “all is lost”.

In the streets, John follows Anne, using his invisibility woo-woo, but it is clearly costing him more and more, and covering his skin in worrisome black lines.

On her ship Marburg chides her son Sebastien for letting Mary past him – they’re both very impressed by her power. Marburg is also not willing to consider Mary defeated yet.

In the tavern, Hawthorne celebrates his plan to leave for the Carolinas and tells grossly crude, sexist and sexual jokes about Anne, the woman he intends to force to marry him. Cotton takes exception and he talks about how Hawthorne is supposed to love Anne. Like Anne, Hawthorne finds Cotton’s insistence that love has anything to do with marriage quite ridiculous – and he refers to Anne as property before going on for more crude misogyny. Bar fight time.

All the while Anne wonders if her love spell worked, writing down her actions in her book. Anne seems quite happy to see Cotton brawling with Hawthorne in the street even as Tituba and Mary watch and see what has happened (and confirm it’s the spell that motivated Cotton). Mary hopes Anne’s spell causes Cotton to kill Hawthorne – even as one of Hawthorne’s friends gives Hawthorne a knife. It comes close as Cotton wins and holds the knife – but Anne whispers “you’re no killer” and either by magic or truth, Cotton doesn’t end so many of Mary’s problems. This isn’t Mary’s night

Infuriated, Mary has them both thrown in gaol for brawling in the street in such a disgraceful fashion.

John staggers back to where he left Petrus’s corpse (why? Because the script said so) which speaks to him. Yes he’s rotting but still talking. Corpsy wonders why John can’t bring himself to kill Mary – poking at his feelings. It’s also possible John is hallucinating Petrus.

The Marburgs arrive in Salem looking very elegant and rich next to the scabby peasantry – Marburg has come with many supplies to help the poor beleaguered people of Salem. Mary and Margburg snark a little, they’re very good at it. Marburg even rubs her face in the death of George.

They go on a little tour of the town and Marburg is quite bemused and worried that Mary isn’t revelling in the fact she’s about to kill all these people in the Grand Rite. Mary you have to work on your cackle and villainous monologue, this just won’t do. Mary dreams of a Utopia, a world where everything is perfect, Marburg who I can’t help but adore, points out that “utopia” actually means “no place” and there’s a reason for that. Marburg instead pictures a glorious future of massacres, world domination and crushed empires.

She also tries to spin killing George as a good thing – it destroyed Mary’s false confidence, showed her who her true friends are and to show that Marburg is way more powerful and dangerous than her own elders. Of course this means Mary follows Marburg and keeps going – or dies.

She chooses life. Sensible woman. She throws in some flattery and a wish to learn from Marburg as well (sensible indeed). Lesson one is “practice the art of losing gracefully”

Oooooh that’s got to sting.

In the gaol Cotton wakes up from dreaming about sex with Anne, to Hawthorn declaring how weak and womanly Cotton is for not murdering him. Marburg arrives just as their screaming obscenities at each other. Marburg pretty much destroys his plan to run to the Carolinas within 3 minutes of meeting him. She also pays their fines (indebting them as well).

Her motto: “moderation in all things – including moderation” is so awesome I may have it made into a plaque.

Back to Anne who is so impressed that Cotton is now all manly and fighty. And her little magic mouse re-appears despite her killing him. Apparently Anne didn’t realise the mouse was her familiar before. Ooookay, she’s not the brightest of witches. Marburg will eat her. Having a familiar sets Anne on her moral quandary again.

Isaac and Dollie are in hiding from Mercy and Isaac suggests they run away to the West Indies – because Isaac does have a large sum of money. Because Isaac is still sick, Dollie has to arrange their escape

She manages to secure passage on Marburg’s ship. They’re all happy and lovey-dovey, right before they’re kidnapped.

Sebastien tries to seduce Mary, showing disturbing knowledge of all the men in her life while also accurately skewering how each only saw what they could get from Mary without considering what Mary wanted. Unlike him of course. He’s cocky, even as Mary let’s a tear fall (for who?) but he has a magic trick to dispose of George’s body. She’s not impressed – she could have handled it, but Sebastien having George’s body gives him leverage over her – which also doesn’t impress her since he’s attempting to “woo” her. Sebastien continues to be cocky.

Mary, rather desperately, turns to Cotton to follow in his dead dad’s footsteps and go witch killing, clearly trying to aim him at Marburg (who Increase once defeated). But Cotton has no insight into how Increase beat Marburg. So Mary goes to the woods to dig up Increase’s body to get the truth from him directly.

Cotton goes from there to see Anne, all babbly. His exuberant emotion seems to make Anne feel more guilty about forcing them on him and she tries to make him slow down and think on his feelings. He poetically declares his love for her – and they kiss, and start making out on the table before Cotton remembers himself and pulls back – “too much, too soon.” Though I don’t think Anne agrees. He says goodnight. Anne is all gleeful – and her little familiar has sinister, glowing red eyes.

Marburg next goes to see Mercy – she offers her beauty and vengeance. Mercy says she cannot possibly trust anyone any more, not after what has happened to her. But Marburg does some odd things with a pin – which makes Mercy hesitate.

That night John goes to kill Anne while she sleeps – and Tituba gets a garrotte around his neck. Snacking on Petrus’s eyes showed her John as the killer

Marburg takes Mercy to her boat where she has Isaac and Dolly captive. Mercy is shocked to see “her Dolly” tied to the ceiling – but Marburg plans to demonstrate how she will restore Mercy. She is ancient and has suffered her own wounds and scars, but she knows how to restore herself. Dolly begs Mercy for help and Mercy insists Dolly is hers. Dolly tries to draw upon their shared history but it fails because her version of their childhood (they were friends) differs from what Mercy remembers (Dolly was too good for her until Mercy had power).

Marburg puts a tap on Dolly’s neck and pours the blood on Mercy’s hand – showing how it removes Mercy’s scars and restores her burned flesh. Mercy steps into Marburg’s bath – and turns the tap on Dolly’s neck herself.

On Hawthorne’s vile misogyny, yes attitudes like this were (and are) not uncommon and I’m sure several people are even now chattering about “historical sexism” but this was grossly unnecessary. His actions have already made it clear that he is a misogynist forcing Anne to marry and belittling Mary. We didn’t need this, it adds nothing to his character and him deciding to be more… publicly decorous (especially as a man vying for leadership and newly appointed as magistrate) would be equally historically appropriate. I think history and villain-hood is just being used to be awful for the sake of it. It didn’t help that Anne’s spell made Cotton’s defence seem more a spell bound control than his own natural outage.

The one element I do like was Hawthorne joining Anne in finding Cotton’s insistence on and assumption of love to be naïve

Then we have the sadness of Anne preferring a violent (“manly”) Cotton – in a show that has done so much to show abused women and how precarious their lives are in Salem, this just feels pretty bad – but then at the same time I think we have a hint of how wrong she is by her, basically, echoing Hawthorne’s (the source of wrongness everywhere) words – and her own wish that Cotton not be a killer

I also like that Anne and Cotton is being presented as complex – Anne is being shown as engaging in an evil, albeit desperate, act. Since we have far-too-often seen sex by deception and various coercions depicted so generally awful in the genre (Grimm, for example) it’s interesting that the wrongness is shown here – and that the wrong is clearly imposed by Anne against Cotton.

While, at the same time, she and Mercy continue to show what desperation can drive people to which is nicely done.

I think Marburg may underestimate Mary – Mary, after all, has mastered the art of pretending subservience to a system that grants her no power or influence at all. She has to swallow insult, she had to endure George. Mary has done this, she has smiled nicely while having to eat crow – but that doesn’t mean she isn’t plotting still

And Marburg is awesome. Of course.