Marburg bathes child John the sacrifice while singing creepy drowning songs and preparing him to be properly killed. Baby John wants his mother, but Marburg is all for the drowning so she can reunite with her beloved master. She also kisses the boy – full on the mouth… seriously that’s the second time this child has kissed sexually, how the hell is the network getting away with this on a child actor?
Cotton has been dragged out of town and now realises that shenanigans are afoot. He doesn’t get murdered because John rushes in and murders his would be murderers. Cotton is a little bemused as to how John even found him but John responds cryptically either to hide the fact he used magic or to hide the dodgy writing. John wants Cotton to exorcise his son of the devil so he boy is saved, the witches are thwarted and Marburg will just kill them all in a grand wave of awesomeness (ok the last part may be my plan).
After briefly considering just killing the boy (also my plan) Cotton agrees to help with the exorcism while John expositions how he’s basically hooked all his hopes/redemption/struggle/whateveron his son surviving and not being a demon.
Mary plans to use a special spell to allow her to reach the ship while with Marburg so she can break what makes Marburg immortal and then John can get with the stabbing. They also have a big angsty romance moment which may be them looking to reconcile or grim John planning to kill Mary. Or both
In the church, Magistrate Hawthorne rants away (everyone’s still freaking out about the comet) and there’s friction between the Marburgs as Sebastian is increasingly seeing his mother’s plan as not necessarily in his best interest. Mary joins them in church to convince Marburg that she’s on board with kiddy sacrifice with Marburg drawing comparisons between Mary and the Christian Virgin Mary watching their kids be sacrificed (and throwing in some criticism of old Mary’s mousiness while reminding us that Marburg is super-duper old). They’re also still a little snarly at each other.
Sebastian is all pouty and jealous at Mary who is not impressed, making it clear how little she gives a damn and how she’s not going to flirt with a man who is dedicated to another woman – his mother. He also pretends he was totally on her side in killing her friend Wainwright because he is a distraction. Ahhh smell that paternalism. He continues to promise he’s totally Team Mary
Hawthorne continues to stalk and intrude on Anne to tell her that Cotton has been killed, by Native Americans honest and how she should totally marry him before his body gets cold. Which is when the very alive Cotton appears to accuse Hawthorne of murder. Cotton seems to have found a spine somewhere as he slams Hawthorne against a wall and threatens to expose him as a murderer before the bigwigs in Boston. Hawthorne hurriedly leaves.
Cotton tells Anne of his plan to exorcise John which may kill him so he wants to get married first. For reasons – I guess a widow of his family would have more status and protection? Except they get married all alone, just making their vows to each other with surprisingly little religion involved so I take it as just a romance thing: though he has practically written a will naming her his wife and heir. Score Anne! A rich hubby prepared to off himself before the vows have stopped echoing! Ok she’s much sappier than that. She also had an impressive gown just lying around
She goes to see Mary whose marriage radar instantly picks out the nuptials and praises Anne for her love spell working. Mary warns Anne that if she wants Cotton to live she must work with them against Marburg: albeit by lying and making it seem that Marburg is aiming at Cotton. She even praises Anne for stealing her father’s book of shadows – saying she is much stronger than Mary ever saw. She also sensed the devil has appeared to her – as he does to all witches and Mary comforts her and praises her strength as she cries over the abuse. Anne is still not on Team Mary
Baby killing ritual time and Mary goes to Marburg’s ship, burning the guards and taking he time to rescue the children Marburg has captured. Yes there are some lines she won’t cross – she also rescues poor eternally suffering Isaac. He warns her that Mercy is also alive but despite that he’s not entirely keen to trust Mary since he’s finally begun to realise how she’s used him. A rather unhinged Isaac refuses to leave without Dolly
In the woods Marburg, Sebastian and John junior greet a fake Mary – Mary’s pulling off Marburg’s trick of being in two places at once. On the ship Mary finds a woodland path (yes, really, lots of woo-woo here) and Marburg’s magical coffin that preserves her immortality inside which are her original remains. She pulls them out – but just touching Marburg’s body peels off her skin and makes her rot until she pulls the body back to the ship and out of the magical woodland.
She then appears in the real woodland – Marburg realising too late what Mary was doing – and confronts Marburg carrying her own body. For once Marburg looks worried and shocked. Mary pulls out one of Marburg’s teeth even as the countess threatens her – removing the corpse’s tooth also removes that of the living woman. Marburg goes from threatening to appealing – claiming John Junior is already lost because her beloved devil is inside him.
They argue over what they are even doing, how Mary was the one to start the Rite – but this wasn’t what she wanted. She wanted revenge against the Puritan hypocrites who persecuted her and her friends and she wanted freedom for all: but even she realises she has sacrificed too many and that Marburg is no better than the puritans. Marburg lashes back of the centuries of religious persecution she has witnessed, more than Mary has imagined
Sebastian tries to hold a knife to Mary’s throat but there’s no way he could kill her before she burned Marburg’s relic – so they agree an exchange: Mary puts the Relic on the floor and Marburg releases the child… and John rides in and grabs the child as Mary burns Marburg’s body. Sebastian grabs Mary but she screams at John to ride off with her child and leave her – which he does
Having escaped, John gets to introduce himself to his evil demon child.
Isaac finds Dolly’s body and he is unbearably tragic
Mary is taken to her home by Sebastian where she continues to mock him for being so enthralled by his mother (Mary gets to live because there’s still a chance of releasing the devil while the comet is still overhead) – before Hawthorne’s men burst in to arrest her. For fornication and adultery – with Sebastian willing to testify against her having sex with Wainwright
Hawthorne goes to report his success to Marburg where he revels in serving her. He kneels and grovels in front of her with extra foot licking while insisting that he totally is not interested in Anne
John Alden is joined by Cotton though John has to convince him that the boy is possessed – thankfully evil demon voice, black eyes, gruesome threats and neck snapping are all pretty convincing signs.
Mary’s pretty speech about her noble intentions is an important one in that it shows truly what was at the heart of her actions and continues the theme that the first season established but has been somewhat lost this season: that she wants freedom for all. That persecution at the hands of the powerful forces the dispossessed, the marginalised and the victimised to turn to dark paths as the only source of strength and protection open to them
But this message has been so far lost this season that it feels broken. Freedom for all? What about Tituba, her slave who she continually scorns and accuses because Tituba is doing a tenth to her – her oppressor – what Mary is inflicting on the puritans? She accuses Marburg of wanting a world of slaves without addressing the fact she herself is a slave owner. And what about Isaac? Shunned and outcast but abused by so many? What about Mercy and her abused, powerless followers? She has made many sacrifices along the way – but the only sacrifices she has actually cared about are John and John Junior – sacrifices that personally touch her. Maybe also Isaac, again her friend. But the losses she inflicts on others? The oppression, the slavery, the victimisation she herself inflicts?
Ultimately we can be presented with the idea that the powerless and oppressed turn to any method to protect themselves but that same theme presents the oppressed as the oppressor, the victimiser themselves. Maybe it could try for more nuance with more challenges from, for example, Tituba and Mercy (rather than presenting them rather simplistically) to show that just because you’re oppressed doesn’t mean you can’t oppress others – but it has rather failed to do that.
I also really do hate how all of Mary’s passion, desire for vengeance and freedom etc are completely destroyed by being a lover or a mother. All the goals that have driven her just crumble the minute these are introduced. She is now willing to sacrifice not just all of those hopes and dreams but her very life for a child she hardly knows and a man who scorns her.