John got himself all stabbed last episode and Sebastian makes a desperate stab for the creepy by saying how much he loves seeing women bleed to death but men bleeding to death just isn’t his thing. Yup, he just felt the need to have a “no homo” moment over a man bleeding to death and/or wave his misogyny flag. Either way, it fails to make the manchild achieve creepiness because this show has completely overwhelmed all creepy meters with all the flesh and eyeball eating. Watching someone bleed to death is just pase now.
John isn’t all that inconvenienced by his knife wound and uses his Naïve-American-woo-woo invisibility bag to run around stabbing people (who decide to just stand there and be utterly horrified by this display of magic despite, y’know, magic everywhere) like a more stabby Harry Potter.
Sebastian, being a powerful wizard, runs away.
Of course John is now stabbed AND woo-wooed with nasty black lines all over him so he’s not doing so well
Cotton arrives on the scene to help John (who is not dead) and patches him up and tells him not to worry because his kid’s with Anne Hale who is so sweet and wonderful. John is less than thrilled since he knows Anne is a witch. Cotton is convinced this is nonsense after all, Anne Hale is now Anne Mather – his wonderful wife. Cotton wants to hear it from Anne himself despite John thinking it’s suicidal. John calls Cotton a good man which is TV speak for “suicidal damn fool who is too stupid to live”
Turns out I was wrong last episode, John Junior is in the hands of the real Anne Hale, not Marburg in disguise. She is just being creepy and odd so we don’t know which side she’s actually working for. She takes little John to her house (is every room in Anne’s house spattered with blood? Is this just a decorating choice for Anne now? Does she come in one day and decide the living room would be improved with more brain matter smeared around the lintels?). John junior tells her about his miserable childhood and Anne is just terrible at comforting frightened sad children with dangerous demonic magic.
Anne goes to Marburg to wetly declares she is loyal to Cotton and she would never betray his trust and hand over the child. But, revelation, Marburg knew Anne’s dad and sent him over the sea to find somewhere safe to raise their daughter. Yup, Anne Hale is her daughter of Marburg – maybe the water magic Marburg has mastered explains why Anne is so very very soggy.
Anne’s surprisingly unimpressed – she already read her dad’s book and suspected and, hey, she’s already murdered one mother so is quite willing to add another matricide to the list. Also she may be soggy but she has no illusions about Marburg’s loving maternal instinct. Well done Anne, I’m impressed.
Marburg takes Anne to see where Tituba has been imprisoned by Mary so they can see how terribad Mary is (like any of them care about Tituba) and, in between making some pointed notes about the dubiousness of the tree-of-knowledge myth she then appeals to a common cause. She kisses Tituba to do her mind reading tongue thing to summarise all the badness Tituba has been through and how little Mary cares (like that’s news) and Tituba actually defends her – oh hell no. Marburg throws back how little Mary’s pain compares to Tituba’s and how much work Tituba has done for no reward. Marburg throws in a recruitment pitch
Marburg explains why she had to raise her daughter separate and ignorant (because it’s required in the genre). Because Anne is Marburg’s heir – much to the shock of Anne since Sebastian exists, but Marburg isn’t having that she doesn’t consider men fit for rule. Because they can’t have babies. She offers Anne a whole load of power which Anne isn’t that interested in. Ok all of this convincing isn’t actually getting anywhere so she returns to threatening Cotton to force Anne’s hand. Anne puts on her best soggy face.
Cotton comes home to put on his best tearful mopey face looking for evidence of witchcraft in Anne’s home and hearing John Junior call for help. Because Anne has absolutely no skill in hiding people. Marburg is THREATENING Anne over this, really? The boy is hiding in her house and yelling out to passers by!
Anne comes home and Cotton hides, she opens the door by ripping the head off a bird (she needs to redecorate in gore again). Welp there’s the evidence Cotton needed. But in case more is required she uses the teleportation mask to move her and John junior to the woods – which ends up with Cotton stuck in her hidden blood room. He gets to read her grimoire instead and look more angsty
Mercy tries one last time to make herself actually relevant this season and drops in on Mary (who is examining her child’s macabre artwork and lamenting that child therapists won’t be around for a couple of centuries). Mary points out, rather hypocritically, how far Mercy has fallen from her role as protector of the dispossessed and warns here that, as an Essex witch, Marburg is not her friend. Mercy’s so sure Mary is jealous because she’s going to marry Sebastian (despite, of course, Sebastian being obsessed with Mary and Mary being supremely uninterested).
To show how deluded she is we cut to Mercy crawling into bed naked with a sleeping Sebastian and molesting him. He wakes up and objects to this, leaping out of the bed. He tells her that he’s both uninterested in her and then takes it several steps further – no-one ever wanted her, she’s useless and he totally loves Mary. That last has Mercy attack Sebastian who remembers he’s a witch and easily he controls, humiliates and torments the helpless Mercy before kicking her out.
Isaac is in the stocks and odd, Magistrate Hawthorne acknowledges he was telling hard truths – albeit that is still naughty, bad wrong. He’s taking the opportunity to use Isaac’s outburst to decry all things George Sibley – and get rid of the whole hero worship the town has for the guy. Now it’s the age of Hawthorne! He’s totally different, honest.
Mary has lost patience with no actually doing anything but mope and dresses up in her very gaudiest to go cast some forbidden naughty spell (that outfit is really impractical for the woods). She goes to a hidden forbidden tunnel to a chamber in which several ancient witches wait, possibly dead ones. She’s crossed the Threshold which is definitely an Essex-witch no-no. The Threshold is their stronghold that all the deformed ancient witches are hiding in – and they’re worried she may bring Marburg down on them. Mary wants them all to come out and fight Marburg which they consider suicidal, especially since Marburg has promised to spare them if they stay hidden (they speak through Tituba).
Besides, they quite like the idea of the Dark Lord being raised, even if it’s Marburg that does it. That wasn’t productive
She goes to see John senior instead so they can angst and grieve together. She learns that Anne has her child so she has some hope and tries to give John some clue on how to stop the ceremony before Marburg interrupts with the instructions for the sacrifice – which Mary refuses to co-operate with. So she has a choice, sacrifice for power or just death for John junior
They go to the Crags in the last moments before the comet passes. And Anne brings John junior. They begin the ceremony while John senior looks on with a gun (I doubt that pistol would be accurate at that range). Mary refuses to help, instead using the time to give her son some last words of comfort. But her huge declaration of love is so overdramatic that Marburg decides that it’s a sufficient replacement for the actual sacrifice words. Oops. Loophole!
Marburg drags the kid into the horrible black tar bile stuff while Mary screams and just kind of lays there doing nothing while Marburg drowns the kid in the tar. John cries (are they actually going to do anything or just cry?)
The kid is brought out of the tar making creepy demon noises. John shoots him. Shooting the devil is not actually that effective, except enrage Marburg because Sebastian told her John was dead.
The idea of a matricarchal witch hierarchy and automatic female heirs would be something interesting to explore if a) they weren’t evil (beware the rule of women! The puritans would probably AGREE with Marburg – women should rule if you’re running a cult of devil worshipping, child sacrificing monsters) and b) this wasn’t all down to the MYSTICAL WOOOOMB. Because that’s both a very limited view of gender and it’s also a very reductive view of womanhood – even when talking about women being mighty and in charge it still comes down to having working ovaries. Salem tried but didn’t quite hit home.
Is Mercy actually here for a purpose other than to be abused this season?
Is Mary actually going to do something about Marburg or is she just going to cower and weep?
How broken is Anne's morality that she would actually have the devil rise rather than Cotton be harmed - what does she think will happen to the devout Cotton in a witch and demon run society anyway?