Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Salem, Season 2, Episode 13: The Witching Hour

Evil possessed child is now fully evilly possessed because Mary didn’t read the fine print and both she and John decided wailing and despairing as a better plan than actually doing something. EvilJohn is sleeping peacefully, Marburg is all happy, everyone else looks a bit grim. Mary herself is very bitter and angry about her son dying – and this monster is not her son. Marburg talks about how worthless and empty Mary’s son was – and that doesn’t exactly make Sebastian happy though he does promise Mary will feel better

Mary leaves, but first she throws a barb at Anne who is all wounded that she’s now as bad as the rest of them. They’re all sure that motherhood will bring Mary on side.

Anne goes home and hears Cotton making noises in her evil witch blood room. Awkward. Cotton wants to know what she’s done with the boy – she tries to play “hey ignorance is bliss.” That does work so she has to tell him that she actually decided to give up a child’s life and damn them all because of a vague threat against him. Cotton, who is already inclined towards being dramatic and moping, sets his angst to 11. Anne explains her heritage and how witchiness runs in the family but she totally loves him while damning the world.

She tries to argue that she wants to use her power for good – I would point out that she’s just sacrificed a small boy to the devil so this argument is kind of laughable. Cotton goes for pointing out the power is actually from the devil so doing good with it is not really on the cards.

She just wants a chance to show what she can do (in between the love spells and, oh yes, the sacrificing a small child. In fact, has she ever actually used her power to do good?). Anne, actually reasonably, raises using magic in self-defence which he rejects. Cotton decides he has to go to the Magistrate – so she magically restrains him and imprisons him.

Sebastian tries to get Mary to come play nice with EvilJohn trying to invoke her unconditional maternal love for the meat puppet that as once her mother. EvilJohn is all happy and child-like – but Mary is not fooled, calling EvilJohn not her son but her son’s tomb. When Mary leaves EvilJohn says he wants true love as befits being a god – Marburg offers saying how she has never loved anyone else (yes Sebastian is in the room) but Eviljohn is not interested, like everyone else he wants Mary

It’s Mercy’s turn to play supplicant in front of EvilJohn – and for people who wanted freedom this involves a lot of kneeling and averting their eyes. He decides to chew off Mercy’s finger because she took him from Mary his sainted mother.

Marburg takes Mercy aside with Mercy complaining that she didn’t get all she dreamed of (to be Marburg’s daughter, to marry Sebastian) though Marburg points out that Mercy’s wishful thinking promised her all that, not Marburg – and, hey, Anne is her daughter and also more special than Mercy. Mercy is furious when Marburg calls her a servant and tries to hit her, declaring she’s not a slave. That does not go well – she burns Mercy and kicks her out with many threats to follow.

Mercy resorts to trying to grab an orphan child to use her blood to heal – and is stopped by Isaac who is still furious about Dolly. Mercy summons all the men she enchanted surrounding Isaac and the girl – Isaac runs with the child while Mercy rants tearfully about being a queen.

Now it’s Tituba’s chance to kneel and beg at his feet – but he frees her in order to banish her from Salem never to be seen again. Except she’s attacked by demonic ravens as she leave town.

Marburg returns to EvilJohn and now it’s her turn to be disappointed – see Mary is not just Eviljohn’s mother but also going to be his Queen and bride because INCEST. Which means Marburg is out in the cold but still has to follow orders like a servant.

She finds Mary and bitterly summons her to her son’s side. Mary has some amusement in the fact that John doesn’t want Marburg – then she locks them both in the church. The church made from the tallest trees in the forest so you’re in the woods when you’re there. Mary’s woods. She then ets the church on fire – she’s happy to burn to death if Marburg will as well. And there’s no way Marburg can threaten her with now since Mary has lost everything

Magical duel in the church!

The fire distracts Sebastian having a drink with his sister Anne – and it turns out that Sebastian has EVEN MOAR mummy issues since Marburg has always told him about his super special sister. Anne decides to intervene in the duel and put out the fires – with tears to quench the flames (this is after Mary said Marburg never could because she had never shed tears). Defeated Mary begs them to let her die – Anne refuses, calling it an easy way out which none of them have.

Sebastian tries to convince Mary to give in and join the dark side, as he’s long since learned to just keep going. But Marburg has a new plan – kill Mary and keep her away from her son so EvilJohn will then turn to her. Sebastian doesn’t agree with the plan – but Marburg insists and Sebastian agree likes a good boy.

He takes Mary to the woods to kill her and Mary is all resigned to it, she no longer cares about dying, though Sebastian has all the sadness; and fakes it instead. She leaves Mary woozy from lack of blood but also free to find John Alden. And, yes, Sebastian is doing this all for twu luv.

John, meanwhile is all woogy and dying when his happy Native American woo-woo merchants show up to help him because even when they’re dead they have to help this White guy. They try to take him to the afterlife (gods stuck with him for ever?). His body is found by Mary who decides to have his corpse drink her blood – by the chanting I assume this I resurrection mojo

Marburg tells EvilJohn that Mary is gone by suicide and gets stabbed in the neck for it. Turns out lying to evil devil kids doesn’t work. Marburg is brutally stabbed to death and Sebastian runs to her phylactery which begins the resurrection process. He decides not to speed things up and instead seals her tomb.

Anne returns to her imprisoned husband and Cotton has decided that the solution to all of this is to run away. Anne vetoes that – she doesn’t want to give up her power, she hates that she is so helpless and ignored as a woman, something he can never possibly understand – and she’s not going to throw away something so vital that gives her so much power; the power that allows her to make a difference.  Oh, also he doesn’t really love her, she cast a spell on him – and Cotton is outraged because he DID love her and now she’s robbed him of that natural love, but she counters she didn’t have the time for that, no choice for it.

She then forces her familiar down his throat – just as Mary Sibley did to George.

Closing montage of everything being terrible and sad. And John Alden is alive (see, everything terrible and sad) but Mary may have died to achieve it for MAXIMUM MANPAN!

I am so frustrated by this show. It tries and hints here and there about how marginalised and oppressed people are struggling desperately for any kind of freedom, any kind of agency even enough power to be safe. We saw it with Tituba and Mary and Mercy and Anne and all of them have mentioned it at some point in this season and the last – how powerless and vulnerable and frustrated and abused they were

But it’s only touched on now and then and never developed – very few of them actually USE magic to achieve this power nor does this power give them any freedom. Mary throws away any chance of power and decides her real dream is a very domestic, wife-and-mother one. Tituba rails against slavery – but even in her magic she is just a slave to another witch. Anne talks about wanting the power to live out her hopes and dreams but never actually does that. Mercy is just eternally abused and uses her power only to victimise those who are even weaker than she.

And what does their power get them? A power which, it is more than implied, requires them all to be raped by demonic forces? Kneeling and lowering their eyes before a boy-child patriarch? Mutilated, banished, enslaved again, cast aside? Marburg – honoured, respected magically might and feared and adored – yet she is aiming to become the lackey of a boyking? Why did they want this? Why did they fight for this? Why did these powerful, passionate rebels then SUBMIT to this?! It’s like they want to make escape from oppression the powerful motive – and it is an extremely powerful one – but never really followed it through

There was even scope to have made an excellent point about desperate measures forcing people to become what they despise: Mercy abusing the abused, Anne mirroring Mary with her control of Cotton. But, again, there’s been so little time actually invested in that.

Anne Hale – this kind of frustrates me as well. Here we had a chance to make magic a more neutral force or have some ways of using it that aren’t demonic or evil which would have helped a lot with the depiction of witches here. It would also help because, as Anne shows, magic and being a witch can be hereditary as well as a free choice – Anne kills her parents with magic completely unintentionally and without even knowing she has magic. Anne has no choice other than to be a witch – which makes her inherently damned. So they could have worked with that – either show that damnation is not inherent and you can struggle but he a good witch or show the despair and unfairness of being inherently damned from birth

But they don’t, not with either. In fact, at no point does Anne ever TRY to use her magic for good. She never tries to make things better with her power. We have a lot of her conflict of being forced to do bad things because of the injustice for the time and terrible people around her but never any actual good magic from her: so she uses a love spell on Cotton to protect herself from Hawthorne or she uses magic to kill attackers – but these are all reactions and trying to turn outright evil or at least scary magic to necessary protection purposes.

We have the threads of so many ideas but they never really were developed properly and instead we have a jumble of confused plotlines that never reach their potential. What was the point of Wainwright? Is there an actual point with Sebastian and his pining for Mary? What use does Mercy actually serve this season, why is she even there - and Isaac and Dolly? Why spend an episode bringing Increase Mather back? Did they even destroy Marburg’s phylactery or not? Why does Hawthorne just literally disappear for several episodes when they want to get on with their witchy-woo? As does John Alden and Tituba – because there’s too many people with too many semi-storylines none of which actually develop – they just begin then fizzle. Wainwright and science, Mercy and her own little empire, John and his witch hunting, Isaac and… anything – fizzle fizzle fizzle. And because we have all this fizzling the real powerful points they’re trying to make do not get any attention.

Marginalised people – well I’ve laid out how they try to approach gender on this show – with some references to misogyny and challenging it but never really following through. Much the same applies to Tituba, she will, rarely, mention race and slavery and how she has been treated but there’s no follow through in that, she still serves the Essex Witches, still tries to bring about EvilJohn who, in the end, kills her. Her seeking power and revenge just added another set of abusers and enslavers. There remains no LGBT people in this large cast.