Sunday, January 29, 2017

Salem, Season 3, Episode 10: Black Sunday

After last episode everything fell apart because oppressed people with important messages are evil tools of the devil and all women but Mary are terrible.

So how do things change with the season finale? Oh we have some twists, some definite twists.

Firstly catching up on the least relevant characters. John is trying to find and stop the bomb that will destroy the city. While Sebastian is catching up with John to tell him how very much he hates him because Mary loves him because it’s just unfair and he loooooooves her. He decides to kill John and fails to do so despite having lots of evil demon magic, because he just can’t get on with the killing and instead keeps gloating and mocking John and how he totally had sex with the woman John loves until John stabs him in the neck

This fails to actually stop the bomb so it’s time to turn to others to get things done.

So to the Sibley mansion where everything is going down. Baby devil is back and he is prepared to end the world. But first he sends Anne to fetch her husband, unleash her endless bitterness on him by offering him a choice

As we saw when Baby Devil was killed, the magic of sacrifice is majorly powerful. So Baby Devil offers Cotton a deal: he can willingly enter hell, willingly sacrificing his soul which would give baby devil enough power to unleash his evil future without having to annihilate the entire town

Personally I kind of think the world is ending anyway so giving the people of Salem a few days extra before they all ended isn’t that useful.

But Cotton will do it for the sake of good people and for Glorianna and for the chance to forgive Mary and give one last searing put down to Anne. He’s also relieved – his evil dad had repeatedly told him he was going to hell and he was worried that this meant he was going to commit some terrible crime. Knowing he is going to hell because he chooses so means he’s still a good man – this matters to him.

And would be a fascinating insight of a genuinely good man if it weren’t for all the women he had murdered as witches. Or there was the woman he got pregnant and then pretty much aided and abetted her banishment. Or there was him serving his evil father in his murder spree. Let’s face it, there’s a few sins here that even a relatively benevolent god is probably going to at least tut or wag a finger or something

Anyway, Cotton goes to hell and Baby Devil becomes Adult Devil who is a lot sexier but also played by the same guy who played the angelic televangelist on The Messengers which is absolutely hilarious to me

This is also why John et al aren’t burned by the bomb going off – Baby Devil got a new option.

Mary still isn’t thrilled by her son wanting to have sex with her even if he is an adult now because it’s still incest.

Devil’s still having this so orders Anne to prepare Mary for him and his marriage – and by marriage we mean sex. Anne and Mary hate each other and Mary unleashes a torrent of very on point but pretty sexist slap downs to Anne

But Anne reveals the more minor of this show’s twists – if you can call something a twist if it were infinitely predictable. She offers Mary a way out – body switching with the Countess Marburg. Who is currently a zombie so it’s not exactly the best exchange. But monster vs being raped by your son? There are no good choices here.

Marburg Mary happily climbs into bed with the Devil

Now for the real twist. Anne. Anne casts a spell so she can be in several places at once and decide to shred the entire show, everyone on it and decide she is awesome amazing and the new boss and everyone else can die horribly.

Anne Act #1 she visits Mercy and Hawthorn (who are freaking out because of the mob) where Mercy reveals she’d warned Mary to drown Anne because she was so dangerous. Mercy was right. While Anne is super annoyed that Mercy has gone from someone who would do anything for power and position, dragging herself from the depth but determined to win – to a woman who is willing to throw all that away because she is now in love with a man

Yes, Hawthorn. It’s not an act. She loves him. And when Anne starts killing him she would rather die and be with him than abandon him to seek power. They die in each other’s arms with Mercy apparently completely forgetting every damn spell she ever knew.

Anne Act #2 she goes down to the streets where Isaac is desperately trying to stop the people of Knockers Hole from killing everyone and burning down their own home in the name of freeing him. This is actually something I hate about how Salem presents class Isaac is supposed to be a man of the people but he is extremely condescending to them and we constantly see the poor people themselves as drunken, fighting, abusive, pimping monsters; completely without the slightest sense of their own agency or even their humanity. They’re feral, more animal than people – and can it be more clearly seen than this? They organise behind Waif to rescue Isaac, completely forget to rescue him and instead start killing each other.

Anne responds by freezing the entire street so she can offer Isaac a deal to join her. He, predictably, refuses so she resets time and he is killed by the very crowd who set to save him.

Also any of the witches being able to stop time like this before would have been a useful power to have.

Anne Act #3 She goes to Tituba, takes her dagger for killing angels before talking about how seers can’t change their future: before Tituba ends up with her mouth sealed and her apparently locked on a slave ship. Anne refuses to allow someone else to tell the narrative of what happened in Salem but her. Not only is Tituba’s final story to end with her in a slave ship but we spend no time at all on how that actually happened (and certainly not time with her able to use her power to avert it). Tituba is a footnote to remove, always orbiting someone else’s story

Anne Act #4 despite Mary and John both hating her, Anne decides to let them escape – though this means John running into the woods carrying Mary in Marburg’s zombie body.

Anne Act #5 the devil – Anne gets all up and close with Devil and Marburg/Mary and promptly stabs Devil in the back. While he’s bleeding to death she makes her sale’s pitch – she’s pregnant, powerful, ruthless and just proved herself. He should delay his ascension a few years and come back as Anne’s child/lover. He agrees

Marburg is obviously not pleased but is also very sensible and quickly tries to ingratiate herself with her daughter. Anne isn’t having any of it and Marburg joins the many dead

Which restores Mary so at least Mary and John get their happily ever after

And Anne goes on, pregnant, respect widow, to rouse the survivors of Salem with an epis speech about how bad the witches were, how things will get better and how everything will be totally awesome from now on. As Mercy said, a woman doesn’t get powerful in their world until she’s a widow – and Widow Anne is all ready to take all the power.

While Cotton screams in Hell

Ok – season finale I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I really love the twist that mousy, Anne, never willing to embrace her powers, trying to be the good one but then failing because of necessity and safety. Then failing because the world just won’t go the way she wants it to, Cotton won’t think the way she wants: it’s such an easy rode to damnation: just taking the easy path. Convinced you’re right, so why not just use a little manipulation? Necessity then convenience and then blatant temptation anger and spite when Glorianna came into the picture. And her then having this rather wonderful “fuck it all” moment, and finally, fully embracing her power and going for what she wanted regardless of what her society and people thought of her

Except… narratively? It involved a lot of loop holes. Anne threw out magic here that no witch in three seasons could manage (or they all collectively decided not to use their power because reasons). While he Sentinel and John had an epic battle, Anne managed to render Devil unable to fight back after one stab wound. Tituba and Mercy both lay on the sacrificial altar without using any of their own powers in defence. It’s... rather lazy writing. The writers have decided this would happen but have not quite connected the dots to explain HOW this can happen.

In fact the narrative all season has been disjointed with a lot of meaningless, unfinished or fizzling storylines. Tituba the seer kind of did nothing most of the season, Remember the refugee crisis? What happened with that? The French and the zombie Native Americans? John Alden and Bob? Hawthorne’s political struggles? Mercy doing, well, anything except lurk in her brothel and have sex with Hawthorne. It was all random and didn’t feel very directed

I also have ongoing issues I’ve talked about about the depiction of marginalised people. Tituba was sidelined and thoroughly evil. Mercy’s story of rising from the ashes utterly derailed and frequently evil for evil’s sake. Isaac became more a chiding shepherd of an unruly flock than a voice for the people and everyone actually shouting out against the vileness they faced did so only from the very depths of their own evil. Also, no LGBTQ characters at all.