Like most things at DEADtime TV, I’m starting in on these reviews of Salem a little late – like, three episodes behind late. No matter, though – I’ll try to catch up as quickly as possible while covering the final episodes of Helix and 12 Monkeys and starting Bitten and taking care of my website and working. It’s all good.
Anyway, the season finale of Salem‘s first season ended with head witch Mary Sibley unleashing a plague on the town of Salem and basically anyone not a witch. At the same time, John Alden – love interest of Mary but still human – was left for dead, and Anne Hale found out she was actually a witch from birth, and Mercy Lewis was just starting to form her own witch coven to battle Mary Sibley for power. Suffice to say that things were not all good in Salem, unlike the real history of the town (note the sarcasm).
Season 2 and “Cry Havoc” picks up just a little while after the plague starts, with Mary Sibley assuming control of the Grand Rite because she is effectively the leader of the group. She’s still got her powers in Salem thanks to her husband’s “illness,” so she can maintain her place on the council and sway Salem to her will. After the Grand Rite, she regained her son (the same one she pledged to the devil) but lost John Alden, and “Cry Havoc” sees her attempting to figure out Alden’s whereabouts while battling some new problems in Salem.
The first big problem is Mercy Lewis, who has been collecting various girls around town to help her do her bidding. What that bidding is is questionable – there’s little motive to what she’s doing besides a thirst for power and an attempt to become head witch in Mary’s place. Still, Salem offers a number of good scenes with Mercy, giving her a lot more power than she’s once had – before, she was a whiny little girl, but now she’s a whiny little girl who cuts off dudes’ peckers and replaces them with crows. Score for Mercy! Not only that, but she eliminates the old witches in the woods and hangs them in public. She’s a formidable opponent for Mary, and Salem sets this rivalry in motion for this season.
But Salem wouldn’t be complete without an overly religious guy decrying women in positions of power, so “Cry Havoc” gives us one of those as well. A new guy takes over Increase Mather’s position from last season, making his point of view known at a town meeting where the council attempts to decide what the hell to do with all of the sick people in the poorest part of town. Hathorne is his name, and he speaks out against Mary’s use of her husband’s sickness as a means to have a say in council. That’s a small part of “Cry Havoc,” but it hints at a coming problem in Salem – Mary’s wavering power.
Luckily, Dr. Samuel Wainwright is one guy on Mary’s side, or at least he’s trying to be. He speaks up for her in town, recognizing that it’s not witches or women that threaten the safety of the townspeople but a plague that requires scientific attention. He’s just the man to cure it, he thinks, and he sets out to find the cure by retracing the plague’s “footsteps” to the source. Unbeknownst to him, however, is the problem of witchcraft – Mary is the source because she gave Issac the tainted apple in the first place. This sets up an interesting dilemma between the two; Mary can work in tandem with Wainwright, but she’ll also have to thwart his plans. And he’s such a handsome man, too!
“Cry Havoc” makes it seem like everyone’s against Mary, but she’s still trying to recruit people anyway. She starts with Anne Hale, now an orphan with unspeakable powers that she’s unable to control at this point. Mary offers her a way to hone them – she’ll teach her what to do so long as Anne joins her ranks. No word on whether that will work yet, but right now Anne feels like a pawn for each side. Both Mercy and Mary can use her powers, but it’ll depend on who she decides to side with.
The aspect of war between witches is a good direction for this season considering it was difficult to tell where the show would progress after its first. Mercy has already been a formidable opponent since the first season, and the show has been building her up for quite some time; it makes sense that she’d now challenge Mary for the top witch spot, but as I said before, it’s not clear what exactly she’d do with that power that Mary hasn’t done already. Hopefully coming episodes will clear this up.
John Alden has a limited role in this premiere episode, but “Cry Havoc” is setting up yet another conflict with Mary. He’s been saved by the Native Americans, and during a ritual that mimics witchcraft, he’s marked by the Native American spirits and told that he’ll never be the same. All of this is because of Alden’s vow to kill all of the witches in Salem, so we’ll see how that affects his deep and complicated relationship with Mary, especially with the son.
We can’t forget a cameo, either, from Lucy Lawless as Countess Marburg, a supremely-powerful witch who will almost certainly be another antagonist for Mary. In this episode, she’s merely introduced – given a very veiled appearance that continually teases the actress. She’s naked in a bath, though, and seductively asks a man to stare at her before draining her bathwater out of his mouth (yeah, it’s weird but inventive!). I’m excited to see more of her (literally), so Salem can keep her plot coming.
Cotton Mather’s also got a C-story, separated from Salem since he was sent back to Boston by Increase in season 1. He’s busy fucking whores in the name of Christ, drinking a lot, and mourning the loss of his girlfriend and ruing his father, but he’s also under fire from the church and told not to go back to Salem. How this links in isn’t explored yet, but I can imagine Salem‘s not ready to give up on Seth Gabel yet – I’d expect him to potentially join up with John Alden for a witch-slaughtering excursion, both of them unwilling to trust each other and yet forced to because of their mutual goal.
So far, it looks to be a pretty eventful season for Salem that puts Mary in the firezone of a variety of enemies, John Alden included. But things are never as cut-and-dry as they appear in this show; there’s bound to be twists and turns in allegiances. “Cry Havoc” is a great intro to this season and a good entry point for those who might have missed last year’s story. Here’s to a cauldron of crazy for this season.