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Salem - On Earth As In Hell - Review: "The Exorcism of Little John"


2.11 - "ON EARTH AS IN HELL"
Directed by Nick Copus
Written by Joe Menosky and Adam Simon
Reviewed by Gavin Hetherington


THE CHARACTERS





SEASON GUIDE

Click on a title to be taken to the review for that episode. Need a catch-up of season one before starting season two? Be sure to read the ultimate catch-up review of season one.



'ON EARTH AS IN HELL' REVIEW

Jesus Christ! When Kelly Souders, writer on the show, told me that things only get more intense as the season gets closer to ending instead of slowing down, I knew she wasn't lying. What I didn't expect was just how incredibly intense and electrifying the last few episodes have been and what we're heading to. I mean come on, Salem hasn't slowed down since its Pilot and I now feel like we're on a rollercoaster that's only going up. We may have had some slower spells as we get some character development this season, but nevertheless, there hasn't been that heart-stopping drop yet. We're continuously moving up and up and up and the excitement of the drop is killing me. I don't think there's ever been a storyline on television that has continuously made me this excited. I need to talk through this episode now and the characters and what I loved about it because it feels like my brain is going to explode keeping this all in.

"Plain Mary, like the plain worthless woman you are."

The episode begins with Mary and after the promos of her being on the stocks - and the photos too - I was extremely worried for her. Her world has come crashing down to her ultimate low, and I thought her low came when her son was taken and Tituba revealed Little John was destined to be the vessel after the Countess revealed it to Mary. I hated seeing my poor Mary being subjected to that humiliation - seeing her with the white make-up and the red cheeks like she was a clown being laughed at by everyone she once ruled over. It was a much-needed moment too, though, to put everything into perspective. The puritans are assholes, that much we definitely know now, thirsty for any kind of bloodshed. We have to wonder - especially after Isaac's very moving free choice speech to Mary - who the bad guys really are? It's definitely not Mary. The puritans choose to want to spill innocent blood, hungry for death. It puts season one into perspective too. What Mary and co. did was very bad with making the puritans kill one another, but we see more of why Mary has such a loathing for them. They really are evil. It broke my heart in two with the puritans throwing food at her and all the horrible things Hathorne was saying, stripping her of her titles and even making her surname-less. Calling her plain and worthless was a big mistake. He's definitely going to face Mary's - and my - wrath. I can't wait for that moment. I guess stripping her of her last name is a good thing, really, even if Mary Sibley is an awesome name that rolls off the tongue. Now Mary's like Madonna. Who needs last names?

"It should have been your day of triumph, not degradation."

Mary's transition from ruthless Puritan-killing witch to a woman with whom we can empathise with has been a remarkable transformation this season. Janet Montgomery must feel so drained after each and every episode due to the amount of humanity and emotion she has to convey. It comes through wonderfully, and I have to admit the camera shots of Mary in the stocks - and later when she is joined by Isaac - were remarkable. I noted that the area of the stocks was the shape of a pentagon. Don't know if that's important but it was good to note due to the significance of the five-sided shape in witch lore, more specifically pentagrams. I liked the scene with Mary and Sebastian at the river too. I could totally believe Mary would jump in and drown herself to stop the consecration, but I bet she had a bigger plan in mind when she knew Sebastian was following her and played to his emotions regarding his mother. I don't think Mary would have just killed herself there and then without saving her son, even if it would have stopped the consecration. She's a smart girl, even if the odds are totally stalked against her. Had to shed a tear for her speech about unconditional love.

"Did you know you're in Hell even now?"

The best parts of the episode were with John Alden, Cotton Mather and Little John. We could call this episode 'the exorcism episode' as I was anticipating at the end of the last episode when Little John went all demonic in the final moments. Exorcisms are something that have been done in movies and occasionally on screen too, but I don't think any of them have done it quite as remarkably as Salem. I'm even looking at you, classic The Exorcist. It might be huge praise but I think because we are so invested in these characters and we know the stakes are so incredibly high, we feel more involved in this exorcism. I don't know about you guys but I really wanted it to work. The talk that Little John and John Alden had at the start, about Niagra and where they wanted to go, and stories about John's childhood and if he had any friends, devastated me to be fair. I loved them and it provided more humanity for Little John, but I had a feeling they were making them bond just to tear Little John away at the end. Now I want Mary to stop the consecration more than ever, even though I really wanted it to happen a couple of episodes ago because it looks cool and will open so many doors, but damn I feel emotional when it comes to Mary's little family now.

"Get out of my son!"

Okay, so the actual exorcism was pretty scary. I honestly didn't know what to expect as it started to unravel. I was enthralled more than anything because I know the writers do their research into every historical aspect of the show and so I was watching thinking this kind of thing could have actually happened. I feel like I learn when I watch Salem. The Lord's Prayer moment was so well acted, kudos to Oliver Bell for that, and from there it just escalated. The part where Little John is on the floor writhing around and the camera is shooting around - chills. I was so grossed out by the wasps coming out of his mouth and I loved Cotton's reactions to it all. Then the devil inside Little John started revealing things to Cotton and I was so shocked yet excited. Cotton now knows that Mary is a witch! Aaah!! That's amazing. I love it when huge secrets like that come out, and also the truth about the Grand Rite - how Mary made the puritans slaughter each other. Cotton is going to go through something after this and I can't wait to see what he's going to do next about it all. It never slows down either, especially when Cotton starts to choke on his own blood and the devil inside Little John starts talking about the father. "I can make the dead dance in the most delightful ways." Oliver Bell's delivery (it probably wasn't his voice but his facial expressions and movements) were on point. Then John stepped into the circle and I was yelling at the screen and the TV was loud and my heart was beating out my chest, then John shouted "get out of my son" and threw him across the room and I could finally breathe. Intensity at its finest right in that moment.

"There's something inside all of us."

And it's not even over. Just wow already. So John knows the Countess is coming when she put him in an illusion to reveal Little John's whereabouts, but it was even more creepy when Little John reveals "she is coming for me". I looked at the runtime and saw there was still a good few minutes left and I was like "what else can they cram into this god-amazing episode?" and they really saved some of the best for last. When John was swarmed by the Countess's consorts, I felt really scared for him. Turns out my fears were justified since the Countess leaves him to fight her son... her Mary-obsessed son. I knew this wouldn't end well for John. While Sebastian may show signs of an alliance with Mary because of his fixation of her, there's no chance in Hell he would let John go unharmed. Or breathing, at all. Is John going to die? How is he going to survive that brutal stabbing? The blood looked like it was gushing from him in waves. I had my hands over my mouth at this point. Then we go to Cotton with Little John and I knew the Countess was going after them. Then Anne appears to them and I was like "hang on, this can't be right." It's not Anne, right? It's the Countess? The way she acted with no sense of true urgency and the heightening of tension before the bell tolls signified it wasn't Anne, or at least not Anne in the true sense that she's under the Countess's control? I watched the promo for the next episode so I'm not sure. If it was Anne, and she's taking the boy to the Countess, then oh my God!

"Whatever you faced, there was never a time when you didn't have a choice."

Speaking of Anne briefly, I loved her scene with Mary after Mary was freed. Now Anne has seen more of Mary's humanity herself, she seems more willing to help her. "Remember who you are, what you are. You are filled with magic. There must be something you can do." I love the idea that Mary and Anne are going to team up against the Countess to save their loved ones. I loved that Anne restored Mary's belief in herself. And boy did I absolutely love Isaac's scenes in this episode. After being the punching bag all season long, he came back fighting in this episode. I needed this to happen. I was starting to give up on Isaac but oh no, he still has a purpose and potential. I was totally spooked by him carrying Dollie but his bursting into the church was awesome and hilarious at the same time. I loved his entrance - "How about that George Sibley was a son of a bitch?" His speech to the people of Salem was awe-inspiring, about how God has forgotten about them and that they brought their own evil along with them and still look to blame others. Then his scene with Mary in the stocks and talking about free choice - I could see this affected Mary. It's something we've discussed about Anne becoming a witch and worrying that her innocence will evaporate, but it all comes down to choice. Is it possible to be a witch and be good? Mary has displayed that in the past few episodes when she stopped focusing on the consecration and busied herself with the saving of her son.

EPISODE VERDICT

This was my favourite episode of Salem yet. It's so hard for me to say that because I absolutely love so many episodes of Salem in its 24-episode run so far but this one had every element of the show I love - horror, drama, excitement, moral questioning. Once the tolling of the bell began and the episode ended, I felt like I was dead. That's a very good feeling to have. The cliffhanger of the last episode led me into this episode expecting an exorcism but it came out as so much more. I'm far more invested in the characters saving Little John more than ever and thanks to the beautiful writing of this episode, I could feel the emotion radiate through the screen while still keeping the level of horror and excitement I love about this show. So many amazing scenes built up into one fantastic episode. The scene with John and Sebastian was shocking. Mary in the stocks brought tears to my very eyes. The exorcism was just a revelation.

2 episodes to go and everyone's life is at stake - pardon the pun hehe. But oh boy, I loved season one, but I absolutely definitely five-hundred-million-times-percent adore season two. Bring on the last 2 episodes!

Also, the deadline for submitting questions for me to ask Brannon Braga and Adam Simon - the creators of Salem - is midnight tonight! If you have any new questions since watching this episode, then feel free to write them in the comments below. I have a plethora of questions to ask them anyway, but you guys still have a chance to send me your questions. Follow this link for more details.


EPISODE AWARDS

Winner of Best Witch:
Mary. Just Mary.
Best Witch: Mary. Anne wasn't featured much in this episode and Tituba is still nowhere to be seen. Mary had some great emotional moments. "I've lost everything but I would rather die at my own hand than be the servant of that bitch."

Naughtiest Witch: The Countess. With Mercy still MIA, this award was won by a landslide.

Best Gentleman: John Alden. His protectiveness over his son was amazing and shows just how good a guy he is.

Best Spell: N/A.

Best Line(s): "How about that George Sibley was a son of a bitch?" - ROFL Isaac!

Most Bewitching Chemistry: John Alden and Cotton Mather.

Best Moment: The exorcism.

Most Romantic Moment: Isaac with the dead Dollie. As twisted as that sounds, it really was very touching.

Creepiest Moment: When the Countess was kissing John and she turned into this hideous creature with bugs all over her skin.

Vilest Moment: Little John spewing up wasps. I hate wasps.

Sweetest Moment: Exclusive for this episode as I couldn't not mention this - "You're really truly my father, John Alden?" "Don't ever doubt it." Awwwwww.

What did you think of 'On Earth As In Hell'? Let me know your thoughts on the episode in the comments and be sure to watch the next new episode on June 21 on WGN America at 10PM!



About the Author - Gavin Hetherington
Award-winning author of 'Abyssal Sanctuary: Remnants of the Damned'. Gavin joined SpoilerTV in August 2014 and reviews 2 Broke Girls, Mistresses, Orange is the New Black, Pretty Little Liars, Salem, Scream Queens and Sleepy Hollow. Gavin will write previews for Devious Maids and Shadowhunters, and backs-up Empire, The Flash, iZombie, Once Upon a Time, Reign, Scandal and Supergirl. You can contact him at gavin@spoilertv.com.
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