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Salem - The Witching Hour (Season Finale) - Review + Season 2 Retrospective


2.13 - "THE WITCHING HOUR"
Directed by Brannon Braga
Written by Adam Simon
Reviewed by Gavin Hetherington

As a special note, this is my 100th article on SpoilerTV. Couldn't have picked a better article to publish as my 100th. Here's to 100 more!

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.



'THE WITCHING HOUR' REVIEW

You don't know how hard it was for me to see this episode a couple of days early and not be able to thoroughly talk about it with anyone. I had to let my feelings out but couldn't, which is why I'm so relieved everybody has seen the finale now and I can talk about every insane thing that happened in it with you all. Seriously, what was this episode but the best damn finale of a show I've seen in a very long time. I am floored and I have the worst 3-day hangover after seeing this episode, especially considering I've seen this finale 3 times now. Everything about it was, just, horrifyingly beautiful. The writing, the directing, the acting - everything brought it to life. It felt like there really wasn't anything else to lose (like Mary) so they went all out, blowing the screens off every single television this episode was shown on. Like I said in the tagline for my advance preview - I am dead. It's not just Mary or Tituba or the Countess who are dead, or briefly John, but I am too. I think I speak for everyone when I say every single Heathen is dead after seeing this finale. Where do I even begin?

"I said I would die in Salem."
"My son... you already have."

Shock f*cking horror. The first devastating thing to happen in this finale was the death of John Alden. I couldn't quite believe my eyes but I could have totally seen it stick considering Mary has basically lost everything - her power over Salem, her friends, her son - why not throw her true love in the mix? I loved the way it happened though, as the scenes with the Indians were so beautiful, so heavenly, that I really should have thought "he's dead" but the transitions were so organic that I didn't expect it. That was definitely my first mouth drop of the finale. It also would have been obvious considering both Native Americans are dead and the only option for them to be present would be in ghostly form or John was dreaming. But John dead? It didn't register at first because I didn't want to believe it. It would have meant further pain for Mary and that was the last thing I wanted, and I really want Mary and John to have their happy ending. The scenes in the fields were beautiful though and distracted me for a brief moment, lulling me into a false sense of security that everything was okay, before boom, he's dead.

"Oh, that was an awful mistake."

Mercy had a whopper in this episode too, and for a few moments I was sure she was going to die. I wanted her to die at the start of the season, but now I'm glad she didn't. Props to the punishment scene because that was a fantastic scene, but that was the first moment I thought she'd die. "You took me away from my true mother, how can that be unpunished?" The Dark Lord biting her finger tip off was excruciating. Could have been worse, right? She could have been pecked to death. Then I thought she was going to die when she went to strike the Countess. So much tension but played so well with Mercy breaking down in tears and the Countess looking at her with disappointment. The Countess was very fair in throwing her out - shows she's far more tame than the Dark Lord. The third time I thought she'd die was when Isaac found out she killed Dollie. That was Isaac's only full scene in the episode, which is a shame but understandable, until we see him sitting near Dollie's grave (spelled Dolie which could be the right way of spelling it actually). Brannon Braga said in an interview about the finale that Isaac wasn't in it very much and he wants to do more with Isaac next season, so we have that to look forward to Heathens! What the whole ordeal has done to Mercy is return her to the streets of Salem to be that 'beckoning fair one' that haunts the town. I love when Isaac runs away after Mercy reveals her new sort of followers, that Mercy vows to rule them even if it has to be in their nightmares. We leave Mercy in a horrifying way where she could become Salem's boogeyman, which she already is but hopefully that will be developed and realised in season three.

"Oh my God... OH. MY. GOD." - Me during this episode

My poor, poor Tituba. She hardly spoke in the finale but she had one of the biggest roles in it, and definitely the most horrifying scene. During that punishment scene that I loved, the Dark Lord reveals he knows all about her and that his mother wouldn't bare to see her live. I thought shit, her punishment is going to be worse than Mercy's! I was relieved when he basically just banished her, thinking she was safe for the time being. Until the shots of her walking through the forest. When they kept going back to her, I thought something would happen. Then the Dark Lord started to make the dead birds reanimate and it went back to Tituba and there was a crow and it was reflecting Tituba in its eye and then the birds started to come into the shot and... I need to start a new sentence. But I couldn't breathe for this scene. The atmosphere was built up with the wind and seeming serenity of Tituba getting away, but we know better. It felt very Alfred Hitchcock, and I absolutely love the film The Birds so I loved this scene. In fact, for my review of Dead Birds I was going to use the tagline from the film - "the next scream you hear could be your own" - for my heading, but ended up using something else, but I like the connection. Must have been woman's intuition or something. But I was thinking Tituba would get away - I was hoping she would get away. I don't want Tituba to be dead, and she died brutally. When she started running, I was yelling at her to run faster, or use some sort of spell to protect herself, or a spell to kill the birds, but I guess she must have known better than to escape the punishment of the Dark Lord. The screams. The pecking. The super-fast camera shots. It was brilliant, nothing short of pure brilliance but I really didn't want Tituba to die. I wanted her and Mary to team up again, but that's just wishful thinking, like Mercy being a princess. Maybe Tituba isn't dead, like it has been suggested. Death is a funny thing and John was resurrected, as were birds, so what's to say Tituba can't come back? She's basically a necromancer, right? With her new look, she could become the next militia man. Who needs eyes anyway?

"The world is a much darker place now that your light has grown as dim as the rest of ours."

ANNE HALE! What a naughty little witch! I loved every minute of it though, to see how far she has come from pilot to sophomore finale, or should I say, how far she has fallen, as she was the most shocking character in the finale - yet in a way, you can understand her actions. The Anne and Cotton scenes were some of the best this season as everything came to a head and I couldn't have been more excited by them. Seth Gabel and Tamzin Merchant both delivered powerhouse performances as I believed every word they said, every emotion they portrayed. Both sides held good arguments and I could see how both were torn to shreds by the other's words. "I traded his life for yours." That line, that beautiful little line caused the first ripple of Mather destruction. Cotton crying out was when we knew Anne had crossed the line even he can't forgive. And what's funny is there were moments where Cotton seemed open to forgive and forget, where he seemed swayed by her words until Anne reminded him of the night she saved them both from thugs that almost killed them. Anne had a great point, as they would have killed them or done much worse, but Cotton only saw that his perfect Anne killed somebody. "It was him or us." The next scene between the pair was when Cotton finds out about Anne's love spell. The entire exchange between them was captivating. "If only you loved me when I really needed you to I might not have had to pledge myself. I might not have to quicken your love with my first spell." Of all the things I was surprised with by Anne in this episode, her honesty is one of them. I wasn't expecting her level of honesty, especially when Cotton seemed content with leaving Salem with her to be happy. It's what Anne always wanted, but she knew she couldn't leave Salem. Cotton's choice to love speech was epic too - "Because I did love you. I loved you since almost the first we met. I just needed a little time." "I didn't have time." The desperation from Anne was stunning and Cotton plunging deeper into despair with his newfound situation was just golden. I can't say enough good things about their scenes together in this episode because they were literally fantastic. And when Anne began to walk towards Cotton with Brown Jenkins in her hands, I was like "Anne, what are you doing?" And then she shoved the rat down Cotton's throat. It mortified me. Totally reminded me of Mary and Tituba forcing the toad down George's throat and it showed me just how alike Anne is to Mary. They both ended the season as the other character, really. Mary began season two as a villain of sorts, and now Anne ends the season as a villain of sorts, as I started out thinking Anne was the good witch and Mary the bad, but now it's reversed.

All hail Mary, who is the best female character on television right now. We see from the very first scene the effects the success of the Consecration has had on her. She is devastated, and I was too. Poor Little John. I loved the first scene with the witches gathering around his bed. The exchange Mary had with Anne was the most interesting, and when the Countess said "In your place she'd have done the same thing", it made me wonder - would she have? I think she would have, to save the life of John. If Anne was in Mary's position, with a child about to be the vessel to the Dark Lord, and Mary was Anne trying to save her love, I do think Mary would have done the same. But of course, Anne doesn't have a child born to be a vessel and Mary isn't exchanging children to save her love, so the question is slightly irrelevant. But moving on, it was even more of a blow when we thought maybe Little John was still in there, and when he was speaking to her saying "I need you... your songs, your stories, your kisses", I thought, like Mary, he wasn't all gone. It crushed me when he started talking about Mary's night of being turned into a witch and giving birth to her son to be taken for the devil (nice inclusion of flashbacks by the way), as we could see on Mary's face her pain. I like that Mary's clothing reflects her downfall too as she wears what resembles to be rags, instead of the gorgeous dresses she wore last season and the majority of this season. Being a mother changed Mary's life for the better, I think, as we got her humanity back. Even if we briefly saw it in the very first moments of the pilot, when Isaac is being branded, of that sweet girl who cared for her friends, what I love most about this new take on Mary is that we have the opportunity to go back to that. Mary was always the villain we rooted for, but she failed on every level leading up to this finale and it seems like the only thing she did win at was saving John's life, which happened to be a good deed. She couldn't kill the Countess because the evil that would have allowed Mary to tear her limb from limb was gone, even if she loathed the Countess, she just didn't succeed in killing her. In my opinion, it's because those evil qualities from last season evaporated.

"I know it is him you want."

And what a beautiful moment it was leading up to Mary resurrecting John. I have to give a shout-out to my main man Sebastian who I always found fascinating, but never to the extent of actually loving him. Now? I love him. I never for a minute believed he would drain Mary of all her blood though it seemed like a possibility, and even though Mary wanted him to do it. Instead, Sebastian gave Mary the best gift of all - to be reunited with her lost love. A little out of character for Sebastian as he always seemed so territorial with Mary - especially considering he dispatched of Samuel because of it - but I'm hoping this was just the first of many signs that he's on the right side. I loved his talk with Mary about unconditional love, especially "I too am capable of unconditional love. So go, no conditions." Awww. Why do I have to have emotions, they're so annoying. I felt even more hurt when Mary found John and cast the spell to revive him. But of course, it's blood magic, and Mary has barely enough to live on as it is. It was the ultimate sacrifice and one that surely redeems Mary of all the terrible things she has done in the past. The road to redemption for Mary was a long and brutal one, but I think she finally reached the end. Ending the season with Mary being dead was a devastating blow, one that is softened by the idea that Mary will be resurrected next season. I'm sure she will - she is the heart of the show - but still, seeing Mary dead is something I never expected.

"A prayer doesn't have to be heard to be answered. Sometimes all that matters is the asking."

I had to dedicate a section to discussing my favourite moment of the finale - the scorching hot showdown in the church. The moment I was waiting for (I have a lot of moments I've been waiting for when it comes to Salem) happened in grand fashion. The dialogue between the Countess and Mary was just wonderful and I've always enjoyed their interactions, and this one was mainly because of their dialogue. Both Janet Montgomery and Lucy Lawless were goddesses in the scene. The Countess's bitterness towards Mary was fascinating and enjoyable because the Dark Lord wanted Mary, not her. I loved how Mary started the fight off with telling her she's in her woods and began setting the church alight. By the way, amazing pyrotechnics involved here. Mary challenging the Countess too to bring the rain was so deliciously good, and the fact that she couldn't made it all the better. I thought this was going to be it for her, as Mary put up an amazing fight, complete with disappearing and reappearing in other places, throwing things and jumping on top of her ready to finish her off. Then Anne appeared and brought the rain. I was yelling at Anne at this point, asking her what the hell she was doing, which led to an amazing line. "Let me die," Mary cries out. Anne replies: "I cannot for the same reason you could not let me. There is no easy way out Mary... for any of us." But still Anne, Mary could have totally killed the Countess at that moment (well, her body) so why, why, why did you have to stop her from doing so. Anne really has fallen far and stopping the defeat of the Countess, her mother, was a big indication to the side Anne chose.

"I am here for you. Always."

The Countess, oh what a wonderful villain. I felt sorry for her too, due to her love for the Dark Lord being rejected in the end, especially when the Dark Lord asks who would love a true God, and she replies "I will. I do." It was pretty bitchy of her though, to say she loved no one else her whole long life with her son in the room. Poor Sebastian. When she told Sebastian to basically kill Mary, I knew she'd be in trouble for that. She was very naive in thinking the Dark Lord wouldn't know about it and she had a very poor lapse of judgment there that ultimately doomed her. Anyone else notice that the Countess ate the piece of apple from the same knife that kills her body later on? At least, to me it looked like the same knife. I loved the imagery though, with the apple and the symbolism of it in regards to the fairy tale Snow White. Poisonous, and it was ominous that she would later die from the person who fed her the apple. Instead of killing her with a poisonous apple, the Dark Lord killed her with the knife instead. It was very traumatic to watch like Tituba's death scene - the multiple stabbing and her last plea to him of "I love you". I really did want Mary to be the one to defeat the Countess, but I guess it's all the more horrifying that the one person the Countess truly loved - the Dark Lord - kills her while her son watched and did nothing to stop it. I am going to miss Lucy Lawless but I'm very grateful she became part of the show. What a woman. I like how the Countess could still come back though, but the challenge would be to find a new actress who would do the role justice as Lucy Lawless did. "Someday perhaps. But not today. Goodnight mother."

"Mary? Mary? No. Mary. I love you. Please don't go. I love you. Please."

EPISODE VERDICT

I have the worst Salem hangover ever since watching this episode three times now - once for my advance preview on Friday, again yesterday for fun, and today for this review. I cannot get enough of it. I felt like it merged all the best qualities of the gothic genre and churned out an unbeatable episode of television. This was absolutely the best finale of 2015. I doubt any other show ending a season this year will ever surpass this tension-filled finale. So many iconic moments plagued this finale in the best imaginable way. The best thing about the season two finale was that it kept me guessing all the way to the end - it kept me on my toes. I had no idea what was going to happen next and I ended up second guessing myself. I could not have loved this perfect finale enough.

The ending was just sublime. It sets up an unimaginable stage for season three, so what does that mean for next season? Salem is now the Dark Lord's dominion. Mary will be resurrected, as indicated by Brannon who questions how she will return. There was talk of royal marriage and a consummation, so the Dark Lord's goal will be to marry Mary. As far as Salem will go, I doubt they'd go through with a consummation between Mary and the Dark Lord while he uses Little John's body. I'm guessing there will be a new vessel, or the Dark Lord's plan fails entirely. Tituba is dead, or is she completely? Mercy is now the boogeyman that will haunt the town, snatching children to make herself beautiful again like the Countess. Samuel is pegged to return, to escape Hell but in what way will he come back? Anne is going to keep Cotton silenced with her familiar deep in his bowels, but will she be able to keep that up? Sebastian is going to be going through some things as he now doesn't have his mother to boss him around - may we see some sibling bonding between him and Anne? And what of Isaac? Will he lead Salem into a new day? So many questions for season three, so let's hope an official announcement is made soon so we our minds can be at ease that Salem will return in 2016. What a long wait, but if this year is any indication, it will be here before we know it.


EPISODE AWARDS

Winner of Best Witch:
Mary
Best Witch: Mary again. She almost beat the Countess's ass if Anne didn't intervene, and speaking of Anne...

Naughtiest Witch: Anne Hale! You beat the Countess for this award which shows just how naughty you were in this finale! Preventing Mary from beating the Countess, stuffing a rat down Cotton's throat, the list goes on! But I secretly love it.

Best Gentleman: Sebastian, for letting Mary go. I love him.

Best Spell: "Blood to love flow, quicken love's light. My love's life will grow as my soul takes flight."

Best Line(s): "A monster is but a God seen through fearful eyes." "I cannot for the same reason you could not let me. There is no easy way out Mary... for any of us."

Most Bewitching Chemistry: Anne and Cotton. Their scenes were simply wonderful and horrific and beautiful and amazing.

Best Moment: The church fight between Mary and the Countess.

Most Romantic Moment: Mary giving up her life for John Alden - "John, it's me, your Mary."

Creepiest Moment: The Dark Lord bestowing punishments on those who have wronged Mary.

Most Horrifying Moment: Tituba being pecked alive by birds!

Sweetest Moment: Sebastian letting Mary go to her love - "I too am capable of unconditional love. So go, no conditions."


THE SEASON TWO RETROSPECTIVE

Salem is the best show of 2015. Feel free to challenge that notion, but I cannot think of another show I have watched this year (and I have watched a lot of shows this year) that could beat Salem in terms of quality and entertainment. This season managed to achieve the rarely done - deliver a sophomore season that goes leaps and bounds over the first. I mean, sure a lot of shows have better second seasons, but track records indicate a large majority can never really live up to their premiere seasons. Salem is a show that will always have an upward trend, in my opinion. Season one was amazing. Season two was absolutely fantastic. But now we start next season (assuming a renewal) with the biggest, most explosive potential the show has seen yet. For a show that never disappoints, I'm worried I'm putting too much pressure on the creative team behind this show. But I have faith they will write us another season filled with the best material television has ever seen. Thank you, to everybody involved, for giving us fans the best gift of all.

And now, a few little top fives, even though I could have easily made these lists contain every single episode and moment this season has ever had.

BEST EPISODES

WINNER: "The Witching Hour"
The season finale of Salem blew the stocks out of Salem. It was the most intense hour of television I've ever seen and I've seen a lot of television. Had no idea what to expect from every character. Pure love.
2. "Midnight Never Come"
3. "On Earth As In Hell"
4. "Dead Birds"
5. "The Wine Dark Sea"
But, of course, I loved every episode.

BEST MOMENTS

WINNER: The Consecration
The entire season built up to it, we rooted for Mary to win - and she lost. She succeeded in the Grand Rite, so we weren't really expecting Mary to lose this battle. It meant Little John became the Dark Lords' vessel - a devastating moment for Mary and John.
2. The Mary vs. Countess fight in the finale.
3. Little John's exorcism.
4. Increase Mather returns.
5. "KILL THEM. KILL THEM ALL!"

MOST HORRIFYING MOMENTS

WINNER: Tituba's Death
I love Tituba, she was a fabulous character. Seeing her pecked to death gave me a dry mouth because I couldn't close my mouth for about 44 minutes after.
2. Anne Hale drowns a kitten.
3. Cotton is the new George Sibley.
4. The Countess is stabbed to death.
5. Mercy bathes in Dollie's blood.


What did you think of 'The Witching Hour'? Let me know your thoughts on the season finale and this season in general in the comments and join me in the suffering that is the wait for season three! Why do breaks between seasons exist?!

If you enjoyed Salem, my debut novel that was published in October 2013 could be what you're looking for to tide you over until Salem returns. Download the book for free on the Kindle, available in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and many more places. The novel is an urban fantasy horror titled Remnants of the Damned, the first in the Abyssal Sanctuary series. Set in the fictional town of Lakefield View, the book explores the lives of five friends who work at a cafe and all witness a vicious murder. Within twenty-four hours, they are each confronted with living nightmares as they come closer to the truth about the town they live in and the magic that surrounds it. The only thing worse than being alone in the dark is finding out you're not.

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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