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Salem - After the Fall (Season Premiere) - Review: "We're Going to Hell - Finally!"


3.01 - "AFTER THE FALL"
Directed by Nick Copus
Written by Brannon Braga and Adam Simon
Reviewed by Gavin Hetherington

SEASON GUIDE

3.01 - "After the Fall" (November 2, 2016)
3.02 - "The Heart is a Devil" (November 9, 2016)
3.03 - "The Reckoning" (November 16, 2016)
3.04 - "Night's Black Agents" (November 30, 2016)
3.05 - "The Witch is Back" (December 7, 2016)
3.06 - "Wednesday's Child" (December 14, 2016)
3.07 - "The Man Who Was Thursday" (January 4, 2017)
3.08 - "Friday's Knights" (January 11, 2017)
3.09 - "Saturday Mourning" (January 18, 2017)
3.10 - "Black Sunday" (January 25, 2017) - Advance Preview




'AFTER THE FALL' REVIEW

We're back! It feels like an eternity since Salem last graced us with a brand new episode, or 494 days to be exact. To be fair, that 1 year and 4 months wait was totally worth it when you take a step back and realise just how incredible last night's premiere was. The season 2 finale, 'The Witching Hour', set up a magnificent stage for season 3, and we ended with the death of Mary Sibley (and a lot of us thought Tituba went down with her) as the Dark Lord rises. We ended things in Salem in the most desolate of places, with so little hope, and even as we begin a brand new season (I still can't believe I'm saying this as I'm just so hyped), we still retain the notion that Hell is coming to Salem, and it couldn't be more exciting. Yes, we had the anticipation of the Grand Rite in season 1 and the Consecration in season 2, but the Great Terror this season is sure enough going to be the biggest thing to happen to our characters. I'm more than positive I was not the only person who loved the premiere. And boy, did I miss that opening theme: Pound me the witch drums, the witch drums, pound me the witch drums...

YOU SPIN ME RIGHT ROUND, BABY...

Following the pure evil introduction of the Dark Lord at the end of season 2, now animating the body of Little John, that taste we received has now become a delicious three-course-meal of terror. I'm scared of him, and I mean insanely scared! I love the biblical allusions the show embeds, and the black snake transforming into the Lord himself was a delectable way to start the premiere. Sebastian acts as a sort of right-hand man for him, now that the Countess is out of the way, he and Anne are like the Lord's confidants. What a great way of retaining Sebastian's use following the demise of his mother (long live Lucy Lawless), the speech he gives to the covens of witches as he dangles the snake between his fingers was truly enchanting. It has everything to do with delivery, so a huge round of applause for Joe Doyle and Oliver Bell for kick-starting the premiere this way. Oliver Bell's performance is creepily evil; he worked under my skin when he confronts the Essex witch who would not kneel, proceeding to spin her round (like a record, baby) until she fell in a heap. Taking Sebastian's handkerchief was just hilarious.

But who is this delightful stranger to my left? The very first scene of season 3, not only intense as it is bewitching, before Sebastian's speech, was this horrifying skeletal being rising from the ground, amid a buzz of flying locusts. Nice that the writers horrified us from the very first minute, and the locusts provided an omnipresent sense of danger throughout the episode, so that was a brilliant touch. But still, who is this Sentinel character? Some sort of brother to the Dark Lord. Sentinel by definition means a guard, so he's going to be there to protect the Dark Lord, but I want to know more of his background, and if he has any kind of connections with Milton's epic Paradise Lost.

NEW-FOUND PURPOSE

A huge theme of season 3, that I pick up on, is a new sense of purpose for these characters that we have spent 2 years watching. For some, that is most certainly welcome, especially in terms of Isaac - the poor, tortured soul who was pretty much stripped from any kind of urgency early on, before succumbing to a lot of inflicted pain and misery. Mary said it best when she would call him 'Poor Isaac'. He's cleaner and a lot smoother at talking in this premiere, and while we got hints of an inward revolution for this character towards the end of season 2, it comes out in full force in this premiere. It was nice to have the girl he saved from Mercy follow him around, showing how much of an influence he has now. Even his genius shouting in the crowd to save John Alden worked, as well as whispering into Hathorne's ear about letting the refugees in was another moment I wanted to applaud this man. Isaac has certainly been reformed, given new purpose and though he's always been a ray of hope in a darkened Salem, he's even brighter now.

The refugees part of the episode was also great to observe too. It helped to broaden the scope of the seriousness of the problems surrounding Salem, as it can sometimes be forgotten that there are communities around the town. It's great that season 3 will explore that more, especially with the Indians - something we didn't get enough of in season 2 when it comes to John Alden. What a moment when John, after burying Mary, comes across the Indians slaughtering women, only to kill one that instantly comes back to life to finish slaughtering. The whole idea of rebirth is prominent in this show, but now more than ever! It also gives John and the mortals of Salem something they can worry about, while the witches themselves can worry about the coming of Hell.

(EVERYTHING I DO) I DO IT FOR YOU

Oh, Anne! You really have fallen. But yet, I find that she is so well written, and so well acted, that there is a way of sympathising with her still (though I could potentially be alone in this). That dream sequence from Cotton, where Anne is calling his name hauntingly, before shoving Brown Jenkins down his mouth - that unnerved me beyond reproach. Here was a character I love (Anne) who I admired greatly for her goodness in the early days, is now chasing the love of her life in this cruel, nightmarish way. Of course, it did turn out to be a nightmare, but there is still the real-world reality of what she is doing to Cotton. It's unbelievable to us that she would strip him of his free will, but as I mentioned, we can sympathise with her and understand why she is doing it - not only to protect her secret, but because she loves him so deeply that she has started down this dark path because of what she feels. It's a complex, messy situation but it is tragically beautiful too, in a way. I also loved the scene between Anne and John when he confronts her, and she almost kills him. That leading to the test of Cotton's faith further solidified the notion that Anne is not going to get out of this dark hole any time soon. Brown Jenkins tearing him up from the inside if he does anything against her? Brutal!

Mercy herself is having quite the transformation too. I love that she is still following the teachings of the Countess who took her under her wing, but instead of killing the young women completely, she's taken them in and given them a home. I love this storyline! It's almost like Mercy's own little brothel, only she is the one taking advantage of her girls. Firstly, though, she looks stunning - this look is definitely her best one so far. She's killing it! Secondly, the game of Cat's Cradle was definitely a torturous moment to watch in the best possible way. It echoes the season one Mercy, who wanted to seek vengeance on those who wronged her friends, so when the young Alice comes with concerns about her Uncle, Mercy flexes her wicked magic that sees to a truly excruciating death. Seeing the man's arm break like that (and you know the bit I mean) - it's quite possibly the most horrific thing I've ever seen on Salem yet. It will be interesting to see where Mercy takes this. She also reminded me of Ursula from The Little Mermaid ("But I don't have anything" "I'm not asking for much, just a token, really, a trifle - never miss it. What I want from you is... your blood!").

THE RESURRECTION OF MARY SIBLEY

And now, ladies and gentlemen, the highlights of the episode (in my honest opinion) were Tituba's journey to resurrect the dead Mary Sibley. Firstly, I want to commend the amazing cinematography in this episode - the scene where John buries Mary was breathtaking, seeing the foggy forest in a sort of panoramic view, with him in the middle, was gothically gorgeous. There were so many moments I wanted to single out as being beautiful on screen, and it furthers my love for this show even more that they can represent an era long gone in this realistic, yet otherworldly way. Costuming, setting, lighting, everything about this show is done with the utmost care to be true to the time. Huge kudos.

I was worried Tituba did meet her maker at the end of season 2, as that brutal pecking of the birds was something that would condemn anybody to death. But Tituba isn't just anybody, and she proves this by wandering around the forest, the voice of Petrus loud as a guide, and finding her way to his dank place. Another glance of an undead being again foreshadows the ultimate resurrection of Mary, but the vision he shows Tituba is something that not only terrifies her, but us as viewers. Nobody wants that to happen, but as the Dark Lord mentioned, nobody alive can stop him. What I love about this storyline is that it is going to bring two of my favourite characters together again - Mary and Tituba - after being torn apart last season. They were awful to one another, really, but as the militia man tells Tituba, she and Mary need to take the Earth back. All I can say to that is I ship this so hard. I cannot wait to see these two strong women come together to unite forces to stop this Hell from rising.

Not having Mary on my screen for very long was rather painful for me - but the small glimpses we did get were simply wonderful, and Salem has such a brilliant cast that it wasn't hard for them to carry an episode without her dominating presence. But I am so ready to get her back, so Janet Montgomery can reclaim Salem and revive the deliciously sassy Mary Sibley for another fun round. I did love the small scene with the Dark Lord and Sebastian as they drink her blood, and she appears as gorgeous as ever. Just that one, silent cameo gave me life. It made me want her resurrection even more than before, which was not possible, by the way, because I wanted Mary alive more than I've ever thought possible of anything. So when Tituba brings her to the Essex witches, and they surround her body, I was worried they would turn her away. But fortunately, we get the moment we've been waiting for for 494 days.

From cloud to sea,
From crown to throne.
From blood to bough,
From skin to bone.
Tree of life in which we art,
Roots that feed from earth's deep heart.
Rising branches, charged from sky,
Come now, make her death a lie.

I got shivers from the parts where the witches were casting the spell to resurrect Mary. It was very well done, as the ritual sort of offered Mary back to nature as she's covered in tree roots that move and surround her, again it was very unsettling. The spell was also nicely worded, and I wasn't sure if it was going to work at first (or if they would drag out this death like Jon Snow in Game of Thrones). But when Tituba moves away some of the branches at the end, and Mary jumps out barely able to breathe - I was so shocked at first that I could not properly display my excitement for her return. I knew it would happen anyway due to promos and whatnot, but seeing her actually back, breathing (though looking extremely wild and confused), warms the heart I have now dedicated to her. The Queen is back, and while I'm sure she will have a gruelling journey of returning back to life, I'm sure she will be back to being her true self very soon.


EPISODE AWARDS

Best Witch: Tituba. She totally stole the show in this episode as she deals with the aftermath of her brutal pecking, before helping save Mary. Friendship goals.

Best Gentleman: Isaac. He's certainly stepped up after the depths he fell to in the past.

Best Spell: The spell to resurrect Mary.

Best Line: 'The noose ain't around my neck... it's around Salem's.' - John Alden.

Creepiest Line(s): 'It's just you and me, and baby makes three.' - Anne Hale.

Most Bewitching Chemistry: The Dark Lord and Sebastian! I loved their scenes together!

Best Moment: Tituba sees the ghastly vision of the future should the Dark Lord succeed in his Great Terror. Also, when Mary comes back to life, because I'd been waiting for that all my life.

Best Romantic Moment: When Anne releases Cotton and asks to be trusted (before, y'know, Cotton fails the test and he's almost eaten from the inside - other than that, totally romantic).

Most Sickening Moment: The death of Alice's uncle. That wrist action, yak!

Funniest Moment: The Dark Lord uses the handkerchief from Sebastian. Also, when Isaac tells the little girl to "shoo".


What did you guys think of the highly-anticipated return of Salem? Be sure to watch the next new episode, airing Wednesday, November 9th on WGN America at 9/8c. The witches are back!!



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