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Salem - The Reckoning - Review: "Earth, Wind, Fire and Trump"


3.03 - "THE RECKONING"
Directed by Wayne Yip
Written by Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson
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




'THE RECKONING' REVIEW

Last night's third outing of the third season (the power of three) was written by the wonderful Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson, an absolute dream team that also wrote the third episode of the second season, 'From Within' (nice tie-in to Cotton trying to destroy the familiar 'from within' wink wink), 'Ill Met By Moonlight' and 'Til Death Do Us Part'. Every writer is incredible on this show, so it's not like I saw the writing credits and thought 'oh this is going to be great', I just knew it from the second the episode started. Even so, Souders and Peterson continued their legacy with another great episode, a one that I'm really excited to dive into as it oozed with literary ambition in a Paradise Lost sort of way, along with some exciting, game-changing moments.


MARY'S RECKONING
'There are punishments far worse than death.'

Following the cliffhanger from the second episode, where Mary hastily tried to dispose of the Devil right there and then in the bathtub, this episode opened up with, at first, a sort of deflation that maybe the Devil has gone soft. She just tried to kill him, yet he says she is special to him, and so it appeared as thought she would get away with it. Oh no, how wrong I was. The Sentinel, ever-annoyingly antagonising Mary, dragged her away by the hair to place this wonderfully-intricate prison of a box around her head, so that she may never escape the room of horrors. It's a sinister and hugely magical kind of prop, so I was really excited about the torture she endured within her own head. I mean, it serves her right for acting rash and thinking her task was going to be that easy, that it would mission accomplished in episode two. Does she not know we have eight more episodes this season?

There is a huge Paradise Lost allusion to Salem this season as we are invited to think about God as a tyrant, and the Fallen Angels and the rebellion against God. Anybody read Milton's epic poem? I feel it in abundance with the Sentinel and the Dark Lord this season. It's a good thing, I assure you. The torture leads to her Reckoning scene, and oh how I loved it. I've been waiting for that moment in the trailer when the white smoke explodes around Mary, and I had no idea what that was in the trailer, but it looked awesome. Now I get it. In context, it's more chilling, because that entire scene of stripping her from her witchy powers was intense. I can't imagine Mary without her powers, as a witch, and it makes her job of stopping the Devil's inauguration. I love this scene and hate it at the same time - I don't want Mary to be un-witchy, but the way it happens, from the nail in the hand to leaving her lying pitiless on the floor, is nail-biting, harsh, and aesthetically wonderful to watch.

I also couldn't help but think of the Hex Girls from Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost when talking about the elemental powers. 'Earth, wind, fire and air, we may look bad but we don't care...'



A FAMILIAR HOPE
'There's only one way to destroy a familiar... from within'

Quite possibly the most exciting thing about this season is the power struggle between Anne and Cotton, as Anne descends into darkness unwillingly to protect Cotton, while he struggles against her black magic. At first, it appeared as though Cotton would have the same void of agency that George Sibley had when Mary had control over him. Oh no, Cotton got game. While I was expecting it to take a longer time for him to make a drastic first step (I'm still looking at you in judgment Mary), Cotton took the leap and has managed to grasp (quite literally) the source of its problems by the tail and restore his self worth. While I love Anne, I do admire Cotton so much for this.

Cotton was treading on unstable ground throughout the episode, even from the beginning, when he's outside and we see the light shine through the window upstairs. I thought Cotton's game was going to be over right there and then, but our Cotton, he could talk his way out of a parking ticket. But Anne is blissfully unaware that Cotton is working behind her back, and he acquires the ingredients he needs to purge himself from Brown Jenkins. I was cracking up when he took the concoction and his stomach kept growling at the meeting; the silence, everyone looking at him, his pauses - it was all brilliant comedic timing. Then, I went from laughing to turning away in disgust as Cotton pulls Brown Jenkins from his mouth. It's always sick when any of the characters push an animal into their mouths, but seeing Cotton pull out the rat and then smash him was so vile in a Salem kind of way. Loved it. It gave me life, especially to see Cotton's ecstatic relief after it. But Brown Jenkins is not dead, and he has returned to Anne, so let's see what happens next.


THE POLITICS OF SALEM
'When you've tasted war, you'll know the difference between battles and ballads.'

With the Syrian refugee crisis happening at the moment, it's hard not to read a bit deeper into Salem and its own politics as a representation of the horrors of the real world. After all, we have someone want to clear town of 'heretic and refugee scum', and we have people like Anne who sympathise with the people who are brought into Salem after fleeing neighbouring villages. So has Salem gone a little political? Maybe. We also have Hathorne who, hilariously, says 'I could never let a woman control me like that' - so ironic. Hilarious to his own situation since he's now under Mercy's thumb. And the Devil, who is hard to differentiate from Trump, in all honesty. Of course, these are just some undertones and I don't think Salem is commenting on Trump at all, since this episode was written and filmed months and months ago, it's just the allegory that is hard to turn away from with present-day eyes.

Fleeing from that tangent then, John Alden takes a look at what is happening outside of Salem - something that a few of us weren't so clear on when we get the sense that something is happening, but until now, we never saw it. That huge bang and the red sky was terrifying, really heightened the hysteria of the situation and drew in all attention of the foreboding end of the world. It was great to see John take up the mission with the 'boy' from the previous episode, to develop him a little more, though I'm still unsure on how invested I am in him. I loved the touching moment when John is watching the body of his son play with the other children, and the melancholic sadness returns, showing he isn't quite over it. I also like the scene with him at the destroyed village and we see the French with the terrifying Indians, and those Angel Tears, that will help secure the Devil's master plan of framing the French when Salem succumbs to his power.


YOU GOT ME BEGGING YOU FOR MERCY
'Put that restored tongue to better use than talking.'

Mercy's story is a bit of a slow burn this season, and we've had 3 episodes of her contained to the brothel not doing an awful lot except abuse her power over other people. But I don't feel too discouraged by this. In drawing her story out little by little, we see how she is slowly gaining control over the people in Salem, and building her own little army of followers. It's admirable, and her power is becoming more distinct. She and Hathorne have the best scenes, to see the power play between them, and him being reduced to all fours, 'like a dog', was something to marvel at. We didn't like Hathorne in season 2, and he can be a pig and needs taught a lesson, but he is someone the people of Salem look to, and Mercy knows this. At the end of her scene, where it's implied she uses him to... do bad things to her... it made me realise she may just need the D. A girl has needs, after all.

And poor fornicator Isaac. That name will forever haunt him, but now we have a new meaning for the brand upon his forehead and, honestly, it's the sweetest thing EVER on Salem. My heart melted away when that little girl told him that F was for Fearless. Oh man. Salem does have rare moments of pure romance and love, but this is the first really cute moment that I can recall. She stole my heart this episode. Isaac is still on his mission against Mercy, which led to his beating up, and it was nice to give a shout-out to Dollie, whom I myself miss too. Poor Dollie. It continues Isaac's tragic tale but it's nice to see some hope where hope is somewhat lost. I wanted to see Marilyn Manson again this week, but looks like we will have to wait for some more CSI: Salem starring Isaac and Thomas.


EPISODE VERDICT

This episode was more about the guys of Salem, as Mary was mainly incarcerated, Tituba appeared briefly once, Mercy appeared once in her scene with Hathorne, and Anne - who appeared the most of the females - appeared mainly as Cotton's wife while he got the upper hand. I didn't mind the attention to the male characters, showing us that there is still more to them when the show is pretty female-centric. The Reckoning was a great moment to build to and provides a huge change for the remainder of the series should this stick. It will be amazing to see Mary overcome this stripping of her powers, as I truly believe in the power of woman and what she represents, so even though she was called a 'weak woman' at the end, I bet she will kick his ass even without her powers because she has more power in her identity alone than the elements she could control.

There is no new Salem next Wednesday, but it will be back in two weeks on November 30th. I'm going to start 'Salem Sundays' beginning November 27th with exclusive advance previews to the next new episodes of Salem, along with more goodies.


EPISODE AWARDS

Best Witch: Mercy Lewis! She shows she can control men who don't treat women right (anybody got a real life Mercy Lewis for Donald Trump?)

Best Gentleman: Cotton Mather. This was his episode to shine.

Best Spell: Not really a spell, but the Reckoning was a great magical moment.

Best Line: Little Girl: 'F for fearless'. Stole my heart!

Funniest Line: Hathorne: 'I could never let a woman control me like that.' Oh, the irony.

Creepiest Line(s): John Alden: 'There's nothing to bury here.'

Most Bewitching Chemistry: Mercy Lewis and Hathorne. Loved their scene together.

Best Moment: Mary's reckoning.

Best Romantic Moment: Not Romantic, but Sweetest Moment is when the Girl tells Isaac F is for Fearless. I'm sorry but I will repeat how much I love this touching moment.

Most Sickening Moment: Cotton pulling out Brown Jenkins. Ouch.

Funniest Moment: Cotton's stomach growling during the meeting.


What did you guys think of the third episode of 'Salem'? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to watch the next new episode, airing in TWO WEEKS on Wednesday, November 30th on WGN America at 9/8c.

TRAILER FOR THE NEXT SALEM



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