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Salem - Night's Black Agents - Review: "Without Magic in a House of Dark Secrets"


3.04 - "NIGHT'S BLACK AGENTS"
Directed by Joe Dante
Written by Joe Menosky and Donna Thorland
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




'NIGHT'S BLACK AGENTS' REVIEW

Last night's Salem episode returned after a week off, and after we ended the third episode with the pivotal moment of Mary losing her powers, it was a rather excruciating wait. Night's Black Angels was written by Joe Menosky and Donna Thorland, and it was their first co-credit together, while they've both co-wrote episodes with other writers on the show in season 2. Many big developments that occurred in the previous episode carried over here.


COTTON'S REBELLION
'Cotton, time to come home.'

At the end of the last episode, Cotton managed to free himself of the familiar and run away - but a lot of us thought he wouldn't get far. He actually got further than we thought, though him getting away from Salem was something that was never going to happen. Opening the episode with Anne's induced visions of herself to him was a great way to kick the episode off. Anne has to deal with losing her power over Cotton that showed just how dependent she is on him. Her own safety depends on his obedience, which is something we feel conflicted about - we have two characters at odds here, yet both rely on the other to survive. And Anne is always super creepy when she appears to Cotton, like in that dream from a few episodes back. That's a side to Anne that is truly scary.

It seemed that Mr. and Mrs. Stoughton would be Cotton's saving grace when they found him in the woods, but alas, I was pleasantly shocked by their affiliation with the Dark Lord. The troubles Cotton was enduring exemplified dramatically, his trust in them abolished like his trust in a lot of people, and while it was a terrifying situation, I found the couple to be rather comical. Their interactions were airy with a sinister undertone, so maybe I found them funnier than I maybe should have, but there was no denying the bickering between them was something to laugh at. Their domestic issue of her 'cooking' while she jumped to conclusions about what her husband implied led to their downfall. Throwing the dog in the fireplace mixed me up a little - I love dogs, but at the same time, it was a familiar, and Cotton's track record with familiars has been terrible thus far.

Tituba turns out to be Cotton's saviour, and fortunately we see Tituba in a role she was destined to be in from the start of the season. Her persona has shifted from being Mary's maid in season 2 who has to wipe bird shit from the linen, to the one saving people's asses. She saved Mary. Now she's saved Cotton. Her power is increasing, and her presence dominates whenever she is on the screen. I loved her scene with Cotton in her shack, where she tells him that he is soon to be a father. 'Your love still sleeps like we all once slept in our mother's womb'. Cotton's confirmation that he loved no one in Salem anymore shows his love for Anne is well and truly dead, but you know what they say about bringing children into a family unit - it could very well bring parents together again. This could be the turn of the screw that will eventually lead to Anne's and Cotton's reunion of true love, but who can say that for sure, when so much has happened. Maybe Cotton will see the victimisation of Anne from the Dark Lord, and having him write his name in her blood looked painful, maybe he will see from her point of view.


WHY SO ANAL
'What astonishing powers you have.'

Please tell me I am not the only one who was absolutely baffled and grossed out by the sex scene between Mercy and Hathorne? I mean it's hilarious that Hathorne is now in a position where he is being screwed up the ass by a woman after being the man so proud of his own manliness, that the literal penetration was just amazingly ironic. Such a weird scene, but it has awed me, and that's just one of the great reasons this episode was another great one. I am loving the dynamic between Mercy and Hathorne, I'm sort of glad they've found each other. They propel the other forward, and Mercy already is fruitful, but she wants more power, and that's something Hathorne can give her. I also like the call back to the scene in season 2 where Mercy and her girls take off the man's penis and replace it with the head of a raven. She keeps their manhood and uses that as power over them. To be honest, it makes total sense - anybody who holds a man's junk in their hands really does have power over them.

I could pretty much sum the other characters up in a paragraph (apart from Mary who I will get to). Isaac got a little closer to that darling little girl from the episode before, Dorcas, and I think it would be amazing if he sort of adopted her as his own, someone he needs to protect after failing Dollie. He is getting closer to Mercy too, watching from afar, though who knows what will happen with him next. John saved that boy from the French, and I feel awful for still not knowing his name. Was it ever mentioned? I can't tell. But anyway, John Alden really was a fleeting character in this episode, though the coming of Indians at the end was chilling and will hopefully give John more screen time in the next episode.


SINS OF MARY'S PAST
'You are you again.'

The aftermath of Mary's reckoning was what I was looking forward to the most after the week break. It made the wait more unbearable not knowing what kind of person she would become. Fortunately, the best possible scenario - she is back to being the kick-ass Mary she always has been. I mean, the start of her story in this episode seemed desolate and it appeared as though she had been defeated - imaginary bugs crawled all over her, poetry hurt her ears, and she heard voices that terrorised and tormented her. I loved that we were brought back to the Salem Witch Trials and what Mary had done to all those innocent people who died, going further into her psyche and guilt that appears to tear her apart. Rebecca Nurse was a good choice, as she is one of the most famous victims of the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. I was hoping to see more of this, but the one was enough to torture Mary enough, to seemingly the edge of suicide.

The Sentinel played a good role in this and it highlighted more of his character in the scene with Mary on the balcony. We always see him as the Devil's puppet, but the bitter resentment that he does not have free will like those he victimises does have an effect on him. It could definitely be the crux to his undoing, as some defiance can be seen in those sinister eyes. Yet he cannot do anything to anger the Devil, and Mary knew that, so in a scene that showed us she is truly not to be messed with - even without powers - had me punching the air. While I was worried for a moment that she would jump, especially after the guilt trip shown in the past, I was relieved to see her fight back and show the Sentinel his own weakness in the process. Mary truly does have her powers still, as that of a woman of knowledge, and maybe knowledge will be the ultimate power in the end.

EPISODE VERDICT

Another solid outing of Salem, a show I truly missed last week when it took its break. I hope we do not suffer another one as we head towards Christmas. An episode with some truly bizarre scenes in Mercy's and Hathorne's sex scene, and some comical insanity in the Stoughton household, I found pleasure in Mary's, Tituba's and Cotton's scenes especially. Not my all-time favourite episode, but still a good one nonetheless.


EPISODE AWARDS

Best Witch: Tituba.

Best Gentleman: Cotton.

Best Spell: No spells.

Best Line: Mary: "Hell hath no fury like this woman scorned."

Funniest Line: Mrs. Stoughton: "She's just been biting your father's burning balls in Hell."

Creepiest Line(s): Sebastian: "You are without magic in a house full of dark secrets."

Most Bewitching Chemistry: Mr. and Mrs. Stoughton - they were a very comical and bizarre couple.

Best Moment: Mary refuses to jump and reverses the Sentinel's psychology.

Best Romantic Moment: None.

Most Sickening Moment: Tituba pulling the rabbit from the wolf's stomach.

Funniest Moment: The bickering between Mr. and Mrs. Stoughton.

Weirdest Moment: Mercy's and Hawthorne's sex scene.


What did you guys think of the fourth episode of 'Salem'? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to watch the next new episode, airing on Wednesday, December 7th on WGN America at 9/8c.



WRITERS' WRAP



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