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Salem - The Witch is Back - Review: "But Which Witch is Back?"

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Directed by Nick Copus
Written by Adam Simon
Reviewed by Gavin Hetherington


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 Witch Is Back' was written by co-creator Adam Simon, and his work on the show needs no introduction. He constantly writes some of the best episodes in the show, and this one was no exception. Directed by the wonderful Nick Copus, the fifth episode of the third season feels like a triumphant return for Mary. Not just that, but I can feel the storylines just beautifully stitching up and there isn't any sign of a slow burn, despite only being in the middle of the season. So many thoughts on this episode.

"I got to meet my hero."

A concern from the last episode was that John's story was more an 'afterthought' and that it really didn't hold much compared to the bigger plots of other characters. This episode we got a little bit more, starting out with a fight with John and Billy against the Indians. I'm glad we started out this way - 3 minutes in and we see Billy stabbed through the back! Wasn't expecting such a fatal attack to occur for a character we barely know! It only provided John with a little more agency as he takes Billy away from the camp to somewhere more remote so he, or should I say she, can carry out her last moments alive. I liked the backstory of Billy and it makes more sense now of why she got so close to John in the first place as it did seem odd. Though I would have liked some more time to grow attached, I didn't feel too bothered by the death. I mean, it came out of nowhere and it shocked me initially, but this was all of John Alden's story for this episode, and after the last episode where he really didn't have much screen time, it felt similar here.

I almost thought that Mercy was a goner too - her Caesar moment of her men turning on her and stabbing her so incessantly was another big shock that happened in the first half of the episode. Isaac really put a kink her plans! I liked having Mercy away from her birds nest just like in the last episode, and now she doesn't have control over the men anymore, it's more exciting to see what she can do next now she's more vulnerable. Her stabbing scene was so brutal considering it was in public - seriously the people of Salem could not give a shit if people are murdered right in front of them, they are the most unhelpful community ever. I loved this scene, very dramatic. I wondered how she could come back from that, and it was answered in this episode. Hathorne rejects his freedom and Mercy's girls come through for her due to their loyalty. It's so sweet that they would slash their wrists to give Mercy their blood, just so she didn't have to take it. I know some people don't like Mercy, but she's been a pretty good mother figure to these girls, to the point where she doesn't need to force them to give her their blood. She has a lot of influence.

"Toys are meant to be played with."

When I saw the guest star name after the opening credits - Azure Parsons - I knew Gloriana would be back; I just didn't anticipate how she would come back (There's another acting credit that got me so excited but I will explain that in a bit). When Cotton gives himself up to the Devil and saves Anne to protect his child, I started to have feels for this couple again. They've went through utter hell together, and Anne has done unforgivable things to Cotton, but I feel like the characterisation of both are so complex and so brilliantly executed that I still feel progress with these two. I also got more of a hint of season 1 Anne again, like she was returning to her good self after suffering at the hands of the Devil. The pair have come to a mutual understanding of one another with the promise of a baby to protect... but huge spanner in the works! The baby Cotton saw in the vision is not the 'Hope' he pictured with Anne, but with, gasp, Gloriana. I've wanted her to return for such a long time now, and she couldn't have come at a worse time (which makes it all the better). I loved Anne's scenes with Cotton and how genuine they were, after all that's happened, there's still an underlining of love and pain. Gloriana coming back pregnant ready to pop was greatly timed, and revealing Cotton's name as the father was heartbreaking to watch Anne's face.

Cotton still has a pretty big storyline outside of his domestic sphere with Anne and his upcoming child. He's been given a pivotal job - to be the Moses, the scrivener of the Devil's story and his side of the rebellion. It meant Cotton spent this episode confined to the Sibley household. One moment I absolutely loved was when he was discussing God with the Sentinel, as I can tell the influence of Milton's Paradise Lost has had over this season. The idea of the tyrannical God and that their rebellion was just is a great way of embedding the literary legacy of Milton. Another moment I loved was when he could hear the voices from behind the door (I thought he would see Gloriana here like how Mary saw Rebecca Nurse in the previous episode. Instead he saw himself like a Jesus figure on an upside-down cross, his eyes bleeding as he sees it. Beautiful, painful imagery and its ties to religion and the subversion of it really elevates this episode (and Salem in general as it is so in depth and thought out). I like the idea of Mary and Cotton being the only two parts of hope that the town, and the world, has of stopping the Devil. I was hoping Tituba would be part of that, but as she shows us, she is not to be trusted...

"I have resurrected and delivered Mary Sibley to you."

I won't lie, I'm hoping Tituba will surprise us still and be the Snape of Salem, but there's always times when we have to doubt what she is actually doing and whose side she is on. There's typically an inherent selfishness of personal gain as a theme of the show, and Tituba is one character who exemplifies it. And still, I love her. She had us all fooled; the scene with the Essex witches and the 'see what I saw' vision was so exciting. The spell was well done and rather gruesome (though definitely more tame than what we are used to). It makes sense too since she did deliver Mary to Satan, and she did save Cotton to send him to Anne, knowing he'd be returning to Satan. She's a clever little witch, that's for sure. The reveal of her betrayal was epic at the end and so nicely done. Had she not made it look like someone else, I wouldn't have been as surprised by the end, but I was. I still hope that all of this is for the greater good, and that Tituba has chosen her side, she's just far more sneaky about what game she is playing.

I'm going to break Mary's story in two parts - and the first of which I am freaking out over. I'm freaking out over both, but this one more so. So as the credits came on at the bottom of the screen, a little name just caught my attention as a Special Guest Star. LUCY frickin' LAWLESS!! I wasn't sure in what way she would be back, but oh my, just hearing her voice on this show again just made my life. Her seductive tone just transported me back to season 2 and reminded me how much I loved her as a villain. While I would love to see her in full body, just hearing her voice was enough for me. It also made me miss the mother/son dynamic she had with Sebastian. I loved his scenes with her and their general banter about Mary, along with some zingers from the Countess herself. The moment where had to feed her Mary's blood, and he's about to pour it in, and she's like 'no, with your lips' - that was awesome. Now she's been fed some of her blood, I wonder just how we take this.

The other huge part for Mary is the Devil's plan for her. I find it hard to believe that Satan - who is as cunning as a serpent (see what I did there) - would only hold onto Mary because she is his host body's mother. Mary, as she begs him, learns she does have a reason to live, and that's to be both his mother and wife. As they say, behind every great man there has to be a great woman. Mary is so good at manipulation that even the original manipulator himself is being manipulated. It's nice to see that Mary is still as strong as ever even after her painful Reckoning, leading to the idea that she doesn't need her powers to be the an all-powerful anti-hero, who is now perhaps just a straight-up hero despite her past. She really is Queen of the entire Universe and I love how she has pitted the Sentinel and Satan against each other. Mary's scene with the Sentinel and telling him that she relates to him because he hides compassion and exploits his pain and suffering just as Lucifer did in Lord Byron's Cain. It's also great to see Mary look the part again at the end too, so Sebastian does have his uses.

"Murder is a fine art."

Finally, we have the Sweeney Todd of Salem come out of hiding. If we weren't already told that he would be a killer barber of sorts, I would have totally been shocked by how he dispatched of Treasurer Putnam. Another brutal action in Salem as people outside were too oblivious to see or care. I do like Marilyn Manson in this role and I'm unsure on where he's going to take it. He's devoted to the Dark Lord, but I don't think he is a witch or anything like that. It's going to be interested to see if Isaac will catch wind of this since he is basically the sniffer dog of Salem. Anyway, this was a very sadistic scene, especially Thomas' speech to Sebastian that murder is a fine art. He totally pulls that off - his almost vacant stare is satanic and void of humanity, yet it's juxtaposed with sausages and meat pie. He's an odd fellow and I love it. Maybe now we have seen his first murder, he will be more prominent, and we will have more scenes with Isaac.


I can't say a bad word about this episode other than John Alden's story was not as interesting as the others. I am excited to see how Tituba's betrayal will play out, as well as how the Devil's plans are going to work. Anne is going to have her hands full with Gloriana, and I love how the name of the episode could relate to four characters: Mary, for she is regaining her inner strength and methods of manipulation to play those around her; Anne, and how there were moments she returned to her season one self; Gloriana, though she is not a witch, she was exiled from Salem for being one by Increase Mather, and so the 'witch' is back; or the Countess Marburg, whose brilliant vocal cameo just breathed more excitement in me. Loved this episode yet again!


Best Witch: Mary Sibley.

Best Gentleman: Cotton Mather.

Best Spell: 'Branches of birth on the tree of life, leaves of desire and bark of strife. Roots of the Sun, roots of the Moon. Heed our call, bring this traitor's doom.'

Best Line: 'You'll not be the Queen of Salem, but of the Universe' - the Devil.

Funniest Line: 'I could make love better as a corpse than you in your prime' - Countess Marburg. Also: 'You've seen the very face of God?' - Cotton. 'And his arse, it wasn't always easy to tell them apart' - Sentinel.

Creepiest Line(s): 'There's one thing that can stop you' - Thomas.

Most Bewitching Chemistry: Really fascinated by Mercy and Hathorne in this episode.

Best Moment: Tituba is revealed to be the traitor.

Best Romantic Moment: When Hathorne rejects his freedom from Mercy.

Most Sickening Moment: The branches pierce through the male witch's face.

Funniest Moment: Cotton's and the Sentinel's talk about God.

Weirdest Moment: Sebastian kissing the body of the Countess.

What did you guys think of the fifth episode of 'Salem'? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to watch the next new episode, airing on Wednesday, December 14th on WGN America at 9/8c.

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