“Salem” recap (1.12): Ashes to Ashes

While Mercy traipses through the dark woods far away from town, she witlessly coddles innocent victims left in the dump pile—Salem townspeople that died and were apparently not good enough for the church to bury under a stone. Mary comes to tell her that everything is about to change once again—flashing her the Malum.


Cotton Mather is back in his right place, studying and documenting his own theories about the Malum. For as long as he can remember, people have read “Malum est aperta” as “death is beginning.” But now he knows better, because Malum, while it means death, also means apple. Now he knows its true meaning: The apple is opening. Yes, the evil fruit needs five more deaths before it can carry out the Grand Rite at moonrise.


Mercy visits her girls, shackled in Increase Mather’s shop of horrors where he continues to torture them. She says their queen of the night (also known as Mary) is webbing a perfect design, and they must deal with this just a little bit longer until the trial, where they should speak out against John Alden, who still stands to be killed after the accusation by Tituba that he is a witch. However, what no one knows is that Anne Hale is a newly crowned witch. She appears at Cotton’s in the middle of the night, asking for an examination, because, yes, when you’re a witch, a simple physical exam will do. “The mark of the Devil” is supposedly a sign on one’s body of witchery. While he examines her, we see her eyes flicker red and a serpent tongue emerge from her mouth in ecstasy. But no, Cotton doesn’t find any sign of the Devil.


Trial begins for John Alden, and when Cotton steps up, he questions the girls who are following Mercy’s orders, brings out that gross rape device that Increase used on Tituba, and tries to turn this entire circus of events around so that John Alden is seen as innocent, and his own father is seen as the actual harm. By the way, I wouldn’t trust anyone who had blue hands, either. Increase has shown his son (who for all these years didn’t know his father’s hands were burned blue) what’s become of his hands after strangling a six-year-old who was possessed by the Devil. He’s touched hell, which explains his hellish antics.

To be blunt, with only two episodes of Salem left, shit is getting so real. It’s the middle of the night and Cotton and Increase go in search of this elusive Malum at John Alden’s house. They tear the place up and when they don’t find it, Cotton asks John Alden where it could be. Giles Corey’s grave, he says, but we all know it’s since been removed from that grave and is back in Mary’s hands. The haggy crones in the woods are all quite pleased with Mary’s work so far — they appreciate the major fact that she hasn’t turned against them to save her love, John Alden. Instead, she’s remained quiet, to protect herself and all the witches. But something tells me that won’t stay that way for long — Mary wouldn’t let John Alden die.


Mercy’s girls are brought to the town square in the middle of the night to be hung. The town is in an uproar, egging on Increase’s big show. John Alden and Cotton scream out to stop this — and one of the girls runs over to John Alden and hands him something, apologizing for having said he basically raped all of them. Then, Increase rattles off what therapists would call a heaping pile of projecting, describing the malicious, evil intentions that must be cast out of Salem. Well, mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most evil of them all? Increase Mather!

The four girls are hanged, but a fifth girl has been hiding this entire time they’ve been locked up at Increase’s — and she runs to the woods to tell Mercy of what’s happened. Mercy instructs her to gather the poor and suffering people of Salem — they will be their new army. Or will they? Now that four are dead, does this mean only one other death is needed to complete the Grand Rite? And will that death be John Alden’s?


Cotton isn’t sure what to believe anymore — especially since John Alden hasn’t denied that he killed his own people while working with the Indians. But when he tells Cotton the real story, of how they saved his life, we see that one of the Indian women gave John Alden the other half of that same token he was given by one of Mercy’s girls before she was hanged. What do you think this all about?

Isaac pays a visit to Mary to lift her spirits. Mary’s never looked weaker. Her lips aren’t even glossed as usual. But perhaps something Isaac said will ring a bell with her. He calls her “Magic Mary.” Magic? Her eyes light up. (Better than hearing you’re “Magic Mike,” I suppose.) Ugh, for crying out loud — is she going to put a stop to John Alden’s death?


John Alden awakens in his cell to find Mary standing there. He wonders how the hell she passed through barbed wire and stone to get to him. “Its over,” he tries telling her. But she professes she knows a way out. They begin to kiss and when they open their eyes, John Alden finds himself standing in the woods with Magic Mary. She’s exposed herself, and the witches, and now, there’s little time until the morning surprise Increase will face when he sees his scapegoat is not in his cell where he waits to be hanged.


Will Mercy successfully recruit an army in time? Will both Mather men be standing by the end of the season? Does Anne Hale have the faintest clue that she’s powerfully witchy yet? Maybe she is the real snake hiding in the grass. Most importantly, what will become of Mary and John Alden? Next week — the apple opens.