“Salem” recap (2.1): There’s a new witch in town

What say thee, Heathens? When we last saw Salem, the constant mention of the impending Grand Rite loomed with every full moon, eclipse and solstice. Finally, the Malum was unleashed, leaving Isaac dying in the woods, Increase Mather dead for good with Cotton on the loose, Mercy, the newly self-declared Queen of the Night wrangling a pack of townsgirls together to be her minions, and John Alden saved from a hanging by a pack of Indians. Mary discovers through Tituba that her son is alive after all—a nameless boy being held by the Elders for his own protection. But, what boy would need protecting from his own mother? Lest we forget, this is Mary Sibley. Welcome back to Salem, witches.

A man is chasing a boy through the marina down into the alleys of Salem, a door reads: Knocker’s Hole. A little kid tells the man not to go any further, but he does anyway. Inside, he sees horrific displays of what this so-called plague is doing to the townspeople. They look like they’re extras from The Walking Dead. A plague? The Grand Rite wouldn’t have anything to do with that, right? Mary (Janet Montgomery) is singing lullabies to her son—perched up in her manor, far away from the worst of the pox killing Salem folk by the wheel barrel. Tituba (Ashley Madekwe) interrupts and says it’s time for the boy to go back home. Mary calls the Elders “decrepit little shits in the woods.” The boy’s eyes start to roll back just then, and Mary realizes Tituba is causing him to be in pain. Tituba questions Mary’s priorities and if she’s still thinking about John Alden (Shane West). Well of course Mary’s thinking of John—their son sits before her and she can’t even have him. Tituba is basically like, “Look, you need to clique up, ASAP.” Mercy Lewis (Elise Eberle) has her girl gang, and Anne Hale (Tamzin Merchant) has just discovered she is a “Cradle Witch,” of the highest and oldest order. (And also killed her parents, including the silver fox of Salem man witches, the Magistrate.)

  SAL_201_892.cr2I’ll name you, eventually.  

Mary visits Petrus (Christopher Berry), the medicine man who hangs in the woods and he takes out his eyeballs to show her what’s happened to John Alden. His whole setup is super Lost Boys, which is a way better hang spot out there in the woods than Mercy’s dump pile—just saying. She sees fire, and death—John Alden is dead? In the next instance, we are peering through a giant dream catcher at a village by the water. It’s the Indians with John Alden—they’re telling him in their native tongue that they’ve shown Mary what they wanted her to see and blocked the witch’s visions.

Cut to the sexy Marilyn Manson Salem theme song.

At the dumpsite, Mercy is holding a tiny red bird, her body covered in dirt, her pixie cut looking as on-point as ever. Mary, in her royal garb as per usual, is paying a visit to Mercy for one last attempt to convince her she can be protected. “Forgive me, lady…” Mercy begins, sarcastically. See, Mary and Mercy have a weird sexual thing that we all (I) picked up on last season, and I still feel it, especially when Mercy says “lady” like so. Mary sees Mercy as this baby (dyke) witch that doesn’t yet know she can be away from the woods, the dead corpses, the grime and the night—but Mercy is the Queen of the Night, so call Whitney Houston and get the girl a bodyguard. (Who knew one could make a Bodyguard joke in a Salem recap?) The only way this arrangement will work—they only way Mercy will come back, is if she can be Mary’s equal. Mary scoffs at that idea. Mary grabs at Mercy’s throat, putting her in her place. That’s when Mercy’s army of girls arrive, (guess she doesn’t need protecting when she already has it!) tauntingly standing around the dumpsite to show Mary what’s up. They’re all in white nightgowns, as if they’re really supposed to be children, asleep in their warm beds—not out in the deep woods with Mercy Lewis running amuck. (“Amuck, amuck, amuck!”)

 SAL_201_1083.cr2 I like this crimson bird, ‘tis the color of blood.

We now know that Cotton (Seth Gabel) is in Boston (and that it’s October 1692). He’s meeting with what appear to be a team of investigators that are looking into the disappearance of his father, Increase. They ban Cotton from returning and limit him to the North Boston Church while this “witch panic” continues to boil over. Cotton tries explaining to them that the “war is on” but his mention of the Grand Rite sounds likes utter poppycock to them. Ah, fuck it. When you’re Cotton Mather you can call on a hooker before the night is through, and she won’t think twice when you scream “Gloriana.” Cotton, of course, is still haunted by what happened to his love Gloriana at the hands of Increase banishing her from Salem. No babe, no money in the world can replace Gloriana’s decadent, sexy romp like giggles nor her deep love of Cotton. Angered, Cotton tosses his drink at a painting of his father hanging in his chambers. The image is spooky. He screams and cuts through the eyes of the painting with a knife, thrashing with it as he brings it down onto the floor. Glad to see Cotton is doing so well.

Mercy’s girls are up to night crawling—luring men from the streets into the woods where they can do what they want with them. “Beggers don’t smile,” one man says to Mercy’s girl, assuming she’s a “whore” instead, because women don’t roam the streets of Salem past a certain hour. Once in the woods, where he thinks he’s getting laid, the girls chain him to a tree and Mercy arrives. He knows now that he’s in trouble, but Mercy doesn’t care what he does or who he tells. “What? Some crazy bitch stole your manhood?” She lops off his penis with a knife. (My girlfriend is watching with me and just asked, “What is she going to do with his wiener???” A legit question.) Did you know Lorena Bobbitt’s birthday is Halloween?

SAL_201_2243.cr2This evidence won’t stand up in court.

Anne Hale (nee Carrie White) is in a bath with the scalpel. She cuts her wrists and bleeds out. At last, she can die and leave this miserable witch world for good. Just kidding—girl, you can’t die. Mary walks in at that moment, “It’s in your life force,” she says coolly. Mary says Anne can turn her power inward—she basically gives her the same pep talk she once gave Mercy, which of course didn’t end well. Mary pushes her buttons, and the scalpel goes straight toward Mary’s head. “I can help you with that, too,” Mary says as if it’s no big deal. Mary’s off on a patriarchy rant again—cornering Anne into believing that if she is not protected by Mary, she’ll be subject to predatory men who want her name, her powers and her virginity. The way through, the way into people’s heads in Salem, is to put fear in their hearts and make them believe “the future of this land” is in jeopardy. Putting panic and paranoia into the people—the ways of Salem. Anne talks of the Devil, about those who’ve sold their souls to the Devil, but the Devil “they know,” Mary says, is not the same Devil she knows. Nothing is black and white, only grey, like the hair of the Elders who don’t yet know the fate that awaits them.

FEVER IN THE BLOOD would be a really great band name. Mary says this is Anne’s issue—she’s new to her witch powers, so the feverish, outward, intense feeling she has is akin to burning adolescence and True Blood vampire baby vibes. She just needs to be at the Meeting House, Mary says. And I can see why—now that Cotton, Increase, and the Magistrate are gone, Mary needs to take the lead, and the position is one she saw from the start. Three men down, one woman standing. Not everyone’s on board though. Mr. Walthorne talks about God and a world with a woman on top. He needs this town and this world to be led by men—by “select men” who must elect a new leader now, or be subject to Mary’s leadership, a WOMAN’s leadership. Well, one man objects to this inequality, and that’s new character, Dr. Samuel Wainwright (Stuart Townsend). He’s already got sex eyes for Mary—let’s get that out of the way.

SAL_202_1886.cr2  Select men in back, witchy woman in front.

He’d also love to take Mary on a walk to view the pox conditions, calling her the Queen Elizabeth of Salem as he does. He’s determined to find the root of the pox and kill it off. She tells him the situation is deep in the woods—which he says is “succulent,” seemingly turned on by her information. “Deep woods indeed,” he mutters as she walks away. Samuel, that wasn’t a euphemism for Mary’s broom closet, the Malum and Isaac and all the mess is really, literally deep in the woods! (He better investigate for himself.)

We now know that the dude talking to Cotton in the courthouse in Boston is Mr. Elliott. He’s working for Countess Marburg (Lucy Lawless), the newly anticipated addition to Salem. The countess is a German witch who is keen on knowing just who completed the Grand Rite anyway. The Countess has markings all over her back—but from what? She looks as if she’s been branded or scarred by a curse. As she gets out of the bath, she says she’ll no longer require Mr. Elliott to accompany her and her son to Salem, inviting him to stare at her naked bod. He obliges. But suddenly water is pouring out of his mouth. The tub behind her is draining. It’s as if the water from the tub is draining through Mr. Elliott’s mouth. He chokes, and chokes, falling to the floor as the tub hiccups one last gurgle of water down the tube. He’s dead—death by draining.

Finally, Dr. Samuel has brought Isaac back to Salem from the “deep woods” where he found him (AND the Malum, hidden in the tree.) Isaac is covered in weird dots and gives Mary a knowing glance. Mary cannot catch a break with these doctor-types trying to save everyone she’s trying to kill. Meanwhile, John Alden is undergoing the Indian ceremony they’ve been discussing all day—complete with feathers, oils, poking, cutting hair, burning things, tattooing, branding. Something is lodged into the back of his neck, blood covering his face as one of the tribe women licks the blood. Speaking of licks—back over yonder in the woods, Mercy Lewis has had it up to hear with the crone Elders and decides to stick her girl gang on ‘em. Hissing, the Elders spit at Mercy, who licks the black, tar-like saliva into her mouth.

2Salem2.5 Choke on it, I’m the Countess.

Inside the Sibley mansion, Mary and Tituba hear the commotion and race to the balcony to see. It’s the Elders—they’ve been killed. Even Mary’s son feels their death, as he writhes around. Mary’s son would like to be called John after his father, presumed dead—but secretly on the warpath, hell bent on getting back at Mary even though she’s probably more than happy to go to bone town for another romp in the hay with the Captain. Out on the Sibley front lawn, a message is emblazoned before them: WAR. The Elders are hanging in the square, fire roaring all around.

Theeeeeey’re back. Tell me what you thought of the Season 2 premiere of Salem below or tweet me @the_hoff! Sunday nights are witching nights. Tune in next week for an all new episode on WGN at 10/9 c.