Salem Episode 1×06 “The Red Rose & The Briar” Review

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Dirty Little Creatures – The Dead Are Out For Blood In This Week’s “Salem”…

Set aside your storybooks because this episode of Salem was far from a fairytale. With kings and toads and bugs and zombies, episode 1×06 was a creepy mix of past, present and worrying things to come. As Cotton and John make preparations with Saturn to interrogate their prisoner, Mary plots a way to dispose of Mercy despite admiring her potential prodigy. Meanwhile, Tituba battles with the green monster of jealousy and her feelings could have twisted the fates in the puritan’s favour. From hunters to the hunted, episode 1×06 “The Red Rose & the Briar” invoked a range of troubling emotions. Heathens, the darkness is waiting for us – let’s take a look at this episode of Salem shall we?

RELATED: Salem Episode 1×05 “Lies” Review

Some Begin in Ashes… I think my favourite aspect of this episode was the tender (albeit unsettling) way Mary took Mercy under her wing. To think I loved Janet Montgomery and Elise Eberle together last week, and yet this week the two were virtually unstoppable. Between Montgomery’s affectionate ministrations towards Mercy and Eberle’s childlike brokenness, we were tugged into their relationship despite multiple warning bells (as if Mary prowling after Mercy in the woods wasn’t enough to suggest that hey, maybe this witch thing isn’t a good idea. Oh well, power’s a desirable thing). Theirs is a fickle relationship, to say the least, but with Mercy embracing the witchy lifestyle (or was she coerced?) this opens an entirely new chapter of the Grand Right. It was also incredible to watch Mary grapple with her feelings towards Mercy – going from trying to kill her to sponging the dirt from her body – only to have Mercy decapitate Rose as a form of revenge. The twists and turns in this episode were extraordinary, to be sure, but the interactions between our witches were phenomenal – as are the similarities between Mary and Mercy. I, for one, can’t wait to see where their relationship takes us next.

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Mary: “The hard part’s not getting what you want child, the hard part’s knowing what you want.”

Dirty Little Creatures… It’s interesting that Tituba dubbed Mercy a “dirty little creature,” but I think George took the cake for dirty old man in this episode. They might have been flashbacks, but if we wanted another reason to loathe George Sibley then Mary’s painful recollections of their early days of marriage stoked the coals of that fire. But these memories served more than one purpose – they allowed us a rare insight into Mary’s regrets and struggles and also supplied the grounds for Tituba’s jealousy. As someone who had been with her through the worst stage of her life (even if she was using her for the Grand Right), it’s understandable Tituba would resent someone else taking her place as Mary’s confidante. To be fair, Tituba shouldn’t have expected much else after the way she treated Mary last week, but the flashback added another layer to their relationship we hadn’t seen before. Likewise, it was good to see Ashley Madekwe display Tituba’s fiery side and her reluctant acceptance of Mercy within their home (and as a fellow witch). Although Petrus gave Tituba a fair warning regarding her tumultuous feelings – lest they blind her to what is happening in Salem (which they already have) – it’ll be riveting to see whether she allows the green monster to control her. On a side note, the way the writers penned this history lesson was awesome too; having Mary recite it like a bedtime story with Mercy curled in her lap. It added a level to their characterisation that a simple narrative wouldn’t have, and for that I have to commend them. I’m definitely eager to learn more of Tituba and Mary’s linked past.

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Seer: “Only two kinds of creatures in the woods: the hunters and the hunted. Thank the boon we are what we are. At least for today.” 

Nothing Breaks the Heart Like Death… The darkness might be waiting for John and Cotton, but I’ll wager it embraced Rose with open arms (if she is, in fact, dead – and we know how death is an uncertain term in Salem). Honestly, the two should’ve known Rose was in control the second she insulted John’s mom (regular captives wouldn’t be so cavalier about such things), although the premise was fantastic. At first I shook my head in confusion – what the fuck does Saturn and dog piss have to do with interrogating a prisoner? – but Shane West and Seth Gabel were far too enjoyable to watch to worry about petty particulars. In any case, as soon as we wound up in the crag and Rose scrambled backwards up the tree like a dislocated puppet before slicing her wrists wide open, Cotton’s weird serum felt like moot point anyway. Hats off to Diane Salinger for wrecking havoc with our nerves in this episode; not every malicious cackle causes such disturbances in one’s heart and mind. That entire sequence – from Rose’s blackened irises to the raising of a hundred or more dead bodies – was quite literally, the most macabre scene Salem has displayed so far in this series and I bloody loved it. Kudos to the entire production team for crafting such disturbing television. While Rose is unerringly creepy in her own right, it’d be a shame to lose Salem’s greatest power player so early in the game – especially now that we know of her hand in the past and present events. Well, you never know – someone who contorts her body back into shape could have the ability to screw her head into place. I don’t think we should rule out Rose’s influence – or her ability to come back from the dead – just yet.

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Rose: “There is no part of all this – from your broken heart to the grand right itself – that I have not planned.”

It goes without saying that I loved this episode. As thought-provoking as it was creative, “The Red Rose & The Briar” took interrogation skills and bedtime stories to a whole new level. Writers Joe Menosky and Adam Simon teased the viewer with Rose’s nonplussed attitude and shifted the dynamic between Mary and the other witches in Salem. I was particularly impressed by the flashbacks to Mary’s time as George’s wife and submissive, as it expounded on her ferocity and tenacity (and rekindled our resentment towards Mr. Sibley, which – to be honest – had been waning over the last few episodes). Likewise, it was brilliant to watch Cotton and John bond over their mission (despite it failing miserably) and Shane West continues to solidify his presence next to Seth Gabel’s already memorable character. Director PJ Pesce proved his worth by terrifying the viewer in a rather extensive manner: with twisted limbs, blackened irises and putrefied zombies. However, his skill was also present in tender moments, such as when Mary sponged Mercy clean and uttered “You will never face hell again alone.” My biggest gripe – yet again – was Isaac’s absence, but with its gripping dialogue, eerie sets and palpable tension, “The Red Rose & The Briar” was Salem’s best episode to date. Heathens, I’m already salivating for more.

Questions, Comments, Concerns…

  • My my Tituba, your jealousy is showing. Careful you don’t turn green (even though it’s your colour).
  • I love that Rose called John and Cotton filthy pricks. Who cares about the spike in your leg and the fact you’re bleeding out all over the floor when you can insult your captors, right?
  • I MISS OUR FORNICATOR GAH. #COMEBACKISAAC
  • How dog piss turns into a paralytic, I still have no idea. #OhSalem #YourIdeasDisturbMe
  • Cotton’s got an affinity for brains. #FrankensteinInTheMaking?
  • We’re delving into mom jokes, Rose?! AW HELL NAW. #BichDeservedWhatSheGot
  • Love that Mary’s going to teach Mercy to read. Such a strange relationship they have.
  • Hale killed the first Mrs. Sibley! What a dog. He’ll get what’s coming to him, that’s for sure.
  • Mary went TWO YEARS with George treating her like that?! Okay I seriously don’t blame her for shoving a toad down his throat.
  • When the hag shed a bloody tear, I actually cried. What the fuck is that about writers? What are you doing to me? Since when do I care about wrinkled and warted old demons?
  • Tituba you crushed the seer’s little pet bug! That wasn’t very nice. How would you like it if he crushed your familiar, hmm?
  • I really don’t care about Anne, but I love that her mom knows about her father’s wicked ways. Shall be good to see where this storyline takes us.
  • How do you kill that which is already dead? I feel like this an appropriate question to ask with all the mangled limbs in this episode.
  • Would Mary really fall for John again?
  • We still liking Salem, heathens?

 

Salem Episode 1×07 “Our Own Private America” airs Sunday 1 JUNE at 10/9c on WGN America