Salem Episode 1×08 “Departures” Review

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Depravity, Drink, Perversions & Abominations – This Week’s Episode Of “Salem” Bent Its Knees & Bowed Its Head To Mather Senior

It wasn’t the tonic or the bums that caught our attention this week; rather, it was Reverend Increase Mather who demonstrated why we should fear and tremble before Salem‘s newest resident. Episode 1×08 “Departures” was a twisted display of fatherly guidance, as Cotton is reminded why he has major daddy issues. Meanwhile, Mary’s plan to protect her coven falls askew as George finds a way to escape, and control slides further from her grasp when Increase comes upon her husband. With the hunt for witches back on track and Increase on the prowl to rid the town of sin, nobody is safe in this week’s episode of Salem. So – let’s talk about Satan’s toxic nectar shall we?

RELATED | Salem Episode Review 1×07 – “Our Own Private America”

The Face of Sin

Who would’ve thought there would be someone we’d loathe more than George Sibley? And yet, Increase Mather makes it very easy to want to give him a turn in the dunking chair. Stephen Lang was the perfect choice for Salem’s “Resident Evil,” especially considering his chemistry with Seth Gabel. When you see the two of them together, it’s easy to imagine Cotton has grown up under the shadow of this tyrant and that he has judged his son repeatedly for – as Cotton so eloquently described – “What I am, and what I am not.” Likewise, this explains why Cotton’s witch-hunting has always been slightly unhinged – as if he’s been teetering on the edge of his father’s approval and he has no idea which move will earn him a smile or a slap. I liked the comments regarding Increase in this episode: “Part bully, part bloodhound,” “Inhuman,” but what I liked more was the way he lived up to them. Where we thought John’s visit might garner some sympathy from Increase towards his son’s choice in partner, instead he crafted an even greater punishment for Cotton’s indiscretions – banishing Gloriana from Salem forever. Death, while horrible, would have been a kindness in this circumstance. But to name and shame and exile? Downright brutal. For where will Gloriana go and what will she do? And Increase has made it so Cotton will blame himself for her fate, which only adds fuel to our hate fire. It’ll be interesting to see how this shifts Cotton’s already fractured relationship with his father, and whether he will fight back or simply lie down and submit to Increase’s wishes. If nothing else, this unearths another layer to Salem’s resident religious nutter and for that I’m grateful.

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Increase: “Selectmen of Salem – we’ve uncovered a witch.”

On The Road Again

First of all, it was fantastic to have our favorite fornicator back in on the action (even if there were none of his usual quips about sheep). Iddo Goldberg does frightened little minion so well, although Isaac contains a definite streak of defiance we shouldn’t be so hasty to ignore. Certainly his moral compass is endearing (if not a tad irritating – couldn’t you just let George die?), but there’s only so many times you can kick a beaten dog before he bites back… and we can’t say we’ll mind when he does. Speaking of George, bravo to Michael Mulheren for pretending to cut open his stomach and remain speechless (or gurgleful?) at the same time – that was undoubtedly impressive. Doubtlessly Mary’s intentions to send George far, far away were good, but perhaps she shouldn’t have underestimated the man who once held Salem firmly in a chokehold. Admittedly, she couldn’t have predicted the carriage would crash, but if we know anything about George it’s that he’s a wily sort; sure to use any situation to his advantage… and freedom is a wanton thing, even if it requires some self-mutilation to achieve it. Of course, the most exciting aspect of George’s temporary escape was not Petrus’s tonic but Increase’s chance to examine George for spells. What a way to tip the Grand Right on its head; to toss a wrench in Mary’s plans and change the game in the Puritan’s (or should I say Increase’s?) favor. How will Mary and Tituba extract their pawn from the enemy’s camp? With a 24-hour deadline this will surely generate some anxious excitement for next week’s episode. I, for one, can’t wait.

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John: “There’s no one in Salem unburdened by their past – not even me.”

Neither Sin Nor Sinner

Well golly Salem, if you wanted to rip out our hearts you didn’t have to do it quite so brutally. I never thought I’d mourn the loss of Cotton’s sex buddy – not to mention actually cry about her departure – but here I am, grabbing tissues by the handful. Azure Parsons did an exceptional job in this episode. From allowing Cotton to examine her body to screaming his name when Increase banished her, Parsons ensured her character would be remembered by Salem’s residents and viewers alike. Seeing her go from happy romping to tearful shaking in one episode was incredibly upsetting. Alas, we should have known Cotton’s happily ever after was out of reach, and when Mab accused Gloriana it became blindingly obvious why she was the only choice for the next witchy victim. I loved how plausible, tangible and painful Cotton’s reaction to Mab’s accusation was – in that moment, we knew how much he loved Gloriana and wanted to protect her. Increase might think it was just a fling between them, but Gloriana challenged Cotton to be a better man, and if that wasn’t enough, he stood up to his father to try to save her. I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Gloriana or Parsons’s beautiful hair, as it would be a shame for Salem to lose such a fantastic actress and hopeful character.

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John: “He’s insane.”

Cotton: “On a good day.”

This was a solid episode for Salem: exciting, game-changing and rife with promising character development. Writer Jon Feldman tied Increase Mather into the events with a neat yet poisonous bow, allowing us to appreciate the foreboding mystery of why a witch would be after his own kind. We were also treated to some excellent exchanges, particularly between Seth Gabel and Stephen Lang, and director Alexander Zakrzewski added to the twisted father-son dynamic by filming Cotton as he sprawled out on his bed in misery while his dad told him why “Father knows best.” The dunking chair scene was also splendidly done; the harsh lighting emphasized the almost savage way in which Mab was tortured. Similarly, Tituba launching Mary’s familiar into the air evoked a strange giddiness from me – I think because it was so unexpected. But what pushed this episode a step higher than last week’s was the way the characters stayed true to themselves: George, bleeding out in the forest yet still demanding Isaac fetch help; John, appealing to Increase’s fatherly instincts but selfishly refusing to rescue George; Cotton, pleading with his father to release Gloriana but examining her body for marks anyway. The only aspect of “Departures” I didn’t like was John’s sudden lip attack on Mary. Considering what happened between them mere days before, this felt forced and upsetting rather than exhilarating. But on the whole, this episode challenged the fates and turned the game in an entirely new direction – leaving the viewer with the knowledge that no one is safe while Increase is in town. The tempo of action in Salem is slowly rising, and I can only imagine what awaits us in the weeks to come.

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Questions, Comments, Concerns…

  • Can we again just appreciate that Increase is a witch?! Talk about turning against your own. What game is he playing? Who is he in league with? It’s rather thrilling don’t you think?
  • I had to laugh when Cotton hid underneath the bed. Beds = protecting us from parental wrath since forever.
  • I never thought “Bible” could sound so frightening, and yet Increase Mather makes it so. #WheresHolyWaterWhenYouNeedIt
  • Anne is still incredibly annoying, but I liked her sass at the dinner table in this episode. Ah Hale, when will you learn – children notice everything.
  • Apparently desperation can lead you to do crazy things, like cut a toad from your stomach with a piece of broken carriage. Yikes, I might hate George but that took gumption. #SelfMutilationMuch?
  • Don’t you just love Petrus and his ever-changing mohawk?
  • All those in favor of dubbing Increase an asshole, please say aye. AYE.
  • RIP Mab, soz you had to ingest that little black pill. Although, like Tituba said, you were stupid to “leave your craft” out for all the world to see. Witches these days, sheesh. They never learn.
  • Mighty broken over Gloriana’s exile. Will she return? How will this change Cotton? For the better, or for the worse?
  • Obsessed with Tituba’s hooded cloak. Let’s bring that into fashion.
  • Kinda missed Mercy in this episode, but Isaac’s return made it bearable.
  • *awaits nightmares regarding dunking chair*
  • So, who’s excited for next week?

Salem Episode 1×09 “Children Be Afraid” airs Sunday 15 JUNE at 10/9c on WGN America