Salem Episode 1×09 “Children, Be Afraid” Review

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Jealousy, Cretins, Minions & Betrayal – Events Took A Nasty Turn In This Week’s Episode of “Salem”…

They say the worst kind of betrayal is from within, and this week’s episode of Salem proved just that: Mary’s kindness may have cost her the life of her closest friend. As Increase frightens the town with further accusations of witchy intent, Cotton reels over the loss of his girl Gloriana and Mary desperately tries to silence George once and for all. Meanwhile, John gets in touch with his inner social worker and Isaac takes a stand for what he believes is right. Episode 1×09 “Children, Be Afraid” was a compilation of deadly revenge, unspeakable treachery and cold-blooded murder – sprinkled with a dash of charity. So heathens, shall we talk about it then?

RELATED | Salem Episode 1×08 “Departures” Review

Lest The Devil Be Your Bedfellow

Nothing like a cracked neck to go with your morning coffee, eh? If we thought Increase Mather was sadistic before, then clearly we’d seen nothing yet. Stringing up a dead body and pretending it’s alive before snapping it’s neck in front of the entire town – just to prove a point – was downright insane. It does make you wonder if there is a line Increase wouldn’t cross, or if he’d no sooner sacrifice his son if it served the greater good. Undoubtedly Stephen Lang was the highlight of this episode: from teasing Isaac with tales of his fame to giving Cotton a marital history lesson. I was particularly impressed with the father-son similarities Lang showcased this week; like when Increase addressed Mary with “malady” and the tone of his voice mirrored Seth Gabel’s from episodes past. There was also something quite formidable about Increase’s gentler moments – as with Isaac and Cotton – where you could easily imagine his words were laced with poison rather than honey. Similarly, Increase’s presence in George’s dream-state was also perturbing, and it reinforced what Mary had said about facing an equal opponent. Honestly, it does my head in when I start thinking about not only the town’s reaction to Increase’s witchy intent but Cotton and Mary’s surprise (and I’d imagine disgust) when they learn of his true nature. What is that man’s game? Who is he helping, or is he only out for himself? His mention of Cotton’s mother seemed to indicate a deeper level to his character and motivation than a simple zest for power, but there are too many things about Increase that we don’t know… and this makes him a more terrifying individual than even Cotton believes him to be. Frankly, we should all watch our backs where Mather Sr is involved.

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Increase: “George is not ill. He is under the influence of the Devil’s darkest tool – a witch’s spell.”

You Don’t Mess With Mercy’s Minions

Errm, when exactly did Mercy become such a manipulative little bitch? I never would’ve thought (and clearly Mary didn’t either) that the girl who trembled in fear and hung from a cross in bloody servitude would generate her own cult of followers and betray the one person who recognized her potential and effectively saved her life (or damned her to hell, depending on how you look at it). To be fair, Mercy probably figured she was helping Mary by sealing George’s mouth shut and shifting Salem’s focus away from her mentor… not ripping her away from her closest friend and ally and inconveniencing the Grand Right even further. Still, this once-frightened little girl has evolved into a feisty young witch – who apparently doesn’t take kindly to being called a she-dog. Although speaking of Mercy’s minions – there was something assuredly disconcerting about the way they tore apart Emily’s father; as if it was Christmas Day and they were merely unwrapping a present and tossing the wrapping paper over their shoulders (except in this case, the wrapping paper was body parts). I’m not one to shy away from Salem’s macabre side, but even I cringed at the sound of his cracking bones. That Mercy should contain such power and control is rather worrying, even if her intentions were good. Nevertheless, I’ve grown rather fond of Elise Eberle’s character, unhinged or otherwise. Despite the devil within, there’s still a childlike innocence to her actions – like when Mercy laid eyes on her father yet scurried away when Mary said to go in the house. While there’s no denying Tituba and Mary’s history and friendship, Mercy and Mary have something akin to a mother-daughter relationship, and as such, their bond is somewhat stronger. It makes you wonder – will Mary save her friend and punish Mercy? Or will she let Tituba burn and have Mercy take her place?

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Increase: “Her charity binds you to her bidding.”

Isaac The… Failure?

I’ll be honest, Isaac surprised me in this episode. While the rest of the town cowered behind closed doors, Isaac the Neighborhood Friendly Fornicator was blatantly defying Salem’s newest and scariest resident. Of course, his actions were adhering to Mary’s subtle manipulation, but Isaac could hardly be expected to know of Mrs Sibley’s witchy ways (better men have succumbed to her wishes, as we know). His strength of character and moral compass could not be bought by Increase’s praise – just as his small act of rebellion was like reclaiming the dignity that was stolen from him by all of Salem and its Puritans. He had to know that by disobeying Increase the likes of hell would be visited upon him (admittedly, if that spidey familiar hadn’t shown up to weave its golden web then Isaac would probs be rotting in the crag right about now), yet he did it anyway. For that he should be commended. As for Iddo Goldberg, it was refreshing to see him and his character in a new light. Even when Increase was saying “Head up, head up” repeatedly, there was something to that statement which resonated with us as viewers. It’s as if the beaten dog we know Isaac to be had finally bitten back, and as such, he caught and held our attention. What will Isaac do next? For once, we have no idea. Increase might have dubbed Isaac a cretinous failure, but I’d say his actions were closer to heroic rather than idiotic in this episode. I’m looking forward to whether Isaac runs with his new-found liberation – or, sadly, runs back to Mary or Increase with his tail between his legs. For Isaac’s sake (and ours), I hope it’s the former.

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Mary: “With him alive, I can speak through him. A puppet to parrot his wishes and thoughts. But dead, he is useless and I am without power.”

There were a lot of truly intriguing twists in this episode (not the least of which being Mercy’s betrayal), and as a whole “Children, Be Afraid” was a solid display of character development, parental dynamics and the pitfalls of jealousy. Writers Liz Sarnoff and Tricia Small (who also penned “Lies,” one of the better episodes of this season) gave viewers not only the desire to watch another episode but the need for it. They effectively gift-wrapped Pandora’s Box and placed it on Mary’s doorstep with a note attached saying “The only way to save your friend is to open this but when you do all hell’s going to break loose.” For now that Tituba is imprisoned, Mercy has her own following (and her own agenda) and the Elders are trying alternate methods of control, Mary is left with no one to trust and potentially no way out of this mess. Her situation – while disastrous – makes for substantially riveting television. On the down side, I wasn’t overly fussed by Anne and John’s charity work, however the time spent with Stephen did reveal some measure of “good” in Shane West’s character and added a rather endearing quality to an episode otherwise laced with malice and ill will. Likewise, Mary’s glance upon the whole scene gave her another reason to love John and thus, question her loyalty to the Elders and her dedication to the Grand Right. But my highest commendation goes to director David Grossman for his skill in retaining the feel of this episode; from Increase bellowing out warnings to the people of Salem while hoisting Mab’s dead body into a hangman’s noose; to Cotton’s heartbreaking walk from the whorehouse to the bar clutching a piece of Gloriana’s dress; to Tituba’s familiar as it webbed George’s throat (while Increase tore shreds from Isaac in the same room). The bitter taste of these distressing events I can only attribute to Grossman’s camera work and his ability to thrust the viewer in Mary’s shoes or tremble at the sight of Increase. Admittedly, the entire cast rose to the occasion with this episode: Iddo Goldberg with Isaac’s small act of defiance; Janet Montgomery with Mary’s fluctuating emotions; Ashley Madekwe with Tituba’s fury and jealousy. As this series continues I find myself eager to see and learn more about these characters, and “Children, Be Afraid” only contributed to that desire. Excellent work cast and crew – heathens, I’m ready for next week now.

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Questions, Comments, Concerns…

  • Okay, remind me never to piss off Increase Mather (even in death). I like my neck the way it is thank you very much. #IAintNoChicken
  • It was nice for a change to swap the phrase “Poor Isaac” for “YEAH go Isaac!” #AttaBoy #YouTellThatIncreaseToShoveIt
  • You know it’s going to be a bad day when your BFF lets the town arrest you for witchcraft. Bitches be like, “You ain’t what I need no more doll.” #FriendshipIsHard
  • Girls, you can’t just kill your fathers when they want to sell you to a whorehouse. Sigh. Young witches. When will they learn?
  • Speaking of Mercy’s minions, um, HOW did they tear Em’s father apart with their bare hands? Are we breeding evil villains here that I wasn’t aware of?
  • Proclamations of love unrequited are always brutal – especially when the lady you love responds with: “Oh and I wish to God you didn’t.” #Ouch #Burn #SozTituba
  • The Elders still give me the heebie jeebies. ‘Nuff said.
  • RE the Elders: What did they mean when they said, “We have everything we need to control you”? Were they talking about Mary’s love for John? Mercy? Tituba? Increase? Or something else entirely?
  • A bit of shirtless Shane West never goes astray. Thanks writers. #Love
  • While Anne’s fondness for John is weird, I think his affection for her is weirder. Boy, don’t be no cradle snatcher.
  • Georgie Porgie, can’t get a break can you? So close to freedom and then – voila! Your throat gets webbed. That sucks balls man.
  • Mary’s little temper tantrum was a bit fun. I wonder what that was like to film. “Here Janet, throw some stuff around. It’s great anger management.”
  • Soo, did Mercy somehow control Tituba’s familiar and web George’s throat? Or did Tituba do that but Mercy saw an opportunity to accuse her and took it?
  • How ready are you for next week heathens?!

Salem Episode 1×10 “The House of Pain” airs Sunday 22 JUNE at 10/9c on WGN America