Salem Episode 1×11 “Cat and Mouse” Review
Fantastic character development for Magistrate Hale and Anne, as well as Cotton and Increase. Shane West also had a good week standing up to Janet Montgomery (even if his stint was brief). Mercy's slightly unhinged antics were enjoyable, as was Georgie Porgie's sudden appearance (despite wanting to spit right back in his face).
No Tituba. Even though we'd had a good dose of her last week, every other character in Salem had a stint in this episode. It seemed lacking not to have her around. Mrs Hale still lacks convincing sincerity (I would have preferred Tituba in her place). Also, not nearly as much of Salem's usual creep and gore.
Gods & Devils – It Was A Day Of Reckoning For Some Of Salem’s Key Residents In This Week’s Episode
The truth was dangled under everyone’s noses in this week’s episode of Salem, as John’s arrest has Mary utilizing all her power to generate his release. But Increase is having none of it, and as Mary’s desperation grows her attempts at liberation falter, despite the aid of Mercy and Isaac. Meanwhile, Anne battles her father for the truth and learns more than she bargained for, and Cotton discovers that strength still resides under his alcoholic ways. From wildcards to lost girls to torture belts, episode 1×11 “Cat and Mouse” was a gripping tale of mistaken identity, family mystery and haunting mistakes. I, for one, can’t wait to dish about it. Shall we Heathens?
I’ll Make A Man Out Of You
Yet again, Stephen Lang and Seth Gabel stole the screen this week with their character’s magnetic antagonism towards each other. It’s fantastic that such opposing characters can clash like symbols and the result is a fascinating melody of dissent and disapproval; and not simply from Increase’s point of view. I liked that Cotton stood up to his father regarding John, and even though he took some hardy whacks from Increase the desire to defend his friend stayed strong. To my shock (and strange delight), it was Anne who assisted in Cotton’s brief sobering up, and her words were as true as they were kind – any son who can withstand the verbal abuse and unattainable goals Increase sets deserves praise, not condemnation. Besides, Cotton has inherited some important traits from his father (his eloquent delivery when making a point; the ability to see through most bullshit), he’s just forgotten about them in the shadow of Increase’s fanaticism. Heck, the best part of this episode was when Cotton burst in on his father’s Do You Really Know Your Neighbor? Sermon and cried “God or devil” – blatantly implying his father was a hypocritical hedonist. It’s to the writers’ and Gabel’s credit that the bow emphasized his words too. Increase’s greatest battle might be with the witches, but will it be worth it if he loses the respect from and relationship with his own son? As it is, I’m eager to see whether Cotton takes his newfound courage into John’s trial with as much fervor as we saw in early episodes of Salem, because if he does, John might just have a chance to live (and without Mary’s help too).
Anne: “Your only failure is not becoming your father – and that is no failure.”
No More Lies
Well well Salem, you’ve officially left us intrigued. What will Anne do with this new knowledge of her family history? Unfortunately the option to shelve it is long gone with Hale’s bombshell of truth – presto girl, you’re a witch! Despite kicking myself for not piecing it together sooner, I loved this cliff-hanger at the end of the episode. It’s one thing to embrace your father’s alarming history, but it’s another thing entirely to accept that you are a part of that twisted lineage. How will this shape Anne as a young woman – and her fondness for John Alden? Will she allow Hale to teach her his witchy ways? Or will she branch out on her own and leave this lifestyle – which has awarded her and her father nothing but pain – behind for good? My opinion towards Anne has been rocky from the start (“spoiled brat” often came to mind), but this surprise – and her kind words to Cotton – altered my resentful feelings towards Tamzin Merchant’s character. Her quest for the truth also unearthed some of Hale’s backstory, which was as compelling to watch as Tituba’s history last week. His take on the witch family history certainly shed new light on the situation, and hinted at a world where witches could be caring fathers and mothers and not simply tools of the devil. Admittedly this doesn’t excuse the Grand Right and the blood that has already been shed in the name of evil, but it indicates an alternate road the witches could take if they so choose. It makes you wonder if Hale was forced into assisting with the Grand Right, or if the power drew him in (much like Mary). Merchant and Xander Berkeley do bounce off each other well; it’s a shame Lara Grice doesn’t share the same chemistry as Mrs Hale’s counterparts. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see where this twist takes Anne and Hale over the next two episodes.
Anne: “Living in Salem and not believing in witches is like living in London and not believing in fog.. It is to deny what is right in front of you.”
The Devil Has An Assistant
Firstly, what has gotten into Mercy Lewis? We might need to relocate her campsite from the crag to somewhere without dead bodies… she’s kind of flipped her lid. To be fair, her crazed laugh and bizarre acrobatics did make for interesting television (I’m seeing similarities to Rose… anyone else pick that up?). However her failed attempt at killing Increase has only made things worse for both herself and Mary. It was a little distressing to see Mary’s plans constantly fooled by Increase, especially when other people – like Isaac and Mercy – are so pliant in Mary’s hands. But the fact of the matter is, Mary wears her love for John like a name badge on her chest. Tituba warned her that the Puritans would learn of this and exploit it, but she didn’t listen. Now John is paying for it, and Increase grows stronger in power and insight as Mary’s feelings threaten to overcome her. The first blow was Georgie Porgie’s spitting saga at the council meeting; the second when Isaac took the blade meant for Increase. And still, Mary’s face remains exposed, her resolve weakened. It would be well within Tituba’s right to come back and rub Mary’s mistakes with Mercy and John in her face – and frankly, I wouldn’t blame her. That being said, I did enjoy the way Mary flexed her puppet strings in this episode. While her words to Mercy about being a “lost girl” may ring false to us, Mary knows how to appeal to that little soul within her prodigy in order to get what she wants out of her. Similarly, she awards Isaac with a few words of praise and he’s lapping them up like a puppy dog. It’s possible Mary’s faith in her own persuasive skills has let her down with foiling Increase. She knows of his intelligence and still treats him like a fool, and that could be why he continues to dodge her traps. Needless to say, the next few episodes will prove interesting where Mary Sibley and Increase Mather are concerned.
Increase: “I’m a patient man.. And a witch can’t hide forever.”
It’s been a gradual journey but I’ve honestly come to respect and appreciate each new episode of Salem and what the cast and crew bring to the table. Had we seen the events of “Cat and Mouse” any sooner and I doubt the changes and surprises would have been received so well. As it stands, writer Jon Feldman gave viewers a haunting new episode, filled with unexpected twists, commanding performances and rhythmic dialogue pertaining effectively to each character and their position within Salem. Seth Gabel and Stephen Lang displayed strength and tenacity in this episode as their characters jabbed at each other in various ways; likewise, Tamzin Merchant and Xander Berkeley captivated viewers with Anne and Hale’s truth tug-o-war right to the last second. It’s encouraging to see Elise Eberle and Shane West stand their ground against the always formidable Janet Montgomery, and I think we witnessed a shift – however small – in both their characters this episode. I was particularly impressed with Tricia Brock’s directorial prowess in “Cat and Mouse”; most notably when the camera panned down the church during the council vote and then later with Increase’s loud witchy tirade. The effect heightened the importance and stature the Reverend placed on the ritual and – by proxy – on himself. Similarly, Mercy’s stunt work fun with Increase was well shot, delivered sufficiently and acceptable in the circumstance. All in all, this episode of Salem was gritty, intense and noteworthy in character development with an assuring change in direction – even if it lacked the usual blood and gore. As always Heathens I’m eager for next week.
Questions, Comments, Concerns…
- Meanwhile Hale hands his daughter a grenade marked “Surprise! You’re a witch!” #BombshellMuch?
- Apparently being a witch is hereditary. #WhoKnew #ItsAllInTheGenes
- No but seriously, how do you react to that statement? “That’s great dad, can I go to Hogwarts now?”
- I have never leapt so high off my seat as I did when Isaac was impaled. If the fornicator dies I’m out. #INeedHisSheepJokes
- FUCK YOU TOO GEORGE. *spits on his feet* (I know you all felt the same way, don’t lie).
- Soo, Tituba’s confession gained her freedom? I don’t get it. She practically admitted she danced with demons and Increase let her go? That man is a two-edged sword. I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw a knife at him.
- Even though we had a good dose of Ashley Madekwe last week, I still missed her in this episode. I hope she’s back next week.
- Oddly enamoured with John in this episode. While Mary was eager to set him free, he was resolute in his decision to stay. His courage was commendable. I liked it.
- Anyone else have “Double, double, toil and trouble” chanting through their heads when Increase tossed boiling oil/water/stew/something at Mercy’s minions? #ShakespeareInSalem
- I’m staying the hell away from Mercy and her catlike fingernails. Gurll, you crazy.
- When Increase said he came back to Salem to make a man out of Cotton, the song “I’ll make a man out of you” from Mulan popped into my head. #WayToRuinADeepMomentLiShang
- Every week I think about that moment Increase arrived on the ship and stabbed his two knives into that captain’s hands (see link here) and I wonder whether there isn’t more to Increase than he’s letting on.. a hidden side of potential evil. For why would he take that “knot” from around his neck? What did he need it for? It seems far-fetched but could Increase be an experienced witch turned witch-hunter? Running his own agenda? Tell me your thoughts Heathens. #SoManyQuestions
- Mercy’s sudden fondness for dead bodies is disturbing. I legit thought she was going to eat that dead man’s guts. Forest living people – it’s bad for your mental health.
- Increase’s House of Pain ain’t no joke – the injured and tortured seem to reside there an awful lot.
- Is it fair to assume Mercy was hugging her father’s dead corpse early in the episode? Not that that makes her antics any better, but sleeping next to her dead daddy isn’t as weird as snuggling with a dead stranger. I’m just saying.
- Nice of Increase to point out the obvious when Cotton interrupted his church service. No shit man, that’s YOUR son? We had no idea. *voice dripping with sarcasm*
- If Mary was going for Gold & Gaudy with that hunting outfit, then she succeeded. #WardrobeMishap #PerfectForTheLogies
- Are we getting excited for next week?!
Salem Episode 1×12 “Ashes, Ashes” airs Sunday 6 JULY at 10/9c on WGN America