Salem Episode 1×13 “All Fall Down” [SEASON FINALE] Review



Nowhere To Hide – Death Arrives In “Salem” In This Week’s Mind-Blowing Season Finale

The season finale of Salem opens right where episode twelve left off – in the forest with Mary and John. While Alden grapples with the truth that has become glaringly obvious to him now, Mary decides she can find peace with the man she loves… but the only way she sees how is by enacting the ominous Grand Rite (come what may). As the witches make preparations for the final stage of their revenge, Increase executes his own plans of murder and mayhem – although he never expects who will stand in his way. With threats, tributes, choices and change, episode 1×13 concludes the events of this season in one epic, mind-boggling and frightfully disturbing finale. Heathens, let’s face it – none of us were prepared for “All Fall Down.” So – shall we partake in this episode?

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Beware The Black Rose

Setting aside the Holy-Crap-Their-Baby-Is-Alive thing for just one moment, I’d like to recognize the phenomenal acting displayed by Janet Montgomery in this episode. She’s been the foundation of this series; her character the main scepter, but ever since Stephen Lang joined the cast her character has fallen to the wayside (and this wasn’t her fault, it’s very difficult to stand up against the towering presence of Increase Mather). But no longer. In this episode, Mary rose once again to reclaim her place as Salem’s most formidable persona. From telling the Elders “Screw you I’m outta here,” to dubbing her former BFF a traitor, to manipulating Cotton into stabbing his father in the chest, Mary was more alive in her powerful cause to enact the Grand Rite and hightail it out of Salem than she has been all season. It’s ironic that in her desire to be with John Alden she effectively became everything the witches wanted her to be: fierce, driven, and unyielding. It turns out her catalyst was not John, but rather the baby she thought dead and buried all those years ago. The Elders were always that one step ahead, and as such they owned her… and despite the inner battle she faced, Mary was the black rose utterly and completely grafted to their vine, and they knew her struggling was for naught. It was a brilliant move on the writers’ part (despite that feeling we had, deep down, that John and Mary’s child was still alive somewhere), as it opened the gates into another realm for Montgomery’s character. Similarly, it reinforced that notion Salem has encouraged from the start: that not all love stories have a happy ending. In saying that, while Mary is off reacquainting herself with her son, I can’t wait to see what happens with John. I’m so pleased Shane West’s character has been tossed back in with the Indians (whether they’re friend or foe remains to be seen), as John’s history – and West’s acting – strengthens under hardship. It is sad in some respects, as I’m sure John would have been delighted to meet his son for the first time (suppose another few months won’t hurt?), but this misfortune – or second chance, depending on how you look at it – could denote John’s redemption. With the ‘untold evil’ AKA the pox spreading across the streets of Salem, John is going to need an army behind him if he hopes to re-enter a town where only witches have survived and the love of his life is practically leading them. Oh Salem, what fantastical chaos. Is it time for season 2 yet?

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John: “You’re one of them.”
Mary: “Now you know.”

Nowhere To Hide

Undoubtedly the biggest shock of this episode was Anne’s burst of outrage which quickly turned into the slaughter of her entire family. While Hale and his wife clearly underestimated their daughter and her reaction to being a witch (really guys, what’d you expect? That she’d roll over and play magic with you?), this was the most thrilling turn Tamzin Merchant’s character could have taken moving into a new season. Did any of us see her hissy fit turning into a horrifying display of raw, unlearned power? Did we imagine the spirited yet sweet girl with a crush on Salem’s war hero would channel her anger into exploding her mother’s skull and launching a wooden beam into her father’s forehead? My answer: hell no. Even with the snake tongue and creepy red eyes, I never thought Anne was capable of such atrocities. Admittedly, her reaction made sense (at least, where her personality is concerned. Ju-ju wise, I got nothing). Her parents failed to recognize the compassion Anne has for the people of Salem, and in effect, their ignorance cost them their lives. I am devastated by the loss of Xander Berkeley’s character (don’t really give a flying fuck about Mrs Hale… the bloody hairdo is an improvement if you ask me). Magistrate Hale has been this intriguing fortress of town secrets since the beginning, and his death is a cruel blow from the writers. Still, if we are to be grateful for anything it would be seeing the tender way with which Hale nudged the memories from Anne’s mind; giving her the wooden ballerina and opening his heart despite every chance of rejection. Under normal circumstances, perhaps they could have moved past this errm, difference of opinion, but you really don’t get second chances with teenage witches. But bravo to Berkeley for winning us over this season: from your arresting presence next to the likes of Montgomery and Lang; to the love and affection Hale had for his daughter that you showcased so well; to gifting us with a witch we loved to hate and hated to love. It’s difficult to imagine a Salem without you, but if Merchant brings even half of what she did to this episode then I think Hale’s legacy is in safe hands. Heathens, I’ll wager the writers have a lot more to show us where Anne is concerned. In the meantime, let’s avoid trapping her in a sanctuary if we decide to kill her friends, okay?

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Tituba: “I, traitor? I who have endured the worst that sick man could inflict upon my flesh to protect you? I think not. Tis you who have betrayed those who nurtured you. You who have turned your back on everything we have planned these long years.”

The Beginning Of Knowledge

How is it that two of Salem’s most likeable characters can be so terribly stupid? Cotton Mather who, to be fair, knew not what he was doing when he jabbed a sword into his father’s chest and thus killed the witch’s 13th innocent and is now running away to Boston; and Isaac our favorite fornicator, who couldn’t follow a simple instruction because it went against his better nature and is now gargling for breath as the pox infects his body… oh gentlemen, what are we to do with you? On the plus side, Seth Gabel and Iddo Goldberg gave the best portrayal of their characters to date. I loved the way Goldberg showcased Isaac’s inner war regarding the Malum; how he danced between the tree with the black slime and the toiled ground where he went to bury it. The writers truly touched on who Isaac is in this episode – one of the few good men left in Salem – which is what makes the idea of his death so repulsive. As for Cotton, we saw the friction between father and son come to a head when Increase called him a “pathetic failure” (oh Increase, there are so many other ways to talk sense into someone… without insulting them. Sigh), which only served to sever the bond between them forever. How this shapes the man Cotton will become, we can only dread. Certainly it will mess with his already wavering sanity, but I think the writers hinted at Cotton’s path for next season when we saw Increase’s men tossing his “tools of useless reason” out the window and he said it was time to “return to the beginning of all knowledge” – AKA the bible. In effect, Increase’s presence has been to test Cotton from the start: to challenge and instruct and give him the necessary weapons to eliminate witches from the face of the earth. It wouldn’t surprise me if – after he spends some time in Boston ‘reacquainting’ himself with the Good Book – he returns to Salem a more deadly Puritan than his father. Whatever happens, I’m thankful we’ve had a season of Cotton’s drunken ramblings and Isaac’s sheep comparisons and I’m sure we’ll all miss them over the hiatus. So… time for a drink anyone?

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Isaac: “Sometimes words are all we have left.”

It All Ends Here

He was the witch’s most menacing opponent, and yet Increase Mather was still fooled by the woman he sought to defeat. Despite knowing that the Grand Rite would happen (c’mon, you don’t tease disaster all season and then just make it go away), it didn’t lessen the shock or horror of the bombshell Mary dropped at Increase’s feet (hey presto! You’re our 13th victim. How does it feel?). This was hands down my favorite Puritan-versus-witch scene of the season: from the way Mary practiced her apparition skills to how she told Increase of his folly regarding the ‘witches’ of Salem. You got the sense that Mary was playing cat and mouse with Increase; knowing full well who would feel the sting of death that evening. There was a distinct air of satisfaction in Mary’s movements and expressions; as if she was savoring victory like one would a caramel tart. We can’t say Increase didn’t deserve it – heck, he wound the noose around so many innocent necks, it was high time karma came back to bite him in the ass – but Salem won’t be the same without Stephen Lang to terrorize the townspeople. We can only commend him for carving an Increase-shaped niche in the show, and for going out as splendidly as he arrived. As for the Grand Rite – well. Perhaps it would have been kinder to die as Increase did – quickly and with some semblance of mercy – than to suffer with the pox like those left behind. Kudos to the production team for the dramatic display of the Malum’s power: from the blood-red moon to the hazy lighting to the ominous feel that spread across the town when Isaac lifted the vial from its apple enclosure. I wonder how Mercy and her minions will fare under the pox? Will their loyalty to her shield them from the Malum’s curse? I am pleased her Marxist-like uprising will be explored next season rather than hurried into an hour-long finale. Mercy has gone completely rogue (especially after her allegations regarding the former ‘Queen of the Night’), and a solitary witch with a fixed agenda seems more dangerous than a parade of witches all accountable to each other and to their revenge. Ooh, I can’t wait to see what mischief Mercy creates and how that enhances the terror of the disease already upon Salem.

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Mercy: “I promised them that they would be safe because you promised me. But you lied. You lied and now they are all dead. Everything that comes from your lips is a lie.”

Admittedly there were elements of the finale we saw coming from the start (the Grand Rite happening, that Increase knew about Mary, that Mary and John’s child was still alive), but coupled with the events we DIDN’T see coming, this was one extraordinarily shocking season finale. Co-creators Brannon Braga and Adam Simon penned an episode so profound; it sent shivers down my spine and daggers into my heart. Salem has boasted the morbid and macabre since day one, but “All Fall Down” cranked up the blood and gore by tenfold – starting with the murder of Anne’s parents and ending with the pox that spread across Isaac’s face. The acting in this episode was stellar; even Elise Eberle and Ashley Madekwe who had minor roles in the scheme of things reminded viewers why they’re both still a force to be reckoned with. I especially loved Madekwe and Montgomery’s scene together, and the way Madekwe displayed Tituba’s outrage at being called a traitor. Despite mourning the loss of two fantastic actors (hopefully not three – I still hold out hope for Isaac!), Braga and Simon did Lang and Berkeley’s characters justice… in this episode and throughout the season. Dialogue wise, this episode was hypnotic in the way it described certain emotions, such as Mary saying “All things return like every salty tear returns to the sea” when she spoke of John and Mary’s love for each other, and the parallel of their “vow” expressed in this episode like it was in the pilot. As for David Von Ancken’s directing, he retained the standard of this season but also surpassed it in some scenes, like when Mercy’s voice echoed around the forest and Anne shook the foundation of her house. Ultimately, this was an imaginative, grotesque and sensationally alarming finale, and I can’t think of one aspect of it I would change. Bravo cast and crew, we can’t wait to see what madness awaits us in season two.

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Questions, Comments, Concerns…

  • Cotton’s trotting away from town. Anne’s like “WTF have I done?” Hale’s dead. John’s been taken off by the Indians. Mercy is gathering her army. Isaac is dying of the pox. And Mary is reunited with her not-so-dead son. WHAT EVEN IS LIFE. #HoldMe #WritersYouAreBRUTAL
  • Sorry, what? Haven’t emerged from my Did-Anne-Just-Fucking-Kill-Her-Parents coma yet. Seriously, what in the actual FUCK. #WhoKnewTheRedheadHadItInHer
  • “The dogs will eat you and shit your remains.” No need to insult the dead Mary, even if Increase did deserve it. #Ouch #FromShitWeCame #AndShitWeRemain
  • Malum be like, “BITCH IT’S TIME.” #WaddupGrandRite #YouAndMeCauseSomeDeathYo
  • Isaac cannot die. I REPEAT. Isaac CANNOT die. #TheFornicatorMustLive
  • Since when do sanctuaries need hoards of creepy ju-ju masks? Oh well, guess the Hale’s don’t have much use for them now. Death man, it blows.
  • I feel kinda bad for that chicken. It was probably happily enjoying its lunch and then SNAP! Hale needed its blood for a magical door. Sigh. Even the birds aren’t safe in Salem.
  • Isaac: “What is it?” Mary: “Death.” Isaac: “Oh.” Really? Is that all? *wry grin*
  • Soo… in light of her living son, will Mary forget about John entirely? I dunno, it’s kind of a major thing, meeting your kid after 7 years of thinking he’s dead (meanwhile he’s been living in suspended animation under the care of some demon… they’re going to provide therapy for this boy right?).
  • Only JUST learnt I’ve been spelling “Grand Rite” incorrectly. After all this time. Grammar Nazi FAIL people. Shame on me. I’ll know better next time.
  • I’m glad somebody recognized Isaac’s wisdom and value this episode. I repeat, ISAAC CANNOT DIE. #IWontAllowIt
  • Don’t you just love Mercy’s psychotic bouncing all over the place? The crag has certainly amped up her creep factor. See kids? This is why we don’t sleep with the dead. #BodiesAreNotPillows
  • Anyone else get the feeling the Indians have been watching John from the shadows for some time now? Rather perfect timing when they saved John from the noose, no?
  • “I don’t know what that means sir.” Aww Isaac, you are everything <3
  • So much happened in this episode that my head is still spinning. Someone get me bourbon please. Perhaps with Seth Gabel on the side.
  • I wonder what Anne’s going to do now? Will she embrace her witchy lineage or continue to deny it? Will she seek help from the Puritans (I’m thinking John, when he gets back from Indian territory) rather than the witches, whom she loathes so much?
  • Hey, I wonder if Georgie Porgie is free from Mary’s familiar now? Could he reclaim his place as town leader? Cos who knows what the witches will do or where they’ll go now that Salem is basically a giant graveyard. #RIPTown #WasntReallyAllThatNiceKnowingYou
  • So, the Malum is supposed to release untold evil on the world… does that mean there’s more to come where that possessed apple is concerned? Could the pox be just the beginning of horrors?
  • Is it foolish for me to still hold out some hope for John and Mary’s happy ending? Probably huh?
  • What’d you think of the finale Heathens? Are you ready for season 2 yet?