TV Show Review

TV Review: SALEM: Season 1, Episode 10: The House of Pain [WGN]

Ashley Madekwe Salem The House of Pain

WGN America‘s Salem The House of Pain TV Show Review. Salem: Season 1, Episode 10: The House of Pain is an apt title for this 10th episode of Salem, as Increase Mather’s (Stephen Lang) true colors come to light.

It must be said again, Stephen Lang is the single most redeeming variable of this program. He is able to take ill directed scenes and inconsistent writing and create magic. He is a stellar performer. I am much more able to buy in to the great amount of schlock that happens frequently in Salem, because he is just that damn good.

Increase Mather turned Salem’s local brothel in to his “House of Pain.” This is where he will torture the accused in order to get them to reveal the other witches of Salem. We see the extent of his devotion to God (and his level of depravity,) as he tortured himself with a device laden with spikes, that wrapped around his chest and tightened to inflict pain for his being an “abomination.”

Elsewhere, Mercy Lewis’ (Elise Eberle) circle of fellow young witches disposed of the man they had killed. Mercy hid in the Sibley home, as she knew Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery) was upset with her having given Reverend Mather Tituba (Ashley Madekwe)’s name as a witch.

Anne Hale (Tamzin Merchant) snuck in to her father’s study and discovered the mask that she saw him wearing. She put the mask on and it “sent” her into the woods. Magistrate Hale (Xander Berkeley) realized that his daughter had found the mask and traveled to the wood after her.

Back at the brothel, Reverend Mather tortured Tituba mercilessly in order to find out who the other witches were. While Anne ran in to an Indian in the wood.

Tituba provided names, but Reverend Mather did not believe her…and tortured her still. We got a glimpse in to Tituba’s past as she told how she arrived in Salem. She had been captured and brought over on a ship, and adopted by Magistrate Hale. Later, she was sold to Mary’s family. One day she walked in to the wood and came upon a spirit named the “Kanima,” who we understand to have initiated her in to witchcraft.

Sadly, this was bound to happen to Tituba…and sadly still, we felt little to nothing in this scene. I didn’t buy Ashley Madekwe’s acting here. Either she was being directed poorly, or her choices as an actor were not good ones. The instruments used in this episode were classic, spooky and exceedingly painful…she WAS being tortured! Torture (I imagine) would have a different rhythm and a certain amount of ongoing terror. I didn’t see her being terrified, and I didn’t really see the pain. It was implied with heavy breathing and dramatic eyes, and that didn’t work here. The scene was creepy because of the intrigue Stephen Lang spun with the dialogue, but the other half of the scene needed to be handled by the response of the other actor, and that didn’t happen.

Magistrate Hale recruited John Alden (Shane West) to help look for Anne. While searching, they ran in to a drunken Cotton, and then ran in to the same Indian (tribe) Anne had encountered. John used skills he learned in his past to communicate with them and find where Anne may have gone. She was not with them, as they deemed her crazy.

Anne heard voices and saw the “Kanima” spirit that Tituba spoke of. She ran away… and smack dab in to John and her father. John questioned her on how she got in to the woods without leaving any traces. She protected her father and did not tell him about the mask that allowed her to teleport.

Increase must have felt he got a confession, as he paid a visit to Mary Sibley and told her that the leader of the witches in Salem was the lover of Tituba. He told her that he had also been given Mercy’s name as well. In a surprising turn, he finished the conversation by saying that he believed that the leader was John Alden.

The chapter ended with the Selectman taking John Alden in to custody…with the charge of witchcraft.

I feel clear that the creators know what they want Salem to be, but haven’t yet found the right team of writers and directors to actualize this vision consistently yet.

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