TV Show Review

TV Review: SALEM: Season 1, Episode 9: Children Be Afraid [WGN]

Janet Montgomery Salem Children Be Afraid

WGN America‘s Salem Children Be Afraid TV Show ReviewSalem: Season 1, Episode 9: Children be Afraid is a well-paced, anxiety provoking episode, directed by David Grossman of LOST fame. The writers, Elizabeth Sarnoff and Tricia Small (Episode 3, IN VAIN), have struggled with coherency and character motivation in this episode (as well as episode 3), and it is glaring. Salem is entertaining, but continues to struggle to find it’s “sea legs” when it comes to writing.

This episode started with Reverend Increase Mather (Stephen Lang) freeing Emily’s (Mary Katherine O’Donnell) father, Henry Hopkins (Dane Rhode). He offered him a choice of mandrake root (which would cure his hangover…and peg him as a witch), or a bottle of wine. He took the wine…what any good drunk would do.

Increase discovered the “Madame’s” dead body in the jail, and took her to the gallows to be hung. Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery) watched in fear. At the tavern, she confronted Increase to discuss her husband’s (alleged) bewitchery. He made the emphatic allegation that someone in their home WAS a witch. They decided together to have Isaac look George Sibley (Michael Mulheren) over.

Elsewhere, Mercy Lewis (Elise Eberle) told Mary that she wanted to kill Increase. Mary strongly advised against it, impressing on her his popularity. Reverend Lewis (Thomas Francis Murphy) approached them to talk to his daughter. Mary dismissed him and brought up his Catholic “magic,” she threatened to accuse him of incest.

In the House of Seven Gables (the Sibley house), Tituba (Ashley Madekwe) informed Mary that the Elders wanted to meet with her. Mary lost control, and smashed everything within reach.

Isaac Walton (Iddo Goldberg) worried that the elder Mather would summon him, and talked to Mary about it. She informed him that the Reverend prayed that Isaac would watch over George, something that needed to be done as Increase refused to release George back to Mary. Isaac accepted the secret charge and responsibility under secrecy. Once alone, Increase informed Isaac of his infamy as a chosen one, touched by the hand of God. It’s clear the Reverend was setting Isaac up, he doesn’t trust the “Fornicator.”

We learn that George’s room is warded against witches.

Mercy looked for Mary, but instead found Tituba. They had words. She told Mercy about her spider familiar and the teat on her neck that fed the tiny demon. Mary came upon Mercy’s band of young witches while on her way to visit the Elders. Mary brought the Malum to the Elders as an offering of truce. However, they don’t need the Malum to control her, as they already do.

Later, Mary and John Aden (Shane West) discussed George, and her desire to have him returned to her. Meanwhile, Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel) went to the whore house. The gals allowed him to take Gloriana’s emerald shawl. Increase berated Cotton for public displays of grief. Cotton in turn brought up the hanging of the Madame. Increase promised she would hang, and she did. Emily’s drunk father threatened her.

Mercy suggested killing George. Mary advised against it, she needed him alive. Instead, she elected to invade his dreams and destroy his mind. When she got there, she discovered Increase’s wards and learned she could not harm her husband.

Isaac found a web and attempted to relieve George with a pain reliever…provided by Mary. Increase walked in and assumed that the tonic was a witch’s potion. Mercy and “friends” went on to conjure a rite to the almighty spider. During this, Tituba’s spider found it’s way into George’s mouth and wove a golden web in his throat, while Increase interrogated Isaac, magically sealing his mouth. The Reverend threatened to disembowel him if he didn’t reveal the name of the person who gave him the tonic, Isaac bent and gave up Mrs. Sibley’s name.

Reverend Mather stomped to the Sibley house and called Mary out of her house. He informed her that George was awake, unable to speak, but the witch that haunted him had been declared. Increase produced the bottle of physic she had given to Isaac as a pain reliever for her husband. He believed the physic to be a witch’s spell, but Mary took the bottle and drank it, proving that it was not. Just then Cotton approached, and suggested that the witch’s spider may have caused George’s temporary condition. Mercy spoke up about Tituba’s spider, and finally Tituba was arrested and taken in to custody.

This chapter ended with Mary and Mercy in a stare down, Mary visibly shocked at the euphoric Mercy.

Salem has really nailed it in the casting department. And their DP is absolutely legendary!

A powerfully tense, well performed episode.

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