If you’re like me, maybe you’re still mourning the loss of American Horror Story: Coven. That’s why I was beyond thrilled to learn that a new series had been developed called Salem. It could only mean one thing: Witches. Then I found out how —WGN America created its first-ever scripted television series. Having grown up in Chicago, I’ve only ever known WGN as a local network for sports, syndicated sitcoms and news, but introducing this witch-lore drama into the mix has my attention, and the buzz is: The show is hot, like maybe even Game of Thrones hot. Did you tune in? Will you continue to watch? And can we talk about the witch’s broom incident? (I’ll get to that in a moment.)
Here’s why I’m down to keep watching and can’t wait for more: Salem, Massachusetts carries with it a hell of a lot of energy, plucking out the severity of our history for women and the suffering that was taking place alongside male supremacy and condemnation. Where signs posted outside of the Salem church warn townspeople of witches among them, today I’d argue that women are still being persecuted for being intuitive, sensitive, smart, courageous, bold, outspoken, and, or simply eccentric. In 1660s Salem, sensationalizing the fear of a witch in their midst brings up a lot of hostility. But what fire is being fueled more? Today, sensationalizing the concern of a crazy woman, be it celebrity, friend, stranger or otherwise, brings about a similar divide among the gallery of onlookers. But a witch guilty of possessing a curse over the Reverend’s daughter is a lot different than Amanda Bynes’ Twitter rants.
We’re introduced to Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery), a simple woman who is connected to a noble man named John Alden (Shane West) because she is pregnant with his baby out of wedlock. The sin will cast her out and probably cost Mary her own life. This Puritanical town is a mess—people are being branded on their foreheads for “fornicating,” including Isaac Walton (Iddo Goldberg). So, Mary’s loyal friend Tituba (Revenge’s Ashley Madekwe) leads her out into the woods and casts a spell over her, terminating the pregnancy. In return, she says Mary will have everything she’s ever wanted, and be the most powerful woman in Salem.
Seven years have gone by, and Mary is now all the things Tituba said she’d be, but the rosy-cheeked girl she used to be is long gone, and in its place is a seductress whose eyes are painted in endless secrets we’re anxious to know. Oh, one of them happens to be that she’s become the most powerful witch in Salem, and is now feeding a toad from a teat on her leg. Yes, a teat.
Meanwhile, Reverend Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel from Fringe) is running around town to try to find three men to help him “subdue” his daughter Mercy. I am immediately grossed out by this man — who spends his nights at the nearby brothel, and yells and complains about witches about as much as Isaac and the rest of the bearded hipster-looking Salem folk. (But his name is Cotton, and that’s really cool.) Mercy is clearly possessed by something, her face covered in tears, thrashing about. She says an old hag is coming for her, a witch—and a crone-like looking lady appears before her after the men leave, cutting up her skin with her teeth and nails. The Reverend knows to look for a mark, but he’s also read that she’ll be able to identify the witch by pointing at whoever she is, in blood.
John Alden has come back from the war. He’s alive! (Not all that shocking when you’ve watched period pieces similar to this.) Only thing is, if he thinks he can just get back into Mary’s bedroom so easily, he might have a hard time. In the seven years he’s was off the grid, Mary got a little bit gay.
Yes, there are witches in Salem, gay witches (or so it seems.) They roam out into the woods where they carry out their curses and spells. A few of the men who’ve ventured out into the woods to explore these tall tales are startled to find demon-like figures with pig heads. All of this is happening while Mary lay mostly naked on her bed — Tituba rubbing oil across her face and body, unscrewing a portion of her broomstick and seemingly using it with Mary in a sexual way to invoke the spirit of the Devil. The witches have a plan: Turn the Puritan men against each other and rule Salem. I want to make a joke about how things are getting really deep, but that feels so wrong all rituals considered.
What I like about a show like this is that it’s raw and provocative. Mary’s witchy black 1600s wardrobe stands out amongst the dusty crowd of townspeople, and the relationship between her and Tituba looks dangerous, sexy, wild and mysterious. Will the sacred powers of these witches remain intact against their enemies?
Follow me on Twitter: @the_hoff so we can chat about all the #Salem trials, tricks and spells.