Hear ye! Hear ye! Here there be spoilers.
I watched episode 1 of Salem last night. Judging the show at this point is probably not fair. This was merely the get-to-know-us-and-our-thigh-suckling-toads episode.
My first thought was a phrase my best friend often used when we were children: extremely mediocre. It doesn't really mean anything. It is just fun to say.
The part of me my wife calls the Writer Snob thinks they are trying too hard to shock. Besides the whole toad sucking thing, lots of people get nekkid. By "lots," I mean we see butts and side boob and the witch-hunting reverend preaching doggie style. (Oppa Salem Style!) Nekkidness doesn't bother me, but I suspect this will become a cheap ratings device. The first couple of episodes we will see several of the cast's finest heinies. Then we will enter Puritan wasteland where we have lots of plot and other story thingies occasionally interrupted by a gratuitous cleavage shot. Depending on whether it is Sweeps Week.
The show opens by telling you it is September 21. I know little of the historical facts of Salem, but this strikes me funny that the date is also Stephen King's birthday.
Isaac "Fornicator" Walton confesses to "gazing upon the nakedness of Abigail Cook." I love how Iddo Goldberg delivered this line, almost bored. I'm in stocks, I'm about to get "ten hard ones" with a whip across my back, a scarlet F branded into my forehead, and I have to pee. Can we hurry this up? I haven't had coffee yet.
He also confesses to "self pollution."
My wife looked up from her Facebook game and said, "He did what?"
"He defiled himself. He peeped at Miss Abigail and took Little Isaac in hand."
Still a blank stare, but this one was to inform me that I am a goober.
At the end of Act I, Tituba and Mary perform a sort of Satanic abortion of John Alden's child, complete with some Satanic baby oil as personal lube. The Devil cavorts satyr-like through the forest, while the procedure is performed by a tree (a tree surgeon?) with its black goo that resembles Venom from Spider-Man. As best I can figure, Mary agrees to this so no one knows that she and John Alden played Doctor in the graveyard, and so she doesn't have to say, "No, the F doesn't stand for Forehead!" the rest of her life. Suddenly everything is over, Mary looks down at herself, while Tituba is obviously calling Ye Ole Guiness Book of World Records to report the world's fastest tummy tuck. Immediately, we jump into Act II and seven years into Salem's future, where John Alden has returned from war and Tituba's accent is gradually becoming more Marie Laveau-ish.
Mary married Mr. Sibley and apparently gave him a frog in the throat as a wedding gift.
There are many thinly veiled morals of the story. The witch hunt seems to be telling us to look at our own hypocrisy. Also, the story emphasizes an ongoing comparison between the two Puritan "enemies," which are the witches amongst us and the Native Americans beyond the town borders. Both are savage "nature worshippers."
This is not addressed in the show, but whenever I hear anything about the Salem Witch Trials, I think back to something I read when I was still in high school. (In the era my son refers to as Before Technology.) The Salem prosecutors hosted various, no-win tests to see whether you were a witch. The one that fascinated me most was dunking the person's head in a bucket filled with water. If they lived, they were a witch.
Honestly, Salem is not that bad. There were a few moments of genuine creepiness, in a The Exorcist sort of way. It is WGN America's first originally scripted series. Star Trek's Brannon Braga creates, executive produces, writes, and generally kitchen-sinks the whole thing.
I would watch again.
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