Salem Season 1 Review “The Stone Child”

Salem Episode 2 The Stone Child (2)

After a decidedly nutty debut episode, “Salem” dialed it back a few notches for the comparatively subdued second episode, “The Stone Child,” in which we began to discover some semblance of what Mary and the witches were up to. It seems that there’s a particular ritual known as The Grand Rite, which requires the sacrifice of nine innocents to succeed, and must be completed before the “Hunter’s Moon.” Not sure about how long away that is, but I’m going to guess it needs to be before the end of the season. I know, I know. I’m psychic that way. Who knows? Maybe I’m a witch, too!

Anyway, including Giles last week, we got two more victims this week, assuming the baby counts, which it might not. (Not sure if the three witches that greeted John Alden on his return to town did, either.) The show wasn’t very specific about that aspect, so we’ll see. Either way, according to Cotton Mater, the Grand Rite has never been completed, so Salem has that going for it. On the negative side, no one has a clue that Mary is a witch, so there’s that as well.

The exception being Hale, and what he calls the “Old World Elders,” which I assume means older witches that came over from Europe to settle in the “New World,” aka America. Apparently, some of the elders aren’t too happy with the job Mary’s done thus far, and feel like she’s taking major risks, not in the least with Alden. They’re not wrong, especially as Alden is one of the people who witnessed their black sabbath last week, and is hardly afraid of speaking his mind at local gatherings. Now he plans to join the town council as a selectman, which can’t be good for the witch contingent.

If that Petrus guy, aka the Dead Lizard Whisperer, aka Dr. Deadlittle, figures out Alden was there, then Mary may not be able to defend him much longer. Meanwhile, Alden’s behavior is a bit all over the place. I get him being mad at Cotton for killing Giles, that’s fine. But he knows good and well there are witches, having seen them with his own eyes, yet when they went after Bridget Bishop, he got all up in Cotton’s grill about it, even though he had solid evidence this time around.

Obviously, we know that Bridget was set up by Mary, but the town doesn’t, and there were witnesses, including Kitty, who gave birth to the monster baby and saw the witch demon thing where Bridget should have been when she was acting as a midwife. However, if we’re going to toss the baby out with the bathwater, it would stand to reason that Cotton would also pass his judgment on Kitty herself, who gave birth to it, after all. Yet he spared her, along with the other witnesses, including, conveniently enough, his fave prostitute, Gloriana. Not saying he’s a witch, just saying.

On the other hand, he’s not exactly one to deny he’s got faults, either. In short, Cotton and Alden both have their faults. Cotton is quick to rush to judgment and Alden is quick to rise to anger, so neither is exactly handling things well, especially since they’re basically on the same team, when you think about it. Honestly, it’s a wonder anything gets done in this town.

Either way, that doesn’t make the baby or Bridget any less dead, and those scenes were both pretty over-the-top and gruesome, almost to the point of being just this shy of laughable. I mean, the “demon” baby hit the floor like it was shot out of a cannon, and when they hung Bridget, they went so far as to show her voiding her bowels!

Yes, I know that is known to happen, but was it really necessary to show it like that? Not that I’m squeamish or a prude or anything, that’s not my point. It just seems like they’re trying a bit too hard at times to be edgy. On the plus side, they did dial it back a notch from the premiere, which was tonally all over the place, so maybe the show just has to find its sea legs or whatever.

That said, some good stuff here, including a suitably creepy title sequence, scored by- who else? – Marilyn Manson, with an assist from Tyler Bates. Bates just so happens to work alongside another likely suspect for something like this, Rob Zombie, who dipped his toe into the witchy waters last year, with the underappreciated “Lords of Salem,” which was flawed but interesting, and even subdued by Zombie’s standards.

That was also a nice touch with the kids building, like, a creepy diorama of the hung witches on the outskirts of town. It kind of reminded me of the superlative “True Detective” and those wooden thingamabobs the Yellow King made. Or “The Blair Witch Project.” The bit with the severed hand was likewise pretty creepy, as was the “Elephant’s Graveyard” of the “unwanteds,” aka the bodies that were dumped in the woods because they were saw as unfit to be given a proper burial.

On a more dramatic note, that was a nice moment when Alden gave his half of the coin to a beggar after Mary refused to leave town to him. That one gesture said more than words ever could, so that was well-played, and a nice show of restraint on a show that could stand to learn some at times. I mean, I get it, you’ve got to get the butts in seats, as it were, but there’s something to be said for knowing when to say when, and that scene nailed it. I also liked the notion of Bridget thinking the witch thing could be mental illness, which reminded me of a movie I saw last weekend, “The Quiet Ones,” which has a similar premise.

All in all, a slight improvement over the all-over-the-place premiere, I’d have to say, which was watchable but slightly mental. I’m warming up to “Salem,” but it’s still a bit undercooked for my tastes thus far. But you can see the solid show it could be if it just showed some restraint, so I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt and stick with it.

What did you think of “Salem” this week? Was it an improvement over last week, or more of the same in your opinion? Or did you prefer the slightly insane tone of the premiere to this episode? Do you think the show will find its groove sooner than later? What tone do you think the show should have? Sound of on this and more down below, and stay out of the woods until next week!