Fellow Liberal Dead-heads, this is Ryne from The Moon is a Dead World. I’ve signed on to do a sort of recap/review of each week’s horror hits, so welcome to DEADtime TV. Again, Kevin Lovell helps out with reviews of The Following. Shawn’s off the hook this week because From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series takes a break. Resurrection is also off until the last two episodes of the season air next week. But we do get the premiere of WGN’s Salem!
Salem: “The Vow” – Sunday, April 20 at 10 PM
WGN Ameria’s first original series is Salem, a show about the Salem witch trials in the late 1600s where some witches are actually real. It’s not a far stretch from many plot premises about historical fiction where witches actually exist, but it has garnered some resistance from critics for its depiction of Puritans in that era: that Salem includes real witches in a terrible historical event seems to negate the reprehensible actions of those innocents who were hunted and executed during that time.
By that same token, however, we should apparently get rid of all witches in the fantastical spectrum; truthfully, some feminists do condemn the role of witches during Halloween, citing their use in the holiday as a pastime to debase women. Salem is, however, not simply throwing witches into its storyline to create a horror tale where all Puritan women worship the devil and romp in the woods; in fact, there’s a sense that the show is actually attempting to fictionalize that there was a devil at work during the witch hunts that forced Puritans into a crazy stir.
Whether that’s morally ethical is not up for me to debate; frankly, I could give a shit because I’m not offended and I wouldn’t be even if, like one AV Club commenter offered, a show about evil Jews in Nazi Germany were to surface. You watch or you don’t, and you define it however you wish. For me, Salem is perfectly acceptable as a premise.
It’s also not as poorly executed as some outlets would have you think. While the show itself is nearly overshadowed by its dark overtones, there are a lot of undercurrents of good horror television running through this premiere. Quick flashes of demons reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow appear: there are a few Satanic rituals completed, complete with sabbath-goers donning deer heads; a frog suckles on the leg of the head witch Mary Sibley; there’s a man who’s handicapped because of his wife’s devilish powers.
It all adds up to a premiere that’s trying a bit too hard to be American Horror Story, but like that show, all of the outlandish concepts are actually acceptable. Salem begins seven years before the plot actually picks up, with a couple of sinners shackled and whipped for their deeds. Mary, pregnant with John Alden’s baby, wants help with a ritual to abort the child, so Tituba takes her into the woods, says a few magical words, and the child magically disappears. But it opens Mary up to the devil himself.
Seven years later, John Alden has returned from the war to find Mary married (see what the show did there?) to George Sibley, although the man is now a vegetable. Cotton Mather has taken up the witch hunts, concerned that there is magic afoot and that the sinners are among the group of Puritans at Salem. He’s not the greatest person himself, and he’s got a real mean streak, but the sentiment is clear – get rid of the witches and things in Salem look up.
Salem doesn’t hide things from its audience; in fact, in “The Vow” it sort of reveals its cards a bit too much. Mary is obviously a witch, and it seems unlikely that the rest of the Puritans don’t suspect it after numerous weird occurrences with her. In its attempts to shock the audience (chaining up a mentally ill girl, fairly explicit nudity, frogs inhabiting bodies), it throws a lot of tropes out that will ultimately null the senses later this season. By frontloading the premiere, Salem will have to work hard to surprise in the coming weeks.
The show combines a lot of elements from The Crucible in “The Vow”; Giles Corey shows up, even uttering “More stones!” as he’s crushed to death by a rowdy crowd led by Cotton Mather. While it plays off of these ideas, it also institutes many of its own, giving Salem a bit of a leg up in the creativity department. The combination of witch problems combined with the wrath of Puritanical religious persecution is equally interesting, the love story less so.
Salem‘s pilot might not be as nuanced or literary as other mature dramas out, but it is at least pretty fun. Fans of American Horror Story will probably find quite a bit to like about this blasphemous show that’s not afraid to stir up a bit of controversy. Suffice to say, here at DEADtime TV, I’m fairly excited to be covering the entire season.
The Following: “Silence” – Monday, April 21 at 9 PM
This week’s new episode of The Following marks the fourteenth episode in the second season of the series and is titled “Silence.” The sophomore season’s penultimate episode begins with twin brothers Luke and Mark having stolen a car from someone and finally coming to the forced realization that their mother (Lily) is dead and swearing that they will make everyone that is even mildly responsible pay.
Meanwhile at Korban, Ryan backs up Mike’s story of self defense in order to protect him from the consequences of murdering Lily in cold blood and insists to Mike that he’s better than Ryan, though that is certainly becoming questionable at this point.
The episode also focuses on Joe and his group of followers as they take over a church and force Kingston to join them if he wants to see his son alive again. Upon Kingston’s arrival, Joe tries to convince him that God doesn’t exist. He begins by playing him the video of his son murdering another person to show him just how easy it is to make someone change their ways. But this is only the beginning and Joe has a number of demented games for father and son to play. While all of this unfolds, unbeknownst to Joe, Ryan and Mike have managed to sneak their way into the church and are biding their time, waiting for the opportune moment to strike.
Only one episode remains in the sophomore season of The Following and things have gotten so incredibly intense that it’s hard to imagine just how much crazier things might become as events unfold in the season’s final episode. This week brought a number of memorable and almost painfully intense moments, including a powerful confrontation between Emma and Claire years in the making and a cliffhanger that will leave fans losing their minds (myself definitely among them). I couldn’t possibly be loving this show more and am itching with anticipation to see were the season finale will take us.
Don’t miss the season finale of The Following this Monday at 9/8c on Fox. -Kevin
Bates Motel: “Meltdown” – Monday, April 21 at 10 PM
Remember each week how I talk about the drug trade being a divergent course for Bates Motel, but that it’s slowly been creeping into the main theme of this season? I think we’ve hit the climax with “Meltdown,” because Norman is finally drawn into Dylan’s line of work – she visits his office thanks to a threat made by Nick Ford – and Norman suffers a fate due to Dylan’s neglected tasks. The marijuana business has been operating throughout Bates Motel but now it actually has some meaning to Norman and Norma’s life outside of Dylan.
But there’s also a more pressing matter that Norman has to deal with, because “Meltdown” is not a good episode for him. After Sheriff Romero learns of Norman’s semen found in Miss Watson, he confronts Norman about it by faking a shower curtain problem; as expected, Norman’s not really interested in talking about this part of his life, and he runs away about as quickly as he can. Not only does this bring up a difficult emotion, it also reinforces the fact that Norma won’t tell him about his secret.
That secret causes Norman to distance himself from Norma in a passive-aggressive way just like Norma adopts to protect herself; in “Meltdown,” they both trade roles – this time, Norman’s above Norma on the stairs when they’re fighting, and he’s the one in control. It’s interesting to see this family dynamic in play, and even more, how Norma reacts to such situations. In this case, she runs back to her faux-boyfriend to make love to him; it’s not out of an attraction to him as much as it is an attempt to make Norman mad or jealous. Yech, that’s gross.
This is the meltdown of the episode’s title, but it’s not the only one. Nick Ford has a meltdown after Zane attacks his marijuana holdout, bringing Dylan and his family into the crossfire unless Dylan kills Zane; Zane’s sister Jodi melts down after Ford’s threats; even Romero melts down at his poor underling officer. There’s a whole lot of nuclear eruptions in this episode, and frankly it’s fun to watch all of the characters scrambling to cover something up.
It brings us back to how well Bates Motel is handling its plot this season. While the first few episodes tended to meander, especially because of Cody’s presence, the latter portion of season 2 has found steady ground to cling to, albeit without Emma’s involvement. There’s a lot of tension because of the drug trade, even though Norman and Norma aren’t in it; Bates Motel shows us just how easy it is for the Bates’ to fall into terrible situations without necessarily meaning to, and it paves the way for Norman’s downfall in later life.
Two episodes left in season 2, but if “Meltdown” is any indication, the finale should be a good mix of themes dealing with the fallout from Dylan’s work in the marijuana business to Norma’s involvement with Nick Ford, however innocent it at first seemed. Hopefully, the truth about Norman comes out soon, because Bates Motel is deviously skirting around it with his character.
Hannibal: “Shiizakana” – Friday, April 25 at 10 PM
As Will continues his new venture into Hannibal’s psychology, the show progresses further into similar territory of last season. This time, however, Hannibal circumvents the stakes; before, Will was having trouble keeping himself from slipping into the darkness of the murders he was investigating, but now he’s actually the one who seeks Hannibal’s help. Hannibal is the bystander this time, not attempting to mold Will but instead wondering what his goal might be.
In “Shiizakana,” the FBI is tasked with finding a killer who likes to maul his victims as a werewolf or bear might; dressed in a skeletal suit complete with tusked mask, the man heads out into the wilderness as an animal might, not to eat or use the flesh but simply to ravage it. Will gets sucked into the investigation, and throughout the episode he uses Hannibal as a sounding board; the same is true of the others near to both Will and Hannibal, like Jack, who anticipates hearing about Will’s state of mind and is rebuffed by Hannibal.
Margot Verge reappears in this episode as well, not only during her visits with Hannibal but also to Will. They meet each other outside of Hannibal’s office, and are quickly drawn to the other’s mysterious qualities. Interesting how the show continues to add new pressures to Will’s life, and the same must be said about Margot.
“Shiizakana” spends a lot more time on its stand-alone case than anything else, however, and the episode is mostly split up between investigation of the beast murders and Will’s meetings with Hannibal. In this regard, it is a slower, less nuanced version of what the show has been doing as of late – it falls into the habit last season of alternating between the two events without involving some of the other characters, and that feels like a step back.
But the wolf killer does have a lot of good references to werewolf tropes, and the way the conclusion is utilized seems to be an important part in the proceeding episodes. Will is not hesitant to kill the attacker after Hannibal sends the man to Will’s house; in fact, he seems almost obliged to do it. He comments that after this event, both Will and Hannibal are even-steven: Will attempted to kill Hannibal, and Hannibal attempted to kill Will. The show looks to define Will as a person who might be slipping into a delusional mindset of power, ultimately thanks to Hannibal’s initial act to make Will think he’s a killer.
Hannibal is doing the same thing with Margot, although to a lesser degree. Hannibal has tried to influence her to kill as well, so there’s a sort of Following-esque cult going on here. It’s unfortunate that The Following doesn’t use some of Hannibal‘s writing as example: this is how you create a manipulative serial killer. While “Shiizakana” isn’t the best episode of the season, it is a critical moment within the series.
Next week, we get the season finale of The Following, plus the last few episodes of Bates Motel, Resurrection, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, and Hannibal. We’ll be covering Salem‘s season, so don’t you worry. In a few weeks, Shawn will pick up Penny Dreadful and maybe even cover a retro TV show. Stay tuned!