“SALEM: Season 2, Episode 12” (TV Review)News Ken W. Hanley
For the past 11 episodes of SALEM’s second season, one of the most refreshing aspects about the show is their willingness to go exactly where most television would not. Whether it’s in terms of content- such as castration, cannibalism and SFX-heavy death scenes- or if its in terms of the story, such as the various twists or turns, the ability to make good on the threats they dangle in front of the audience is nothing less than gutsy. And with the penultimate episode of SALEM, entitled “Midnight Never Come,” the show went through with a truly shocking deed that had been teased for the better part of the season now, and with nothing left to the imagination, either: John Jr. was drowned in the pits of Hell by Marburg, and is reborn as the Devil incarnate.
But while even this disturbing sequence was an impressively affecting hit to the audience’s heart, SALEM’s shocking elements didn’t stop there, as “Midnight Never Come” introduces some huge last-minute twists to the series. The first, and most monumental, was the reveal that Anne Hale was the daughter of Countess Marburg, which potentially robbed Mary Sibley of her most powerful ally while changing Hale’s character dynamic completely. However, that’s not all this episode had to offer; John Alden was able to get away from his mortal wound and kick ass in a big way, Cotton learned about Anne’s true nature and, in the strangest turn of events, Isaac the Fornicator has now become a town figurehead as “The Truth-Teller”, an essential 180-degree turn from his beginnings in season one. And lastly, there’s Mary’s complete abandonment, outside of John Alden, by not only her former allies but also the Essex Witches, which leaves almost anyone at risk for the finale.
However, while SALEM can inject their story with twists and turns, the real surprise is how versatile the show can be in its fairly quieter moments as well. By establishing an unpredictable and often terrifying atmosphere, scenes such as Cotton’s discovery of Anne’s powers or Marburg’s conversation with Tituba and Anne become as powerful and engaging as even the most wicked set piece. Likewise, “Midnight Never Come” also serves up some excellent drama as well, as the scene between the wounded Alden and the vulnerable Mary is particularly heartbreaking, while Mary’s face-to-face with Mercy reminds the audience of the pair’s excellent dramatic chemistry, especially as Mary seems genuinely apologetic towards Mercy in a rare moment of empathy.
With the season coming to a close, Alex Zakrzewski’s direction is effective at tying together the aesthetics of the episodes that came before it, and Zakrzewski does well to leave his own stamp on the proceedings as well. Perhaps Zakrzewski’s direction is none more impressive than in Mary’s confrontation of the Essex Witches, painting an even bigger, more fantastical picture than the fairly contained action of SALEM normally suggests. But Zakrzewski’s choice to go bold with this sequence, no doubt in part to the stellar script from Donna Thorland and Adam Simon, is a refreshing reminder that even when we think we’ve seen the full extent of SALEM’s insane scope, we’re merely touching the surface of a much greater fictional realm, which should more than whet the appetites of the series’ loyal fans for season three.
Surprisingly enough, almost every single cast member of SALEM has a moment to call their own in “Midnight Never Come”, and each rises to the occasion appropriately. While there’s no out-and-out MVP this week, Lucy Lawless and Janet Montgomery both are nothing less than sensational this week, offering some of their best work so far this season, especially during the aforementioned sacrifice scene. Meanwhile, Elise Eberle and Tamzin Merchant both get some excellent scenes to experiment with their characters’ nature (which is remarkable considering how much their characters have changed since season one). Meanwhile, the episode also featured terrific turns from Seth Gabel, Joe Doyle, Shane West, Iddo Goldberg, Ashley Madekwe, Jeremy Crutchley and an especially great Oliver Bell as well.
Overall, SALEM’s intense lead-up to the second season finale was a surprising and provocative affair, sending some characters into a completely different direction than one might have imagined while making Mary and Marburg’s inevitable collision all the more malicious and personal. In that sense, “Midnight Never Come” is like a flash of frightening lightning, leaving the audience on edge for what is inevitably coming next: the thunderous finale. And now that the Devil is officially in the mix, SALEM has an excuse to go into even darker and more demented territory, if that’s even possible.