“SALEM: SEASON 3” (TV Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
After the bloody and brutal second season finale of SALEM, there were many who wondered exactly where the series could go. After all, several pivotal characters lay dead, while others were certainly compromised in one way or another. Yet after checking out the first five episodes of SALEM’s third season, including tonight’s wicked season opener, this writer is happy to report that not only is the insane, grandiose pulp storytelling of SALEM back, but it is indeed better than ever.
Season Three of SALEM kicks off with some truly heavy stakes: the town itself is on the verge of tearing itself apart, surrounding towns are being razed by foreign forces by the day, and the witches learn that The Devil is not looking to keep up his end of their unholy bargain the hard way. As the tension piles up, the witches of Salem realize they need to bring back the recently deceased Mary Sibley while the citizens of Salem put their trust back into the recently annointed Isaac as well as a battle-ready John Alden. And as lines are drawn between the residents of Salem, bloodshed and betrayal run rampant, affecting any and all who stand in the way of Hell on Earth.
Without spoiling too much of SALEM’s third season, it’s easy to say that the show is really running with all of the crazier and bizarre elements they had flirted with in previous seasons. From the types of witches on display- an episode helmed by Joe Dante recalls those of HANSEL AND GRETEL variety- to the elemental natures of their powers to the world beyond the town of Salem, the series explores a much more fantastic realm this time around, whilst still providing the practical FX-driven madness and the Italian horror-imagery that has made the show so spellbinding. Towards the former, the third season premiere offers a mere taste of the FX moments SALEM has in store with one of their best special FX gags to date when Mercy Lewis turns a simple game into something much more brutal.
Of course, SALEM works as well as it does thanks to the work of those both in front of and behind the camera. Series co-creators Adam Simon and Brannon Braga do an exceptional job of planning out an unpredictable and fun third season, with their arc for Mary Sibley both punishing and yet captivating this time around. Likewise, SALEM employs some exceptional directors for the first batch of episodes in Season Three, including the aforementioned Dante, frequent collaborator Nick Copus, and UTOPIA regular Wayne Yip. And the FX from Matthew Mungle, Jack Lynch, and the VFX team is once again top notch, offering some of their most ambitious work to date.
Furthermore, the cast of SALEM is also firing on all cylinders, each handily topping their performances from last season as they find greater agency within their characters. Primarily, it’s excellent to see Janet Montgomery and Shane West getting to explore the inner mechanisms of their characters, while Ashley Madekwe, Iddo Goldberg, Oliver Bell, and Joe Doyle get a much better platform to bring more colorful, unexpected performances to the show. Meanwhile, many of the Season Two MVPs, from Tamzin Merchant, Seth Gabel, Elise Eberle, and Jeremy Crutchley, keep up their top notch performances as well. Yet FANGORIA would be remiss if we didn’t also give praise to the two stand-out newcomers of Season Three: Samuel Roukin as the internally complicated Sentinel, and Marilyn Manson as the sleaziest barber ever to grace the small screen.
Overall, if you’re a fan of SALEM, chances are you’ll find yourself bewitched again by the head-spinning horror on display in the first wave of Season Three. Yet even if you go into this season blind, there’s a good chance that the eerie and epic melodrama of SALEM may impress both seasoned and casual fright fans alike.