Based on the first 25 minutes of Salem, which were just shown – minus some blacked-out moments of lust and violence deemed too much for potential younger viewers in the audience – it’s safe to say there’s something to offend everybody here. Yes, there are the usual zealous fundamentalist nutjobs of 1685 Massachusetts who brutally punish the wrong people – in the episode’s pre-credits teaser, a poor man named Isaac gets branded in the forehead with an “F.” It means “fornicator,” but it’s actually for the crime of fapping.
I will say, the blacking out gimmick was good. Way to get those of us who saw it to watch it again anyway.
Shane West is John Alden, a smartass cynic who has the nerve to quote Jesus’ actual words about forgiving and not judging, but because his dad was important he doesn’t get drowned or anything – just sent away to war. Meanwhile, girlfriend Mary (Janet Montgomery) is carrying his child, but they aren’t married, so to avoid disgrace, she goes to the woods, has visions of cloven-hoofed demons, lets cockroaches crawl all over her belly and gets a magic supernatural abortion, in return for which she will be granted great power.
Well, soon enough it’s seven years later, and she’s married to head fundamentalist nutjob George Sibley, who’s now wheelchair-ridden from an apparent stroke. Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel), here portrayed as a neurotic dork, has come to town to seek and destroy the witches, and John Alden is now back too, sporting Eddie Vedder hair and a modern foul mouth. (“I call bullshit,” says he of a possible possession case.)
Except the witches are real. Mary gets naked with only her long hair barely covering the naughty bits, forces her husband to barf up a toad, which she then lets suckle from a nipple in her leg. The possessed girl Alden calls bullshit on gets attacked by a weird old female Frankenstein-looking thing.
And John is invited to Mary’s for dinner. What will happen next?
That’s where what we saw ended, but a look at imdb reveals who is and is not signed on for all the episodes so far. Production value is solid, but it really feels like they may be relying a bit much on shock value – Mather molesting a poor woman, witches being gross, Christians being bad, etc.
Produced by Brannon Braga, who noted, “what uncharted territory this was. We all read The Crucible in high school, and then what? There’s stuff that’s far weirder than anything.”
The show still says the women tried for witchcraft were innocent, but there were real witches. “Let’s do this show in their reality” “The president of Harvard had an alchemy lab.”
West: Alden is “The audience’s POV” He’s very reactive at first, but later will become more aggressive in his reactions. These are real characters but “This isn’t the history channel…this is an alternate reality” Alden “wasn’t as young or good-looking” as Shane
Salem is WGN America’s big inaugural series – basic cable, which explains how they say “bullshit.”
There are other witches revealed besides Mary – the witches are among us. They are immigrants, and could be from many different countries, says Braga.
Isaac the Fornicator – “he’s like the little scarred angel of Salem. He represents all the pain and suffering. He’s the one person in town Mary really connects to.”
Salem debuts Sunday night at 10pm.