Jul 14 2014

Salem – “All Fall Down” Retrospective. All Hell Breaks Loose, Literally!


John and Mary remember their vows.

Season 1, Episode 13

Airdate: Sunday, July 13, 2014, 10/9c on WGN America


Viewers beware, the season finale of Salem will make you squirm in your seats, gasp in shock, and scream at your television. “All Fall Down” culminates the show’s tumultuous season of bloodshed, torture, and witchcraft as the Hunter’s Full Moon reaches its zenith, signaling the time to initiate the grand rite.

There’s Something About Mary

“All Fall Down” picks up after the cliffhanger ending of “Ashes, Ashes” where Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery) uses her magic to help John Alden (Shane West) escape his death sentence. Without much delay, Mary reveals to John she is indeed a witch. What’s surprising is how well he takes the information in stride. Perhaps, after all he’s witnessed in Salem, nothing surprises him anymore. At the very least, I thought John’s reaction might have some anger behind it, but it doesn’t at all. If he put two and two together, he might realize Mary’s involvement with the recent witch trials. But love is blind and for John, it’s to a fault. Mary does explain to John witchcraft became her form of survival during his absence, but considering the magnitude of her revelation, and the lengths Mary went to hide her identity as a witch, this part of their storyline falls flat. Additionally, not only does John accept Mary’s admission, he suggests they run away together. Reflecting on all previous episodes to “All Fall Down,” it’s reasonable to assume Mary will reject the idea. Alas, she decides to run away with him. Has Mary learned nothing? There are no happy endings in the town of Salem; one only has to look at the fates of Reverend Cotton Mathers (Seth Gabel) or Isaac (Iddo Goldberg) to realize life is no fairytale, even if you are the “Queen of the Night.”

Mercy and her lowly minions.

Mercy and her lowly minions.

Amid the dark chaos surrounding Salem’s numerous core storylines—like Mercy’s (Elise Eberle) plot to take down Mary, and Increase Mather’s (Stephen Lang) unrelenting pursuit of witches—it’s odd to watch John and Mary’s love story prevail while heartbreak surrounds them. Honestly, when John realizes Mary is a witch, I expected their relationship to end. What I didn’t anticipate is Mary’s determination to forgo all her nefarious plans with her coven while so close to the grand rite. I have mixed feelings about the timing, even though it works to add to the suspenseful tone of the finale.

Once Mary chooses love over her need for revenge, she heads towards town in order to take care of a few loose ends. She announces to the coven and Tituba (Ashley Madekwe) her intentions to abandon the grand rite. Mary goes so far as to suggest Magistrate Hale (Xander Berkeley) take over since his family line is ancient. As a viewer, I couldn’t help but shake my head at the absurdity of Mary’s choice. Does she honestly believe any of the witches will allow her to leave Salem this close to the grand rite, and without a fight? This is Salem; no one leaves the town unscathed anymore. The coven reminds Mary she is their “Chosen One” before delivering some shocking information about the child she sacrificed seven years ago! It’s the latter news that convinces Mary to acquiesce and complete the grand rite.

Salem, Bloody Salem

It speaks volumes to the overall intensity of the episode when Mary’s completion of the long awaited grand rite isn’t nearly as shocking as the events surrounding Cotton and the Hale family. Since the moment Increase and his son Cotton reunited in Salem, they have constantly been at odds with one another. Only recently, in “Ashes, Ashes,” did Cotton decide to join his father’s witch hunting ways, so imagine my shock when Mary’s manipulation forces Cotton to do the unthinkable! It might not be a total surprise that Cotton and Increase’s relationship takes such a violent turn considering the severity of how things end between them.

I have always wanted Cotton to stand up to his father rather than sit around sulking. Yet, Cotton’s conversion from a religious man of God to someone who has fallen from grace takes a huge leap when he attacks his father, an act I doubt he can truly recover from once the shock wears off. Cotton has such a guilt ridden mentality about everything; it will be fascinating to see if his experiences in Salem will make him a villain or an anti-hero in season two.

We go a little mad sometimes, Anne goes hardcore.

We go a little mad sometimes, Anne goes hardcore.

No One Puts Anne in the Corner

Anne Hale’s (Tamzin Merchant) transformation from the rebellious, yet doting, daughter of Magistrate Hale to an unexpected demonic force of nature is the most surprising moment in the entire season. Unable to accept her family’s supernatural blood ties to witchcraft, Anne refuses to go along with her father’s plans. It’s a major turning point for both Anne and Magistrate Hale—a point of no return, with immeasurable consequences.

I have to give credit where credit is due. Anne surprises me completely with her range of emotions from innocent curiosity when she finds old toys her father carved for her, to complete fury at discovering her father’s actions that aided in the grand rite. Merchant adds a sympathetic quality to her character, and the suspenseful scenes she shares with Berkeley are on point and solid.  The Hale family showdown makes Increase’s and Mary’s antics look like child’s play.

Bottom Line

Unlike some television networks with a predilection for the paranormal, WGN America delivers a bold series that takes risks with its adult content and historical subject matter. Despite issues with character development and the pacing of its main plot points early on, Salem eventually finds its rhythm. Over the past few weeks, many of those problems have slowly disappeared, revealing a thrilling drama. The performances by the actors are at their best. The use of Reverend Cotton’s relationship with his father Increase, and Anne’s newfound legacy, are highlights of the season. Not to mention that in a matter of a few episodes, Increase has broken apart Mary’s foundation and plans, which is simply remarkable considering how much power she has over the people of Salem.

Overall, the last moments of “All Fall Down” leave a lot open to interpretation as old alliances die, new prospects lay bitterly on the horizon, and some characters remain severely wounded.

Without a doubt, Salem’s finale is the best episode of the season, with many situations left in critical condition. Season two cannot get here fast enough.

What did you think of “All Fall Down” Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @conallen.

Salem airs on Sundays at 10/9c, only on WGN America.

Follow the series on its official site at http://www.wgnamerica.com/shows/salem, where you can also watch videos and clips of the episodes.

Follow Salem on its official Tumblr: http://witchesarereal.tumblr.com/, and on Twitter: @SalemWGNA.

You can also follow the cast on Twitter: Captain John Alden/Shane West (@shanewest_1), Cotton Mather/Seth Gabel (@sethgabel), Magistrate Hale/Xander Berkeley (@xanderberkeley), Tituba/Ashley Madekwe (@smashleybell), Anne Hale/Tamzin Merchant (@tamzinmerchant), Mercy/Elise Eberle (@eliseeberle), and Issac/Iddo Goldberg (@IddoG).


© 2014, Connie Allen. All rights reserved.

Connie Allen

I'm a writer, cinephile, avid reader, and pop culture enthusiast. I love historical dramas, and fantasy/sci-fi series. Currently living in SoCal.

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