May 20 2014

Salem —“Lies” Retrospective.  Know Thy Enemy.


Season 1, Episode 5

Airdate: Sunday, May 18, 2014, 10/9c on WGN America


“Lucky men go to their graves with no regrets. Not a day barely passes by when I don’t have one.” John

[warning]Warning: If you haven’t finished or seen this episode, there are spoilers ahead. [/warning]


SALEM 1X05 LIES-09Salem picks up steam in “Lies” as battle lines are drawn, alliances falter, and long awaited questions finally get some answers. It’s the beginning of an important turning point for the series with most of the core characters finding themselves at a crossroads. Tensions rise among the coven when Mary Sibley’s (Janet Montgomery) feelings for Captain John Alden (Shane West) puts at risk the completion of “the grand rite.” Meanwhile, John’s past remains enough in the forefront without distracting viewers from the problems at hand with the witches, and the romantic elements are not as heavy-handed. Instead, we get some very poignant moments hitting the right emotional mark without too much melodrama, especially regarding Reverend Cotton Mather’s (Seth Gabel) storyline with the prostitute Gloriana (Azure Parsons). Yet, Mary isn’t the only one with an axe to grind in her mission to avenge past wrongs. Mercy (Elise Eberle), the town’s poster child for the demonically possessed, demonstrates she can be a force to reckon with too.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Last week William Hooke (Matthew Holmes), an old acquaintance of John’s, made his first and last appearance in Salem, or so it appeared. Ever since John foiled the witches’ plans by stealing the wooden box Hooke intended on delivering to Rose (Diane Salinger), a member of the coven, all of Mary’s plans have gone awry. The more John participates in the witch hunt, the closer he becomes Mary’s undoing; it’s enough to lead one to wonder if his arrival back in Salem is a twist of fate or are there other dark forces working against Mary?

Ancient Witch #1 (Peggy Walton Walker) : “Do you know why we summoned you here?”

Magistrate Hale (Xander Berkeley) :  “I do not.”

Ancient Witch #2 (Juli Erickson) : “John Alden.”

Magistrate Hale: “Yes?”

Ancient Witch #1: “He disturbs and distracts our greatest creation…Mary Sibley.”

SALEM 1X05 LIES-03Making matters worse, John unknowingly places himself in the line of fire by working with Cotton, who discovers the wooden box is a “malem,” a key item to perform “the grand rite.” Should Mary fail to complete her sacrificial killings, the malem, from what I could tell, will come in handy. Together, John persuades Cotton to keep their knowledge about the box a secret; it’s a great strategy until Mary pays a visit to Cotton’s home and notices an open book describing the malem. Montgomery does a great job of reeling in Mary’s emotions, masking her shock with a cool demeanor without rising suspicion. Oh, how the plot thickens when we find Mary stroking Cotton’s ego while holding his hand. Cotton exudes an odd sexual tension when he is in close proximity to Mary, but that’s where she has the upper hand in manipulating him. I’m not quite sure what is going on here between them but it always gives me pause.

Meanwhile, Tituba (Ashley Madekwe) is holding down the fort, siding with Mary against the other witches. Tituba’s relationship and history with Mary remains vague. How they first met, and what seals their bond beyond duty is unclear. However, it does mold Tituba to be Salem’s dark horse, and she just might be a game changer for several reasons. The most important one is her control over Mary, and her special abilities with the dead. Whether Tituba harbors genuine feelings of concern for Mary matters little to what she can gain by staying on her good side. This includes keeping John alive, allowing her to steer Mary’s focus on the grand rite. The bad news for Tituba is that it also means she must go out of her way to protect John, which is no easy task but possible with the right information.

Mary: “I am most completely myself.”

Tituba: “No, you are not! You are in love. Let me tell you about him, this man that you love. He is a murderer.”

Mary: “He is not.”

Tituba: “Yes. And he has killed yet another to keep his secret. If I tell the magistrate, the militia will come. They will take him, and they will hang him.” 

Halfway through “Lies,” we finally see more of Tituba’s powers. It’s a nice change of pace compared to her usual fare of potion making. In one gruesome scene, Tituba literally strips the face off Hooke (whose body she recovered) and conjures it to speak from beyond the grave. Yes, there’s a face of a dead man talking, and after a bit of convincing, he finally reveals John’s secret; the one worth dying for, worth killing for to protect.

One of the great parts of “Lies” is the revelation of the inner workings of the coven throughout the community. We not only see more about Rose’s presence in town, we see the rest of the coven, which includes eyeless hags who are stereotypical in appearance, literal warts and all. But the most important aspect of their scenes is how they refer to Mary. One of the witches references Mary as something they “created.” Is that when Mary lost her baby? Or does it harken to her beginnings? Remember, we know nothing of Mary’s past other than her poverty prior to her marriage. Was she always a witch? That remains to be seen.

SALEM 1X05 LIES-13Who’s The Head Witch Now?

Mercy is scene stealer, whether she’s going toe-to-toe with Mary, or trying to be noble and help some of Salem’s more ill-fated citizens. When a group of girls, more like witch hunt groupies, visits Mercy at home, it underlines how much the hysteria becomes a part of people’s lives in Salem. Mercy uses the fanaticism the girls in town have for her as a means to create her own vigilante justice. Let’s just say it doesn’t bode well for Mercy, who shows a lot more arrogance; it’s almost easy to see how Mary took advantage of the girl. In the end, if there’s any lesson learned, it’s that you do not cross Mary Sibley.

It’s About Time

Repression is a big theme throughout “Lies.” We see how it causes a lot of suffering and despair. For Mercy, her actions are driven by her need for power, a product of being a woman in a male dominated society. Where love is concerned, Cotton’s feelings for Gloriana go beyond her work in a brothel. Gloriana represents everything a Puritanical society contradicts, tormenting Cotton further and with no safe resolve in sight. Their evolving relationship is a rocky path, and the performance between Gabel and Parsons adds the necessary angst to their scenes. But Cotton and Gloriana are not the only one with love problems.

Since John’s return to Salem, his interaction with Mary has been either too brief or too little. After weeks of anticipation as to whether they will make in-roads towards their relationship, we finally get to see some action between them when a moment of sadness leads to one hell of a passionate kiss.

Mary: “Sometimes in life we make choices, and sometimes, these difficult choices, they lead us to do things, terrible things, and we don’t wish to…we do anything not to…but choice informs choice. Your actions, though your own, they don’t resemble what you would want for or wish for. Tell me that it was a difficult choice, a terrible thing, please, so that I might still believe in goodness.”

John: “I murdered 20 men, and I make not excuses about it. Will you have me arrested?”
Mary: “I am the only one that knows.



“Lies” is a well-balanced episode continuing to focus on the growth of the characters versus the gore; although there still are some pretty graphic scenes. All of the subplots balance well with the performances. “Lies” writer Sergio Mimica-Gezzan is spot on with making sure the emotional scenes match perfectly with the action.

Some of the notable things about “Lies” is the absence of Isaac (Iddo Goldberg), the town’s most infamous deviant. It is sad not seeing him but that keeps him out of danger. Then, there’s the hilarious exchange between Anne Hale (Tamzin Merchant) and John in the middle of town. Apparently, Anne is not about to be strung along, waiting for him to come to his senses. Finally, there’s John’s admission of guilt, his part in being a murderer, and Mary’s heartbreak. I love the discussion about regrets, how they are both at a point of no return in their lives. What I didn’t expect is Mary’s speech about finding some “goodness” in him. In a lot of ways, this makes Mary more sympathetic. Not only is the life she planned with John just a sad illusion, but the man she loves is no different than her—a murderer.

All in all, I like this episode the best so far because it brings in all the characters without skimming on the important storylines. I can’t wait to see how the power struggles play out next week, and whether Mary’s power will weaken or strengthen.

What did you think of “Lies?” Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @conallen

Tune in to Salem on Sundays at 10/9c, only on WGN America.

Follow the series on its official site at, where you can also watch videos and clips of the episodes.

Follow Salem on its official Tumblr:, and Twitter: @SalemWGNA.


Photos: ©2014 WGN America. All Rights Reserved.

© 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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