May 27 2014

Salem – “The Red Rose and the Briar” Retrospective.  Embrace The Darkness.


Season 1, Episode 6

Airdate: Sunday, May 25, 2014, 10/9c on WGN America


“I need your heart, and I need it broken. And nothing breaks a heart like death.” – Rose

SALEM-1x06-TRATB-01 (Custom)[warning]Warning: If you haven’t finished or seen this episode, there are spoilers ahead. [/warning]

It’s about time Salem started picking up the pace. For weeks, Salem dragged its feet in delivering insightful details into the lives of its main characters. That isn’t the case with “The Red Rose and The Briar,” the latest episode shedding light behind Mary Sibley’s (Janet Montgomery) rise to power. The core of the episode revolves around life choices, the ones we make and the ones we break.

We also learn the fate of Rose (Diane Salinger), the witch caught by Reverend Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel) and Captain John Alden (Shane West), as well as her major role in all the dirty dealings in Salem.

“The Red Rose and the Briar” is a great complement to last week’s “Lies,” in that it reinforces the idea that breaking alliances among the Salem coven will be met with dire consequences.

Salem’s Own Hardy BoysSALEM-1x06-TRATB-04 (Custom)

In the aftermath of events in “Lies,” Rose remains a captive of Cotton and John. It’s interesting to watch the dynamic between the two men as they interact with one another. John comes off more as the brawn, whereas Cotton’s rather strange interest in alchemy and (gasp) science makes him the brains. The first scenes with Cotton show him explaining the use of a new invention, the hypodermic needle, to John. For a religious man, wouldn’t his action also be seen as witchcraft? Using wolf urine, along with some other ingredients, to create a paralyzing serum is a bit much.  But things get real bad, real quick when Rose provokes John and he ends up taking a page from director Tarantino; instead of mimicking, though, John actually stabs Rose in the chest with one fell swoop!

Cotton and John spend a majority of the episode in the woods, where they try to get to the bottom of things while fighting against a team of zombie puritans in a pool of blood and gore, which provides one of the many disturbing scenes of “The Red Rose and the Briar.”

Queen of the Night

Apparently, the forest is the hot spot this week in Salem as Mary takes Mercy (Elise Eberle) under her wing. It’s a strange turn of events, especially when it appears Mary’s motives last week in “Lies” suggest she means to end Mercy. After all the antics Mercy performed with the town’s girls in “Lies,” as well as her arrogance, I’m surprised she’s still alive. But Salem is not really known for its predictability, no matter how off center it moves at times. Mary’s budding friendship and relationship with Mercy is like that of mother, sister, and master. I like how we see flickering moments of Mary’s feelings when she tells more of her backstory through the guise of a fairy tale, “Queen of the Night.” The Queen of the Night plot point gives viewers an opportunity to see Mary’s early beginnings − from how she came to marry George Sibley (Michael Mulheren) to the major role Rose plays in changing the lives of all the core characters. It is all so compelling.SALEM-1x06-TRATB-03 (Custom)

What surprises me about Mary’s scenes with Mercy is how their interaction reveals a maternal side to Mary, in her own way. When we see Mary’s miserable life as Sibley’s wife mix with her narrating the fairytale, the scenes take on a surreal feel. Yet, it’s frustrating at the same time. Why has Salem waited so long to show us this side of Mary’s life? It’s a little too late in the game but if the redeeming quality of this storyline is how it echoes Mercy’s similar fate — by making a deal with the devil — as well as showing what Mary gave up to become a witch, it ends up revealing the hag in the mirror is a reflection of her soul, á la Dorian Gray.

All of this leads to a fast paced storyline where Mary assists Mercy in joining the ranks of Salem’s coven; an act Mary justifies by explaining to Tituba (Ashley Madekwe) that Mercy cannot call out members of the coven to the people of Salem if “she is a witch herself.”

What the What? A Few Inconsistencies

No show is perfect, and unfortunately, there are moments in The Red Rose and the Briar” where you, as the viewer, have to ask yourself, “What the what?”

  • The Salem Girls – In last week’s episode “Lies,” Mary confronts Mercy and some of Salem’s local girls in the forest while they pray to dark forces. When we see Mercy and Mary again, they are back in the Sibley residence. So what happened to the other girls? Were they threatened by Mary? Did Mary do a little witchypoo magic to make them forget? I guess we’ll have to wait.
  • The Fornicator – What happened to Isaac (Iddo Goldberg)? Although his allegiance lies with Mary, considering how John saved his life, what role will he play? He is referenced in  “The Red Rose and the Briar,” but there’s no explanation as to his whereabouts right now.
  • Walk In the Dark – At the end of the episode, Alden and Mary cross paths at the edge of town. With both of them going through a wringer of sorts with their current dilemmas, at first it appears like a follow-up chat regarding their kiss might be imminent. Instead, all we get is a mini stroll between the two of them before the scene cuts back to the Sibley residence where Mercy is in a bath. It isanti-climactic and begs one to wonder what happened.


I really enjoyed “The Red Rose and the Briar;” it is definitely a stronger episode with a good sense of direction. I love how the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. What surprises me is how Rose, from the very beginning, orchestrates their entire events, setting the foundation of the series!

Rose: “True malice, like that which powers the grand rite, ferments best in a loveless heart. I have looked into your heart and it is anything but loveless. You still love John Alden. I couldn’t take the chance. There is no part of all this, from your broken heart to the grand rite itself, that I have not planned. I put the very thought in George Sibley’s head that he ought to send John Alden away!”

Mary: “It was you.”

Salem is hitting its stride now, and continues to have a rollercoaster of emotions. I look forward to seeing the fallout from Rose’s demise, as well as Mercy’s new role in the sisterhood after her initiation to the coven.


What did you think of “The Red Rose and The Briar?” 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.

1 comment

    • Lauren on May 27, 2014 at 9:44 pm
    • Reply

    I noticed the use of the hypodermic needle. An item that was not invented until some 200 years after Salems witch trials…

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