Salem Review: The Vow
One of the things that intrigued me, amongst the wave of early American televisions series that are popping up, is that Salem looked to divert from the norm. It was, as I rightly assumed, was to be more of an interpretation of events then just a bland retelling of the known story. While this can serve to a create creative jumping off point story wise there is a lot left to be desired about this sinister and devilish take on an historical period of mass panic.
It is clear early on that there is a setup for ambiguity and painting both the Puritans and the Witches with an equal stoke of disdain and hypocrisy. The witches come off as having the upper hand while the Puritans, namely the clergy in the form of a rather young John Cotton, come off as groping, confused, frightened and on religiously uneasy footing. In the middle of these two sides, we have our potential and probable savior/messiah in Shane West’s character of John Alden. Alden comes off as modern humanist/enlightened/antireligious thinker that will be the redemption of Salem and of course Mary. We can see
him either be brought to task and faith by what he witnesses or will try to reason, and no doubt fight, his way out of it. This is an interesting place to be in and does setup Salem for an atmosphere in which the trials and paranoia came blossom but this is pinned amongst a backdrop that is at times flat and out of step with the time-period.
While I applaud the higher-then-normal production values, especially coming from a local studio like WGN, some issues left me feeling disconnected and taken out of the 17th century atmosphere. This comes down to a matter of aesthetic many of which did not lend anything to the storytelling and how it was filmed in broad and uninteresting angles accentuated this. This is further made uneven by poor choses in language, clothing and mannerism of some of the characters that have a more modern vibe then anything you would find in a fanatically religious and strict town in the 17th century. However, while there are some historical missteps there were also some interesting and hokey moments to enjoy. One of the most
compelling and extremely watchable moments was between Mary and Tituba that bordered on the sensual and gave you the feeling that something may happen between them. These were the highlights of the episode and gave a more subtle, interesting, and creepy sense of what is to come and what lies behind the Witches’ power. Some of the harder moments to digest come a lot from the Alden character that felt as if he was trying too hard and never quite settled into the period in which he was living.
While it was a good solid entry for a pilot, it was nothing to get overly excited about and nothing so original that blows the door off ones imagination. However, I do see a smidge of potential for it to be a solid work-a-day show that while it may not ascend to fanatic heights does have the potential to entertain with both creeps and hokey laughs.
– Keeping all the original, if somewhat age adjusted, names of the original Salem Trial participants.
– The slim writhing bacchanalia/sabbat that induced some heebie-jeebies.
– The opening punishment scene
– The frog in the mouth scene
– The obvious setting up the trapper for death scene/talk with Mary
– The lizard with stitched eyes