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Rewatch Week 1: "The Vow"

  • We begin our rewatch with "The Vow", which aired four years ago.

    What are your thoughts on the episode? What did you like? What did you dislike? Any thoughts that strike you on rewatch that you may not have had the first time you watched the episode? Is there anything in particular about the episode that you would like to discuss?

    Please take care to hide any spoilers for future episodes.


    Just for fun, the floor is also open for your nominees for the following categories:

    MVP (Most Valuable Player)

    MVW (Most Valuable Witch)*

    Best Spell

    Best Quote

    Best Costume

    Best Moment

    Creepiest Moment

    Most Heartwarming Moment

    Funniest Moment

    Worst Week

    *Note: If your nominee for MVP is a witch, please nominate a different witch for MVW.

    If you don't have nominees for all categories, you are welcome to nominate for as many or as few as you like. Depending on the number of people who take part, the episode winner can be decided by vote or by consensus.

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    • Grand Rite Progress Report

      4 out of 13 innocents sacrificed.

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    • I reconfirm "The Vow" as my favorite episode. The whole set of characters, and the environment is perfectly made. You can clearly perceive the tension that will spring into the witch-panic, fomented by terrible religious repressions since the first minutes of the scene. 

      In this episode we have an overview of life in Salem, an opportunity that fades away in subsequent episodes, where main characters' situations take over the situation. Everything is still to be discovered in "The Vow", with subdued possessed girls, puritan hypocrisy and eroticism, and a split dose of daily life in which the social system is vigorously criticized; Anne suggests to her mother to blaze her with a bow and sell her at auction, criticizing marriage, and the role of the woman in society more or less explicitly. Another great criticism of man-woman distinctions comes from Mary Sibley in the cemetery scene.

      I appreciated the scenes between Cotton and Mercy, because in a show about Salem's witches, it's unthinkable to ignore the key part: the girls who pointed the finger at the community, claiming power over a patriarchal society, instilling panic in anyone. Because, as Mather said, "anyone can be a witch" or something like that. It also shows how the girls were harassed, manipulated, segregated and used in the name of a wholly male hysteria, although etymologically hysteria is exclusively female. After all, those who judge behaviors deemed deviating from their norm are those who are the most libidious and sinners behind closed doors. We have a clear example of it with Cotton, a habitual prostitute client.

      This is also one of the few episodes, if not the only one, where I liked John Alden. The voice of reason and reasoning along with Giles Corey, he's the only one to realize how puritans have become unmanageable, led by no less than Mather junior, with his fine clothes and his vast culture, but total ignorance of the real problems of daily life. 

      Although not particularly original, one of the features I like is to have real witches maneuvering witch trials, sending innocent people to death to satisfy their blood lust and mischief. However, I would have preferred greater attention to this element, taking advantage of the relationship between puritans and non-Puritans (Native Americans, witches, prostitutes etc)

      And now, let's go to the prizes!
      • MVP: John Alden
      • MVW: Mary Sibley
      • Best Spell: Mary's initiation to witchcraft.
      • Best Quote: "And all the world shall be yours in return."
      • Best Costume: Mary Sibley's at the meetinghouse.
      • Best Moment: The revelation of real witches behind Salem witch trials, and the mention of their plan for revenge in the last scene. (+bonus: the feeding of Mary's familiar).
      • Creepiest Moment: The punishment of Abigail and Isaac. I find that human cruelty is far more gruesome than any fantasy monster.
      • Most Heartwarming Moment: -
      • Funniest Moment: "So, you learned your hunting from books. Well, that's a bit like learning the facts of life from your maiden aunt."
      • Worst Week: definitely Isaac whipped, branded and pilloried for a snog.
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    • I started watching Salem just over a year ago, and I was able to watch the first two seasons as a marathon. "The Vow" was instantly gripping, a great way of thrusting viewers directly into the story.

      It has some plot holes that were never filled, including the questions of (a) just what was keeping John Alden and Mary Walcott from marrying, and (b) what George Sibley's intentions towards Mary were, given that he already had a wife?

      I like the way the story takes turns that I would not have expected.

      For example, the opening scene showcases George Sibley as the dominant figure in Salem, so much so that he presides over Isaac and Abigail's punishment, despite objections from Hale (who may or may not have been magistrate at the time), and Tituba asks Mary what she thinks George will do to her if he finds out that she's pregnant, rather citing than the selectmen or magistrate as the threat. One might have expected George to be a primary antagonist, a worthy foe for Mary and the witches, but he is instead rendered more or less helpless.

      Likewise, Magistrate Hale seems to be the voice of reason in Salem, speaking against the severity of Isaac's punishment and warning of the dangers of a witch hunt, only to turn out to be a witch himself.

      The opening scene shows what a grim place Salem is. It's very easy to believe that a witch panic could begin in a community like that. Mary's initiation is a disturbing scene and one that victimises her, as she is very reluctant, told that she has no choice, terrified by demons while she pleads for help, and left sobbing when it is over.

      I love the concept of the witch trials being used by real witches to secure power. I think that the idea of using the Puritans against one another is a plausible one for Mary to have had. In a way, I think that she may have been testing them, at least on some level. If they turned on one another, killing innocent people as witches, they would deserve everything they got. If they didn't go doing with the trials, they'd prove that they didn't deserve to die.


      A couple of observations:

      Why did John say that he saw three men strung up on the way to town when two of those hanged were women?

      Who are the woman and little girl seen in the Lewis house? I assumed them to be Mercy's mother and sister but, later, it's just her and her father?

      What did Giles see in the woods when Mary was initiated? Did he see what viewers saw, or something else? He's encouraging of John's feelings for Mary, advocating that he wait until she's a wealthy widow, and he confronts Mary about it, neither of which would make sense if he knew her to have participated in a Satanic ritual.

      During the Sabbath, when the dove is killed, it is said "Now it begins", yet the three hanged prior to John's return count towards the Grand Rite tally of dead innocents. Was the Grand Rite already in progress or not?


      Awards

      MVP: John Alden. It's an excellent start for him, both when he stands up to George Sibley in 1685, his role as the sceptic of Salem after his return, his plea to Mary to leave with him, and his declaration against Salem after Giles' death.

      MVW: Mary Sibley, who narrowly missed my nomination as MVP. Janet Montgomery does such a fantastic job showing the contrast between the young girl in love, resorting to witchcraft out of desperation, and the powerful witch who is spearheading the Grand Rite.

      Best Spell: Mary's initiation.

      Best Quote: "More weight." Simple, awesome, and bonus points for being a true quote.

      Best Costume: Mary Sibley's outfit at the meeting house. It's such a perfect contrast with her first outfit, which echoed the Virgin Mary in colour and simplicity, and a perfect illustration of her current life of wealth and status.

      Best Moment: The reveal that the witch trials are being used by the witches for their benefit.

      Most Heartwarming Moment: Nothing in particular comes to mind for this episode.

      Creepiest Moment: The stabbing of the dove.

      Funniest Moment: John's line "So, you learned your hunting from books. Well, that's a bit like learning the facts of life from your maiden aunt."

      Worst Week: Mercy Lewis. Attacked by the hag, head shaved, led around the town in Cotton's harness and a scold's bridle, made to bite off the tip of her finger and accuse an innocent man of a capital crime.

      I don't think anybody gets the prize for Episode Namer this week.

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    • so lucky! I started watching Salem from the day of the premiere (or, better, streaming the next day because it was not broadcast where I live) so I had to wait each week! I like to notice that we have similar tastes ;) Let's see if I can find some likely answers to your questions

      I also had noticed woman and child at the time but, since they were never mentioned or shown, I supposed the writers had retconned them (after all, pilot episodes usually always contain differences with the rest of the series). I think I've written something about it in Mercy and / or Rev. Lewis page; Otherwise, it would be add to trivia.

      As for the hanged, maybe it's just a generic "men", meaning human beings? For the start of the Grand Rite, I think it's just an oversight of the scenes montage. Also because they are part of the thirteen victims counted. Although, with the addition of Rebecca Nurse in season three the actual number of exectuted people is unclear.

      In my opinion Giles didn't see anything besides the two women touching and invoking "something" at the roots of the spooky tree, but without seeing Mary's distractions shown to us viewers, or bugs since it was night and surely Giles was far from them not to be note.

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    • Episode namer: I think it's John Alden from this line "The universe itself is made out of vows, and breaking them carries consequences."

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    • We could give him partial credit, I suppose. He uses the word "vow", first when he tells Mary that he will come back for her - "this is my vow" - and then when he talks about the universe being made of vows. However, I don't believe that he ever says "The Vow".

      Perhaps we should exclude the word "The", if that's the only way to get a winner, in which case John Alden wins this time.

      He also bookends the episode with vows in 1685 and 1692. That should count for something.

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    • I wondered if, from Giles' perspective, Tituba delivered Mary's baby, perhaps inducing a premature labour, and they left him in the woods to die.

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    • You know, that's what I thought of since ...

      Warning: spoiler alert
      at the end of the first season we find out that the child is alive. So she must have delivered him somehow. Probably that ointment was used as a deception to unleash the visions while Tituba induced labour, or the thick black substance that winding up Mary's legs has contributed somehow.
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    • It seems a jerk move on Giles' part to demand that Mary tell John, given the very real threat to Mary's life if her condition was discovered. It's not as if she could have hoped to raise the baby in Salem and live down the shame of bearing a child out of wedlock. It was literally a matter of life and death for her.

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    • Indeed. In the best of scenarios, Mary would have lived marginalized and harassed by society, like the adulteress of "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawhtorne. However, even if Giles didn't indulge in puritan costumes, he was still an old man of the 17th century, and therefore not exactly open minded so I cannot see I'm surprised by his move as he was only concerned of his Johnny Boy's feelings.

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    • Are there any new nominees for the awards?

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    • A Fandom user
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