I have to be honest: the only reason I gave Salem a shot is because I’ve fallen in love with Janet Montgomery and her splendid performance on the year’s biggest breakout hit, NBC’s This Is Us. Suffice to say, the actress is absolutely excellent here as well!
I’m not usually a fan of possession/exorcism storylines, but Salem produces an atmospheric mood and an immersive sense of place as it explores the notorious witch trials of 17th century Massachusetts. The show is certainly not for everyone; it’s creepy, filled with gory imagery, and often quite unsettling. I have no idea if I’ll be sticking with it for the long run, but the pilot moved around enough chess pieces to intrigue me, at least for the time being.
And really the best thing about this pilot is Montgomery’s heroine (or should I say antiheroine?). Unlike most shows on the air, our protagonist Mary Sibley is somewhat the villain of the piece, and that definitely adds an innovative and compelling layer to the show’s arc. Montgomery beautifully balances the character’s likeability and ruthlessness, and that makes for a winning combo right out of the gate.
The rest of the cast is also in fine form. We’ve got two Nikita alumni in Shane West and Xander Berkeley, and both actors do an admirable job in their roles (although West gets a whole lot more screen-time). I’m less sold on Revenge‘s Ashley Madekwe, but her role is somewhat tricky so I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and see if she can thrive.
Oh, and that toad scene was downright horrifying. Let’s never speak of it again!
There’s enough spookiness here (and top-notch production values) to warrant a watch if you’re into the genre. Fingers crossed the show only improves from here on out.