Salem takes a step back in time to explore what if the stories about witches during the Salem Witch Trials were real. The result is one of the creepiest, scariest, and sexiest historical dramas. This is no sugar-coated love story. It's a dark journey into these characters' personal struggles.
John Alden (Shane West) left his love, Mary (Janet Montgomery), behind to head off to war. In his absence, she makes a crucial decision that brings darkness into their lives. When he's presumed dead, she marries another and gains status within the community.
When John returns to Salem, he finds a changed community. He doesn't believe the stories of witches, while those around him do. Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel) leads the charge to rid the town of witches.
The imagery is dark and frightening in a way that American Horror Story: Coven never even came close to matching. In Salem, these witches are creepy and dangerous. Their motives and plans aren't instantly revealed which adds an element of suspense and mystery.
I especially appreciated the how clearly the conflicted characters were introduced. It's impossible to put any of them into a good or bad category. John appears to be a good, honorable man returning from war, but his past and intentions are a bit of an enigma
Mary went through a trauma which led her to her current place. It's unclear what her intentions are with her husband. You will be surprised by how that unfolds. Now that the love of her life has returned, will that alter her motives and actions going forward?
Cotton Mather is by far the most intriguing character. He spans the spectrum from being a conservative Puritan, a scientist, and a deviant. Beware: There is a graphic sex scene during the Salem premiere. It's not gratuitous, but it is explicit.
Every action Mather takes informs on his character and adds to the story in an important way. John and Cotton grew up together, but went in very different directions. I expect that their relationship will end up being one of the best things about the show. West and Gabel play off each other well in their brief encounters.
Salem fills the horror genre niche, while exploring internal struggles, romance, and the troubling Salem history. WGN America hasn't held anything back with their first original series offering.
Check out the full season Salem trailer!
Salem airs Sundays at 10 pm ET on WGN America.
(Image and video courtesy of WGN America.)