Did WGN America's Salem Bewitch You?

Salem Premiere WGN AmericaWGN America on Sunday night conjured up a new spin on Salem and its witch trials of lore. But did the channel’s first original scripted series cast a spell on you?

Salem stars Shane West (Nikita) as John Alden, who when we first meet him is locking horns with George Sibley, a wealthy Selectman who exacts exaggerated, public punishments upon those who defy the Puritan way. John’s madly in love with Mary (Human Target‘s Janet Montgomery), but the two are pulled apart when John goes off to war.

When John returns, years later and after being presumed KIA, things are very, very different in Salem.

For one, Mary is now wed to a sickly George (got a “frog” in the throat, do ya?), and uses her new station to wield influence in town. But Mary’s true power originates from somewhere much darker. For as John was called to war, Mary was pregnant. And one night, she sacrificed her baby — its soul — to “the woods,” at the advice of her mystical servant Tituba (Revenge‘s Ashley Madekwe). And ever since then, “the woods” have in turn taken care of Mary, giving her all that she wants. As a witch.

Salem Mary Tituba

“Hmm, you’re the only character that interacts with me, Mary. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

Indeed, John finds Salem in the midst of a “witch panic,” with his childhood frenemy Cotton Mathers (Fringe‘s Seth Gabel) leading the hunt. Cotton at one point leashes and commands a possessed young girl to sniff out her maker, like a dog, but just as she draws a bead on Mary, Mrs. Sibley reroutes the lass to pin John’s confidante Giles Corey — who’s become privy to the devilish deal Mary years ago made in the woods — as a witch, fating him to a certain death (by stoning, ouch). At episode’s end, Mary makes clear her plan: to have the witches run the witch trials, turning Puritan against Puritan, until only the wicked are left standing.

Elsewhere on the cast, Xander Berkeley (Nikita) plays chief politician Magistrate Hale, a begrudging ally of Mary’s, while Tamzin Merchant (Jane Eyre) is his daughter Anne, a young artist with an attraction to John — for whom Mary obviously still has feelings.

What did you think of Salem? Provided you were able to find the WGN America channel, will you be tuning in again?