It hasn’t been that long since the news hit that Season 3 of “Salem” will be its final season. But while the cancellation may come as a surprise for some fans, it feels as if the writing has been on the walls for some time. Since we’re left waiting for the next episode to hit the small screen — damn you, holiday season! — let’s speculate a bit as to why the show is coming to an end.
It’s worth pointing out that “Salem” was WGN America’s first foray into scripted entertainment in 2014. When it premiered, the show brought in record numbers for the network and seemed to be a sure-fire hit.
Since then, though, WGN has delved into programming that is way less genre-heavy and much more drama-oriented. With “Underground” and “Outsiders” helping to pave the way forward for the channel’s evolving brand, it sort of makes sense that the horror series take a bow while it’s still in its prime.
But, much like “Penny Dreadful” — another witch-y period piece — it’s hard for us not to raise an eyebrow when thinking that it may have always the plan to end this show after three seasons.
“We knew this would be the third and final season and were able to craft an exciting climax to Mary’s transformational saga,” EPs Brannan Braga and Adam Simon previously told Deadline, once the news hit.
That statement raises a few questions on our end. Did the show’s creators plan from the get-go that Mary Sibley’s (Janet Montgomery) story would end after a three season arc? Or was WGN America pushed to cut the show after a major drop in viewership over the past three years? We’re thinking it’s more along the lines of option 2.
When “Salem” premiered, roughly 1.5-million viewers tuned in. But those numbers dipped quickly and now, in its third season, roughly 200,000 – 300,000 people tune in on a weekly basis. There could be a number of reasons why that is, but our suspicions lie with the show’s overall tone.
For a horror series to work on the small screen, one thing you really need is levity. And when it’s a colonial horror show involving witches, the devil, bird prostitutes and undead Native Americans, the one component seemingly missing here has been some comedy relief. Throughout Season 1 and 2, though, that issue mostly drove us to stop watching.
Now in its third season — with 10 episodes total, as opposed to the original 13-episode structure of previous runs — it feels like the show has finally found its tonal footing. Seriously, on a program where a man’s penis transforms into a crow, one would think they’d have embraced the often-times silly nature of the horror genre a lot sooner.
Obviously, that slight shift in tone comes a bit too little too late for “Salem,” though. But at least it sounds like we can count on a worthy ending for Mary, John Alden (Shane West), Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel) and the gang. Just how they will escape the hellish reality of the Devil’s Easter, though, is still anyone’s guess.
“Salem” Season 3 will return Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 9 p.m. ET/PT to WGN America.