“Motherland – Fort Salem” reminds you why there is a craving for original ideas and not rehashed stories, be it in the form of remakes of novel adaptations.
|Aired||3/18/2020 – 5/20/20|
|Genre(s)||Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, LGBT|
|Abigail||Ashley Nicole Williams|
|General Sarah Adler||Lyne Renee|
|President Wade||Sheryl Lee Ralph|
|Petra||Catherine Lough Haggquist|
|General Sharma||Chelsea Gill|
This content contains pertinent spoilers.
Season 1 Plot Synopsis
It is a difficult time to be a witch in America. Due to the Salem Accord, there are very few ways you can get out of conscription, besides being a draft dodger or your family line almost at an end. Also, being that witches are judged as a unit, not an individual, it means, if you don’t want to end up on the front lines, your group has to be tight. Then, to make matters worse, the person deemed the leader is usually from some high siddy family.
Yet, for the Bellweather unit, comprised of Abigail, Tally, and Raelle, they make it work. Abigail, from the legendary Bellweather family, is somewhere between trying to uphold her family name while making a name for herself. Raelle, with her mother dying in action, feels conflicted about joining the organization that sends its soldiers to battles without any choice in the matter. Then there is Tally. This lost Disney princess, she actually could have gotten out of joining the military. However, she thought it was a duty, an honor,
Men Barely Play A Part In This Show
After watching “Dummy” and being reminded of the Bechdel test, I found myself wondering what movies or shows actually focus on female friendships or relationships, sans the influence of men? “Motherland – Fort Salem” is probably one of the few, and when you take into account the ladies are supposed to be in their late teens, on the cusp of adulthood, and this was created by a man, it’s a little shocking. Granted, the ladies do get into heterosexual relationships, but whether we’re talking Tally with Gerit or Abigail with Adil, amongst others, their relationships never define them.
Heck, even in terms of the closest thing to General Adler’s counterpart, Witchfather, the man isn’t given a proper name! He just trains the boys and, occasionally, has sex with Adler. Giving you an almost gender-flipped version of how women are often treated in shows where things can be life or death.
While initially seen as villains, as you come to understand the Spree’s goals, they begin to morph into something complicated. Yes, they do kill humans, but humans are the ones who support and enforce the Salem Accord that General Adler signed to save herself and her fellow witches in extension. Thus forcing them into servitude forever. An idea that doesn’t seem right.
I mean, imagine, at 18, you just became an adult, and your freedom is taken to fight wars your own general has a limited say in. Now, we don’t see much of the American government, beyond President Wade, but not once do we see General Adler advise on ongoing wars or speak to Wade as a trusted advisor or equal. If anything, she is like the overseer tasked with keeping the United States’ witch population in line.
So while you understand Adler’s position allowed for the survival of witches, you can also understand why people would despise her and a 300-year-old document that makes every witch a slave to the US government.
The Bellweather Unit
Each member of the Bellweather unit draws you in as an individual. Abigail, as a member of a legendary family, one that went from slaves to, under General Adler, one of the most powerful witch dynasties, gives you so much. She is someone trying to do her family proud yet not lean on her family name to get into War College. There is this complicated relationship between her and her mother, Petra, who is selectively maternal, and then there is her relationship with a character named Libba. Which, ultimately, is a bit of a disappointment, but a minor bruise on a stellar character.
Following her is Tally. What you have to love about Tally is she comes off like a Disney princess in terms of her naivety, doe eyes, and this gentleness to her. Yet, like Moana, Mulan, Lilo, and Merida, as much as she has that princess appeal, she can snap on you. Be it like Abigail, in terms of sex, or with a viciousness that goes beyond anything we see from either Abigail or Raelle – even with Raelle being the type of character with a chip on their shoulder.
Which is a good setup to talk about Raelle. Between the death of her mother, using magic that isn’t canon, alongside being queer, with a bad attitude, Raelle is that b****. Yet, as she learns to trust, even love, Abigail and Tally, she mellows out. Though the major force that changes her life is Scylla. She too has a bone to pick with the military, since her deserter parents were used as an example and killed. But together, those two will have you swoon, even if their relationship feels shortlived and potentially toxic.
The Slow Downfall of General Adler
Throughout the season, you’ll continually feel it might be the end for General Adler and her 300+ year reign. For whether we’re speaking about the members of The Hague, the witches UN, or a growing portion of her team, General Adler is living off of her legacy more so than what she has done in recent years. And as we hear Petra trying to take over in the US and General Sharma, an Indian general, perhaps trying to usurp Adler within The Hague, you’re in a constant place of waiting for the shoe to drop.
Yet, as you see General Adler make moves, not necessarily out of desperation, but to maintain control, you realize the kind of war it will take to truly get her to step down or die. For, let’s start off, she has young girls, every 5 or so years, willingly sacrificing themselves for her to live. So imagine the lengths it would take to take down this behemoth!
Despite No Literary Source, You’d Think Otherwise
Despite most of the show taking place at Fort Salem, by no means does the show exist in a microcosm. From the Tarim witches, The Hague, how American history shifts due to witches, and so much more, you’d think there was a book that dives into all the show is unable to do. Sadly, there isn’t, which does leave a whole lot of questions, but considering it’s rare that the question isn’t due to something not making sense but you wanting more, that’s why this is listed as a highlight and not something we’re on the fence about.
Libba x Abigail – The Missed Opportunities
In the show, the two most notable witch families are the Bellweather and Swithe. Abigail represents the Bellweathers and Libba the Swythe. You can see, from years of misinformation or being taught to hate one another, the effect it has. However, many times in the show, there is peace between the two, and with that, it makes you hope there could be reconciliation between the families. If not an exploration of their family history for with the Bellweather clan formerly slaves, it makes you wonder if this hatred might be racial and perhaps came from the Swythe being former masters or even using their powers to capture those who escaped.
But, with no real depth given to the hatred, we’re left to assume.
On The Fence
It Lacks Any Real Villain, Until The End
While The Spree are terrorist, being that they are decentralized, and Scylla is their sole consistent named representative, they aren’t the big evil they are touted to be. Plus, as you fall for Scylla and Raelle’s relationship, and come to understand why The Spree exist, a part of you may wish to see how they operate and even for Raelle to defect so we can see more.
Making the late addition of the Camarilla a literal necessary evil. Not just in terms of having a villain but also opening doors for us to get to know the humans in the show’s world. For, as noted above, only President Wade is represented when it comes to those with influence over the witches. So imagine the show touching upon America’s racist present and past by having members of the Camarilla hidden amongst congress, the court system, and more. Maybe with Adler, once more, at odds with Wade as she seeks to confront and expose them.
It Sidesteps The Possible Prejudice The Bellweather Family May Have Experienced As Black People
While a lot of the questions that go unanswered you may be okay with that since they are extra details and not essential. Also, in the aftershow that is done with the creator, they fill in gaps. However, as a Black person, I find myself really curious how the Bellweather family went from slavery to General Adler’s first soldiers and then one of the most powerful military families, if not families period, in the United States? That journey isn’t something to easily never mind for me, and considering we see a timeline of the world which doesn’t include the civil rights movement, it makes you wonder what happened for people of color who weren’t witches. Never mind other groups, like the LGBTQIA+ community, who used the civil rights movement as a blueprint?
Nearly every romantic pairing on the show is imperfect. Raelle and Scylla? Their issue is Raelle was chosen due to her power, and with Scylla possibly being her first love, being used and originally set up to be given to the Spree is a huge betrayal. Granted, in the last episode, we learn who specifically Raelle was supposed to be given to, which isn’t so bad, but still.
Then, when it comes to Tally and Gerit, for a long time, it seemed our Disney Princess met her prince, but later we learned he is betrothed to another, used a hand guide to woo her, and it eventually devolves to Tally being a side piece. As for Abigail? Well, for a good part of the show, she seems solely interested in sex, and then Adil pops up while she is going through trauma. Thus pushing you to wonder, if she wasn’t in such a vulnerable position, would she give him a second glance? Never mind, considering how indoctrinated she is when it comes to the military, could the anti-military Adil really learn to love her, and her family?
As for everyone else? Well, General Adler and Witchfather don’t seem to have much, if any, of a relationship. And outside of those four women, I would say if they aren’t single, they are desexualized.
Review Summary: Worth Revisiting
Rating: Positive (Watch This)
The only real issue there is with “Motherland: Fort Salem” is that it didn’t have enough time to fill in gaps, for it had to press forward. In keeping with the idea that the Spree are a threat, that the Tarim witches need immediate assistance, there wasn’t any real-time for viewers to learn how we got here. And while the aftershow tried to fill in blanks, those were maybe 5 or so minutes each, and all pre-recorded. None of them were based on fan questions.
But, despite the lack of detail, and a major missed opportunity, this is probably one of the best new series for FreeForm in a while. Especially one that employed a fantasy element to it. Heck, I’d even say, beyond FreeForm, it is one of the best witch shows, fantasy, or supernatural featuring young adults in a long time. So definitely check it out either by getting a season pass on Amazon, Hulu, or FreeForm’s website.
Season 2 of Motherland – Fort Salem
Has Another Season Been Confirmed?
Yup, FreeForm has confirmed a second season!
What We Expect From The Next Season?
The Camarilla have to rise to power and show, despite being in hiding for decades, if not hundreds of years, they laid low to overwhelm Adler when they came back. On top of that, we need to see some kind of push back or issues for Adler taking over President Wade. I’m sure she spoke to multiple people about forcing Adler into retirement, and her changing that decision should raise red flags.
Also, The Hague needs to play a larger role as Adler using US military forces to land in between Russia and China surely is a major problem. Though, as you can see, I just generally think we need to expand beyond Fort Salem and see how Adler’s decisions affect more than the handful of soldiers we met and see some consequences. Which, considering Lyne Renee has been made a series regular, might happen.
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