REVIEW: Motherland: Fort Salem – 1.01: “Say the Words”

This drill sergeant has all the strength and power that Snape wishes he had.

I’ve always been fascinated with media that features magic set in modern times (aka: urban fantasy). You can tell just from looking at my previous reviews for the shows I’ve covered. In particular with witches, I was (and still am) a massive fan of the series Charmed. I think there was always something intriguing to me about seeing a trio of kick ass women with powers that were saving the world. Needless to say, when I heard about Freeform’s newest series, Motherland: Fort SalemI immediately got excited about it. From the premise to the cast (entirely female cast!) to their magic system, I was hooked. And given the climate that we’re currently living in, I feel like this is the show we need right now.

“This Witches Place”: Motherland: Fort Salem takes the idea and brief history of witches and completely flips it on its head. Around the time of the Salem Witch Trials, General Sarah Alder (Lyne Renee) signed a treaty that ended the persecution of witches and instead used their talents and “work” (the show’s term for magic) to create a witch-led army for the United States. Since then, at the age of 18, every witch must “answer the call” and attend “conscription,” basic army training, before they head off to actual War College. As you can tell, there’s a lot of world building and history that’s sewn into this show. But I think that’s also what struck me the most. For instance, it’s incredibly female oriented and there’s not a male main character in sight! Currently, the series only focuses on the United States’ Army of witches, but I’d be curious if they have contact with other countries and if they differ at all.

Plus, their way of using magic (or as the show creators have dubbed it, “work”) is incredibly interesting, too! Sure, we see Raelle heal someone by saying a chant alongside her medic-like powers, but everything else is used through their vocal chords! There’s a metaphor to symbolize women speaking up and taking charge in there, I just know it…and love it!

“You’re both weak. I’m the one who should walk.”

“We’re special, you guys.”: As we see throughout the first episode, there’s a main trio of witches that we’re primarily following – the Bellweather unit. And as most trio characters go, they are widely different from each other…but you just know that will make them even more powerful!

  • Abigail Bellfeather: the almighty know-it-all who I just know we’ll love to hate, and will eventually have a heart wrenching story-line where we’ll understand her ways and worship the heck out of her! She’s a legacy among the army (her mother in particular), and she knows it. She’s looking out for herself and no one else, as clearly seen when she tries to get Raelle removed. I appreciate her drive and effort for the army, but unless we see a dramatic shift in her character, she’s going to be my least favorite for now.
  • Tally Craven: the adorable “newcomer” (I say that primarily because she seems more inexperienced than the rest and had the option of not even being drafted) who will be the true savior of them all! She is the obvious mediator between Raelle and Abigail, and I honestly relate to that. She maybe a positive and optimistic little witch, but she’s not afraid to tell it like it is when it’s needed. My prediction for her character throughout this season is that she’s going to be the one that truly saves the day and makes the ultimate sacrifices. Seeing how she basically betrayed her mom and drafted into the army anyway, maybe her relationship with her will forever be singed. Or she’s going to be the one that is the “best of the best” to Abigail’s chagrin. Either way, she’s my second favorite character in the bunch.
  • Raelle Collar: the “rebel one,” aka my favorite character. She doesn’t want to take part in the army, and she lets it be known. I would feel the same way if my mother was killed in combat brought on by Abigail’s mom no less (which may or may not actually have happened). So not only is there tension between Raelle and Abigail for the obvious opposite reasons, but the unfortunate maternal connection, too. I predict that Raelle will go through the ringer in conscription. Not only through training/her unit, but because of a certain Necro witch named Scylla.

Which one will influence the other to join their opposing side, good or evil? I’m here for it either way.

“Let them make you powerful.”: I couldn’t talk about Raelle without mentioning her seductive love interest, Scylla. As we’ve seen in numerous promos for this series, we knew that these two were going to be a pair. But did I have any idea about the complexities of their relationship before seeing the pilot episode? Absolutely not! I just thought that Scylla was going to be a fellow troublemaker like Raelle, and the two were going to bond and be adorable. I was not expecting Scylla (if that’s her real name!) to be a member of the antagonist cult of witches group, the Spree. A group that’s mass murdering people around the world and making it look like suicide! But in a way, providing the audience with this information from the get-go, was incredibly unique and smart. Sure, we see tiny hints of Scylla’s true intentions in the pilot (Anacostia certainly has her eye on her), but I think this is a better route than the predictable and ultimate reveal to the audience and Raelle later in the season. Do I still adore Scylla and Raelle and their incredible chemistry? Oh my goddess, I do! Taylor Hickson and Amalia Holm are a perfect match for each other! But I also think there’s a possible story-line of repentance here.

We know that Scylla is probably trying to influence Raelle to join the Spree. But what if it backfires and Scylla develops true feelings for Raelle and lands on the side of good in the end? Judging from Raelle’s burning hair in the end of the season trailer that’s below, that might not be the case? Are you still rooting for Scylla and Raelle like me or has this ship already sunk for you?

What were your thoughts on the Motherland pilot, “Say the Words”?
Overall, I felt this was easily the strongest pilot of a show I’ve seen in a while! I’m so excited to learn more about this army of witches, the Spree, and the world they live in throughout this season.