Remember watching movies like “Hocus Pocus” or “Halloweentown” or TV shows like “Sabrina”? Yes, they are all about witches; yet, while they are all incredible, they kind of fed into the stereotype of what people expect a witch to be. One new Freeform show, “Motherland: Fort Salem,” on the other hand, does no such thing.
In fact, these women are portrayed as strong warriors, and they don’t have big noses and pointy hats either. This underrated show has been one of my latest watches during quarantine.
“Motherland” is centered around three young women training in combat magic to help protect their country against the Spree, which is a group of evil witches looking to cause terror. Raelle, Abigail and Tally are our feminist heroes. Each of them lost ancestors in the Salem witch trials.
The show is set in an alternate timeline, where the persecution of witches has ended. The only condition? They must fight for their country.
The first episode, “Say the Words,” has a very unusual beginning. Everyone is going about their day, they’re celebrating, kids are playing with sparklers and everyone is chatting. Then a strange woman appears, seemingly attracted to a blue balloon — and everyone knows that balloons are never a good sign.
While the woman brings it down, a little girl is fascinated by it. The woman catches the balloon. It pops, and suddenly, many people at the mall are jumping to their deaths, and the woman just walks away like there is nothing wrong. It’s later explained that she is probably part of the Spree.
In this show, they call on witches once they reach their 18th birthday to serve in the draft — which is similar to how they used to do it during the Vietnam War — only this time, instead of a letter, they get a medallion. Then they have to recite an oath vowing to serve and protect their country. Like with the Vietnam War, it is also illegal to dodge this draft. Although in Tally’s case, her mother tried to get them to make an exception.
In the first episode of “Motherland,” Tally is at the airport and doesn’t have a flight, but when she shows her medallion, she is able to get on a flight when a nice man gives up his seat for her. This scene shows how military members are often treated at airports.
While it might not be realistic that someone would always get a flight just by wearing a uniform, it is a nice gesture. It’s also a contrast to how witches were treated 300 years ago in Salem. Now, they are treated like heroes.
Raelle is a troubled character, dealing with the loss of her mom who worked as a medic in the military. Unlike the other two, she doesn’t show much interest in serving in the military. Abigail is a legacy, with a long line of family who served, and she wants to make her family proud. Tally is eager to join the cause, but her mother doesn’t want her to, but she still does it anyway.
What Will Happen Next?
Based on the first couple of episodes, I will make some predictions for our three main heroines. There is no guarantee that I will be right.
Like any story involving magic, I expect that there might be some point where the magic can take a toll on a person. Because she seems like the perfect character, I see that being a plot with Abigail. I predict that she will realize her family may not be as perfect as they seem to be, and instead of trying to be like everyone else, she will create her own legacy.
Raelle lost her medic mother in the war, so the question is why she joined in the first place. Maybe she is looking for answers, she needs closure or maybe its grief. Her character is a great portrayal of how people react differently to loss. She doesn’t seem to take this seriously at first, but she seems like the kind of person that will have some serious character development.
Tally has her heart in the right place; however, she doesn’t seem to listen to her mother when it comes to her safety, given that she took the oath despite her mother telling her not to. She will probably realize that being a hero and fighting for the cause is not all that it appears to be, and she will start to have different views than what she previously had before.
Why You Should Watch “Motherland”
All of these characters have strong qualities, and they also have some weak spots too. The girls have their differences, but they are able to come together and use their energy for something good.
This show is not just about witchcraft. They also explore themes such as loss, grief, friendship, feminism, slavery and even sexism. It touches on the pressure to live up to a family name, and there are some LGBTQ+ themes in there as well.
The show does not play the women as victims. In fact, most of the cast is female, and instead, they are more “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”-esque than your typical damsels in distress. These women portray characters that most of us would have loved to have had as role models growing up.
There are some things that may not be appropriate for a younger audience. For example, there is a sex scene in the first episode.
In a world were Hollywood sometimes recycles the same old storylines, it is refreshing to see an original story. “Motherland” shows witches can be portrayed in a positive light rather than the antagonists that we grew up watching.
“Motherland: Fort Salem” can be found on Hulu or the Freeform website.