Answer the Call: inside the world of Motherland: Fort Salem (2020)
by Alessandra Puglisi
On the 18th of March a new show premiered on the network Freeform that took everyone by surprise. Created by Eliot Laurence, Motherland: Fort Salem is the new television thrill that manages to bring together life inside the U.S. Army and the complex and often misunderstood world of witches.
Thinking something like that is hard to sell? Think again because, thanks to the unique approach to these two different themes, Laurence manages to skilfully create a world in which both things not only co-exist, but are strictly tied together.
In the universe of Motherland: Fort Salem, in fact, witches are not simply women unjustly oppressed by the society they live in, they are magical creatures and, in modern times, they learn how to harness their powers by enlisting in the U.S. Army.
Eliot narrates a story that goes back centuries, when General Sarah Alder (played by Lyne Renée) cuts a deal, known as the ‘Salem Accord’, with the U.S. Government by offering help in fighting the enemies of the United States in exchange for protection of all witches.
What might be seen as military propaganda, is actually a harsh – and not at all subtle – critique of the army methods and goals. In a world where every witch has to answer the call and take her place in the army when she reaches 18, there is the impending question of freedom: who is really free? How to understand which side is the right side? More importantly, is there a right war to fight in the first place?
The show does not shy away from asking these hard questions, and leaves its characters digging to find the answers while they are also on a journey to discover themselves.
Characterisation is the next excellent thing that Motherland: Fort Salem does. There is the recurrent theme of the trio – much like in the popular series Charmed – or a ‘Unit’, as dubbed by the show, made of Raelle Collar (Taylor Hickson), Abigail Bellweather (Ashley Nicole Williams) and Tally Craven (Jessica Sutton). Although the Unit takes a lot of the storyline, it is not all there is to explore in this world.
[mild spoiler in the paragraph ahead]
After setting its tones and making sure we are all on board with the story, the show starts to play with many grey areas inside the characters, questioning their motivations and beliefs. The person that best embodies this side of the narrative is Scylla Ramshorn, played by incredible Swedish actress Amalia Holm, which will also be Raelle’s love interest.
Scylla is the other side of the coin and, ultimately, she might be the one opening the leading door to season two of the show.
Motherland: Fort Salem has quickly become the show to keep an eye on for several reasons. The cast is mostly made up of women in high positions, which are conscious of their strength and power and are not scared to use them. There is also the chance to gain a different perspective on how the U.S. history could have been shaped if the Salem Accord were truly signed and, of course, the prospect of a whole universe still to unfold in front of our eyes.
Creator Eliot Laurence, in fact, has spent more than nine years crafting this world with all its complexities and mechanisms.
What we have between our hands is a complex story with a big potential to expand if given the chance.
The second season of the show will start filming early October of this year, with the cast and crew already in Vancouver, while the fans can only wait to discover the next chapter of this beautiful world.