Motherland: Fort Salem
Motherland: Fort Salem takes place in a society where witches train to become soldiers for the United States army. In the first episode we are introduced to three women, Raelle, Tally, and Abigail, who all enter a military academy designed for witches, Fort Salem, just as a powerful new witch terrorist organization starts committing heinous acts.
Spoiler Level: Minor
Although this may not be saying much, this is the best thing I’ve seen on Freeform. Granted, I’m a man in his twenties and not a thirteen year old girl; I’m not in the target demographic. When ABC Family became Freeform in 2016, it was promised they would add content that was “edgier”, which they meant in the white Christian grandma living in Minnesota sense of the word. It was still family friendly. Now, Motherland: Fort Salem comes out, which is different. This is edgy. At least so far, there’s been some very mature content, including some blood and a little bit of gore. That isn’t, of course, the reason that I think this show is better than any other Freeform show I’ve seen. Let me explain.
Even if the rest of the series turns into a heaping pile of hot garbage, at least the premise is interesting. I was constantly seeing myself interested in the lore of this universe, which I hope they’ll delve into more as the series progresses. The relationship with witches and humans in this universe is very complicated. Most media involving witches is not; they usually portray witches as either evil creatures with very little redeeming qualities or, sometimes, as basic protagonists who use their magic to fight evil. They’re presented as heroes, but also constantly put themselves in horrible danger. The witches both stop evil forces and condemn other witches to a life in which they will most likely die young and tragically on a battlefield. This contrast makes this my Freeform favorite.
However, the series isn’t perfect. While the concept is unique, the writing is all over the place. The pacing is horrendous. You go from plot point A to B to C in a matter of minutes. The show doesn’t dwell in any moment for too long, and you’re left sometimes wishing they did. The quality of the dialogue fluctuates. There are equal amounts of good and bad lines. Part of the issue is the pacing. Whenever the plot tries to move along too quickly, a bad line or two comes with it. However, the characters are well developed, although each of them seem to be different stereotypes, though it’s too early to tell. The plot structure is generic, and you can tell where the series is heading from a mile away, though this may change.
One issue with the series is that the powers of these witches look strange visually. I was surprised to hear that this series isn’t based off of a book of any kind, as you can tell these abilities wouldn’t be strange in written form. Basically, a lot of the witches’ powers are derived from the voice. Witches chant in order to create spells, and sometimes just make high pitched noises with their throats. And this is for every single spell they do. So, if they want to knock down an enemy, all they have to do is screech at them. They don’t move their arms or legs at all, they just stand still and screech. This ends up looking silly. Thankfully, they do use physical weapons every so once in a while, but the screeching is prevalent nevertheless.
As far as the cinematography, the show tends to use a lot more overhead shots when there is no need. The show already has an issue with pacing, and the overhead shots just take time and add very little value. These shots are also all created using bad CGI. The editing in general is lackluster. The writing doesn’t help, but it felt like scenes were cut just a little too short, and that the addition of a second or two on certain scenes would help the pacing.
My grandmother once told me that I shouldn’t curse because there are a million other words to use besides curse words, and so there’s no reason to use them. If this show existed at the time, I would show it to her for evidence as to why sometimes a little cursing is good. For some reason, there is no cursing. The show’s characters do find different and impactful ways of saying horrible things to each other, which was impressive from a writing standpoint. But, they don’t curse, and so all their insults feel a little… off. I’m not suggesting, “you are malice” should be replaced with “fuck you”, but I’d much rather see, “you are fucking malice”.
It’s very unclear when this show takes place. You get hints that this may be taking place in the 21st century, with certain dates on envelopes and their acceptance of LGBT identities, but the clothing and technology seem to be out of the 1960s. I know that this is an alternate reality, but the series has no reason to be set in a world that exists as a hybrid of these two times. It only adds more questions. We might see an answer to this in the future, but so far this remains unclear.
The concept of this show is cool, and the writing and cinematography aren’t terrible, but could use some work. Ultimately, I’d say you should check it out.
Motherland: Fort Salem; Freeform’s Finest
- Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
- Storyline - 8.8/108.8/10
- Acting - 9/109/10
- Music - 9/109/10
- Production - 6/106/10
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