Witchy Recommendation: Motherland: Fort Salem

It's about witches, military service, sex and sound.  Get in on this wicked good fun.

Yall know me, I tend to stick to reviewing occult books, card decks and magical tools exclusively, but even this folk-witch has her mundane delights, and television is my other altar...

And, like most practicing witches, I'm both hungry for magical media and skeptical of every new occult-themed movie or show that comes out.  The day I heard that a production company was filming a young adult series about a female-dominated alternate United States of America whose military's is run by witches, I was pretty much sold on the idea immediately.  It's just what I've been waiting for- less sparkles, less Satan, less schtick and shlock, more original substance.  Just the idea that anyone would want to explore a universe like that was thrilling to me.  It tickled the part of me that loves American history, the part of me that lives for fantasy, thrills and magic...

Witches are all the rage right now in pop culture.  Each year a new round of witchy-movies makes their way to our screens and we witches of the real world spend hours enjoying or hating the new trend.  Personally, I only see the witch-media market getting better over time; Anna Biller's 2016 insta-classic The Love Witch, Eggers' stylish horror The VVitch, the revival of The Craft (not an improvement on the 1994 classic but an interesting spin all the same) and a host of new binge-series; The Magicians, Salem, Netflix's interesting but ultimately difficult The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and fan-favorite AHS: Coven & Apocalypse-  there's a lot of witchy media to nosh on,  but a shining gem of a new-comer is Freeform's Motherland Fort Salem.

It sounds almost ridiculous; the US Army run by witches, mystic mycelium and sonic superpowers... but trust me, it is a strange, gritty, fascinating and altogether completely unique take on the word "witch".  Imagine an America where the Salem trials uncovered "real" witches, and that those witches agreed to conscription into military service in exchange for their freedom.  This is an America that did not develop a dependency on firearms, probably because even the most simple of whispers could disintegrate a bullet... or brain.  Motherland's America is even shaped differently, with a great river dividing East and West coasts.  Here there be witches, and they are absolute killers.  Even the terrorists of Motherland are witches, causing political and religious hysteria with the pop of a balloon. Literally.

There are no brooms and wands, no cauldrons (yet), but rather- empty wooden boxes full of deadly sounds, tuning forks that measure vocal power, skrying-stone security cameras and some kind of fungus that isn't above healing or harming whenever she desires.  The "work" in this show is sound-based, emphasizing the power of the voice, the power generated from our vocal cords-- no glittery sparkles, no god-forsaken blue sky beams.  Even the witches' flight is achieved through a type of flying-ointment-like chemical patch (like an external acid dose to the neck), not a broom.  Beltane is a military-sanctioned teen orgy, empty balloons are potential bombs, and little yellow birds climb into the mouths of dead men while young lovers float in the night sky.  Yeah, it's a hell of a ride.

Battling terrorist's, the politics of forced-service and the complexities of a culture that has always seen and known magic as a tangible reality, this is how the show opens right off the bat, following our three heroin protagonists as they navigate what service and sacrifice mean to them.

Izadora and Raelle

Our favorite young cadet, Raelle Collar, is a fierce, gifted, rebellious young lesbian, growing increasingly more distrustful of the Army who now own her life, safety and fertility as a weapon of warfare, as an incubator for future warmongers.  Her necromantic love interest, Scylla, is aptly named- she's a monster (or appears to be).  Cadet Collar is joined by the admittedly irritating but wildly lovable Abigail Bellweather- the high-society leader who embodies feminine sexual prowess and bitter blind nationalism all at once.  Rounding out the group is the heart of the team, and maybe even the show: sweet, kind, wise and tame (if not sheltered and overeager) Tally Craven, a seer from NorCal who just might be the most naïve and unlucky patriot around.  Under the dutiful eye of Anacostia Quartermaine and General Sarah Alder, the girls not only develop themselves, but a friendship that transcends imagined power and possibilities.  

mother mycelium tests, S:2-E:3

General Alder is a righteous bitch with a cold heart, but just when you come to hate her, she reveals a humanity that leaves you questioning if we really understand the pressures and perils of war.  She condescends to her allies and friends, she unscrupulously uses everyone she meets and most terrifyingly, she's not above running the country from the shadows via some dark work.  I've loved her complex character development; from ruthless shatterer of dreams, to merciful mother of lost daughters.  The actresses' playing these characters are each exceptional at what they do; Taylor Hickson's cadet Collar is easily one of the most likeable leading ladies in a long while and Hickson was a perfect choice to bring intensity to the role.  Personally, I think Demetria McKinney's Anacostia is probably one of the best characters on the program: she is moral, she is just, she has compassion and steel in her spine... and maybe something a tad bit self-destructive inside too. 

I love that the gifts these women (and men, who attend a separate militaty school) have is referred to as "work" rather than magic.  In fact, I don't think the word "magic" appears in the show at all, even the "spells" being used (which are notes and harmonies) are called seeds  I. Love. It.  I love that the cast is full of women and nonbinary people of every shape, size, sexual identity and fluidity-- representation in every corner and an emphasis on powerful women of color.   I've got to respect the normalization of free-love, pansexuality, queerness, butchness, femmness, and body-diversity, it is so affirming.

I highly recommend Motherland: Fort Salem, available on Freeform or on Hulu.  I think it's the kind of refreshing take on witchcraft and magic that many of us everyday practitioners might crave, have missed, will need to wash the taste of so many magical-media failures out of our mouths.  it's a breath of fresh air, or rather, a freaking storm. So far, this second season has been everything I've wanted and I'm really pleased at all the little details (Izadora's skrying-stone x-ray anyone?).   This show certainly deserves a bigger budget, and a wider audience, and I'd probably sell (what's left of) my soul to play an extra in the background.

So cheers to you, Motherland, and I hope witches give this show a chance, it's good fun, and so very stylish too!  I really hope to see more Motherland cosplay, I've been searching for uniform replicas everywhere but no luck yet...  Hopefully, I can look like real war-college material come Halloween.

Catch Motherland: Fort Salem Tuesday nights on Freeform or Wednesdays on Hulu.

Say the Words.

No comments

Post a Comment

© VIA HEDERA • Theme by Maira G.