Motherland: Fort Salem Season 1 Episode 1 Review: Say the Words

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What a gender-bender head-trip this series is!

Women are in charge, and Motherland: Fort Salem Season 1 Episode 1 showed how they got there.

Eliot Laurence's Claws, a summer favorite on TNT, reveals how Desna Simms and her female crew are often a step ahead of the males in their lives.

Magical Homework - Motherland: Fort Salem

He goes much further in this new series. The women, all of whom are witches, comprise the military.

Laurence came up with the ingenious concept of having Sarah Alder, about to be hanged during the Salem Witch Trials, propose that witches would provide the defense for what was then the American Colonies.

Combat Practice - Motherland: Fort Salem Season 1 Episode 1

On the series, it's more than 300 years later, and General Sarah Alder remains a military leader and cultural icon.

What's her secret for longevity, and does it have anything to do with the crones always surrounding her? I'm betting so.

As Abigail learned, don't bother General Alder with your petty shit.

Supposedly, Laurence has been working on Motherland for a decade. That shows in all the details in the series, right down to the folk-art-style credit sequence.

Don't worry if you can't follow everything right off the bat (who are those old ladies with Alder?). All will be explained eventually.

Bad Choice - Motherland: Fort Salem Season 1 Episode 1

Maybe.

If not, create your own explanations.

The ongoing villain of the series was presented graphically first thing, with the terrorist Spree spell causing mass suicide in a mall (a feeling to which mallgoers can relate).

Terrorism is bound to resonate with viewers worldwide.

It may be an alternate history, but this is the first of many thought-provoking topics being debated in modern-day America which Motherland tackles.

Tough Spot - Motherland: Fort Salem Season 1 Episode 1

Or, instead of having to think, you can just float along enjoying the special effects.

Motherland follows the expected narrative of any military drama: Meet and follow raw recruits through basic training then off into bloody combat.

Having witchcraft thrown in is just a bonus.

A witch's lot in the military was aptly described in the airport scene in which a passenger gave Tally his ticket to Boston. It was then whispered in the background, "She's a witch. She won't need a return ticket."

Laurence has created three likeable recruits (yes, even Abigail).

Whole New World - Motherland: Fort Salem Season 1 Episode 1

They're all headed for trouble from the get-go.

Let's start with Tally. It appeared that living on an all-female compound didn't prepare her for being partnered with two alpha bitches.

Coming off a sheltered existence at a matrifocal (all-female) compound, Tally certainly comes off as a innocent. It was hilarious watching Abigail and Raelle trying to process the concept of "no dudes," as Tally put it.

I wonder how many episodes it will be before she wonders what all the fuss was about men.

She also had to deal with her guilt over giving up the exemption her mother had fought so hard to get for her and enlisting simply because she felt she needed to battle the evil in the world. It was clear Tally had a good heart.

Caught in the Middle - Motherland: Fort Salem Season 1 Episode 1

So it fell upon poor Tally to serve as referee for Abigail, who didn't want to be in that unit, and Raelle, who was much more draftee than enlistee and didn't want to be there either.

Yes, they both had their reasons for their attitudes, but the message aimed their way seemed to be, "Just grow up already."

Of the two, it was easier to be sympathetic toward Raelle.

She came from that history's version of Appalachia, where the people had been ignored by those in power.

To understand that dynamic, just recall the scene when Abigail looked down her nose at Raelle, the way she dressed, and her native blanket.

Bad Head Space - Motherland: Fort Salem Season 1 Episode 1

Then there was the raw wound of her mother's gruesome death in combat the previous year. Raelle was still grieving and rightly blamed a system which gave witches, even a healer such as her mother, no choice about going into battle.

This combined to lead her to defy authority and skip training. Raelle almost seemed to content to become "war meat," as Anacostia so neatly put it.

Finally, there was Raelle unknowingly sleeping with the enemy. Didn't that lesbian relationship get slipped in there smoothly, with no muss or fuss?

Then there was Abigail, who soon found out her famous name was only going to carry her so far.

Underneath all Abigail's bluster was rampant insecurity, a fear that she's going to let down her famous family.

Legacy Pick Motherhood: Fort Salem Season 1 Episode 1 - Motherland: Fort Salem

It was just Abigail's bad luck that she showed up at Fort Salem in the class when the powers that be decided to employ three-women units, which advance or fall together.

It makes sense. If the witches are going to be fighting as a force, why not get accustomed to working together in small groups?

This method also gets rid of would-be stars such as Abigail and forces the strong to help the weak.

It was a jerk move on Abigail's part to go to General Alder to try to ditch Raelle (and by extension Tally). But at least she learned her name carries little weight at Fort Salem.

I can't wait to learn more about that mysterious force of nature, Anacostia the drill sergeant. With a war with the Spree on the horizon, there probably won't be much time for her back story, but here's hoping.

Tough Challenge - Motherland: Fort Salem Season 1 Episode 1

How do you like the world of Fort Salem?

Who's your favorite recruit?

Who's your favorite TV witch?

Comment below.

Say the Words Review

Editor Rating: 4.6 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 (9 Votes)

Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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Motherland: Fort Salem Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Listen to me. This is when you go to college. Find a girl, get married, everything nice and good. This is when I go to grind our great nation's enemies into dust.

Abigail [to Paul]

Neighbor lady: I know you're off to Salem tomorrow.
Raelle: Yes, ma'am. A permanent government vacation until I'm old and gray. If I make it that long.