[TV Review] Motherland: Fort Salem Part 1

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One of the more inventive and progressive series of the year, and it was brought to you by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.

Yeah….. I enjoyed this and it came from the same guys who brought up “Holmes and Watson”. I’m as surprised as any of you.

Admittedly the show was PRODUCED by Ferrell and McKay, but actually written and run by Eliot Laurence. Premiering earlier this year on March 18 2020 on ABC Spark, the basic set-up of “Motherland: Fort Salem” is that back during the Salem Witch Trials in Colonial America there really WERE Witches and Warlocks (though they just call them Male Witches in this series) being hunted and killed. The divergence of history began when one young Witch, Sarah Alder (Lyne Renee) used her powers to stop the mob and they saw for themselves what kind of power these folks had. And that it could be used for the good of the colonies. On February 19 1692 she negotiated a treaty called the “Salem Accord” wherein Witches both female and male would no longer be hunted if they agreed to work with Humans. We then jump over 300 years later and see what this has created.

(And bonus point, they show the Witch Trials with the Witches accurately being hung and not burned. Hurrah!)

The series follows three Witches who join the Armed Forces, each from a radically different background. Once a Witch/Warlock turns 18 they wait until “Conscription Day” to receive a magical summons to obey the Salem Accord and join the Armed Forces. We don’t learn until later what happens if they summons is denied and the Witch in question doesn’t have an official pardon from service.

Although all three are leading characters, the closest one to the actual lead is Raelle Collar played by fellow Canadian Taylor Hickson! Some of you might have seen her as Anne Heche’s daughter in 2016’s show “Aftermath”. And if you haven’t seen that show….well, you weren’t missing much.

She plays what is essentially supposed to be the “Lower Class” type character. Her father is a normal human and her deceased Mom is a witch. (the Witch equivalent of a “Bad Mixed Marriage), they’re from an area of the country that’s seen as “Wrong Side of the Tracks” and poor. She’s also a lesbian, but that isn’t something people in this world see as unusual. A type of “Chip on her shoulder” type who only goes along with joining the Service so she can find her way to a battlefield ASAP and get herself killed.

Next up, we get Abigail Bellweather. The “Rich High Class” character type from the usual “Long Lineage of Prestige”, played by American Actress Ashley Nicole Williams. Snobby, proud and none too pleased with the others she has to spend time with. In most series you’d see her as the villain but she actually is shown having redeeming qualities and Humanity. Plus as part of the (surprising) subtlety of the show she’s Black, but never once is the race issue brought up. The efforts of nonwhite Witches in the past clearly have done a lot for race relations in this world.

Finishing off the Main Trio we have South African Actress Jessica Sutton as Tally Craven. The last of her line, seeing how every other woman in her immediate family other than her mother is dead, she’s grown up in a California woman-only commune. Essentially their equivalent to a New Age Hippie type, I suppose. Ironically, despite this upbringing she is the only one of the Trio who actually VOLUNTEERS for the Service because her mother managed to get her removed from Mandatory Conscription. She’s happy to accept the Call and go off to be trained to fight the enemies of America.

While it may sound like I’m making these characters out to be bare bones stereotypes, they aren’t. They may start off from common character stocks, but they all receive something that plenty of other shows could learn to give their own casts: Character Development.

This is only a starter review of the series, so I’ll finish this installment with some explanation of how this historical divergence has changed the world.

At first, not a lot seems that different. We see in the opening titles that there are “Old Witch” families that trace their descent back to the US Revolutionary War and that the Map of America is now different. There’s a big chunk called “The Cession” that cuts the country right in half. I was waiting for a proper explanation within the show, but apparently the showrunners felt this would come off as awkward so they utilized the aftershow segments on YouTube to explain bits and pieces. The Cession is a large amount of land that the Indigenous Natives were given to keep as their own due to help they gave in terms of Magical Know-How in the 1830s.

If you enjoyed this, I’ll continue with the next installment exploring the series more!