Some of them can set fire to their faces. All of them have a history of witchcraft within their families. Some of their families think what they are doing is a death sentence.
Even if you don’t know what I’m talking about you’ll be as surprised as I was to learn it is a fairly new show (first airing on Freeform in March) rather than me discovering it years after everyone else, like Community at the start of lockdown.
Maybe I like it because a part of me has always been fascinated by the Salem witch trials (and the other true and not quite true spooky parts of America’s past – like the legend of Sleepy Hollow) but never studied it in American history class (truth be told I’m not convinced Motherland: Fort Salem is an accurate portrayal of what happened in Salem, Massachusetts at any point).
Maybe because I wonder what would have happened if I’d done my time living in the States differently (mostly as a university student but there was a time years ago when there was a plan to move out to California) and Fort Salem has very much a freshman college type feel with the exploration but also the sense of foreboding.
Maybe I like it because, so far, there only seem to be 10 episodes so there’s no need to sit through hours of action to find out what people are talking about.
For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of the series: It follows the journey of Raelle Collar, played by Taylor Hickson, Abigail Bellweather, portrayed by Ashley Nicole Williams and Jessica Sutton as Tally Craven, three witches who are enlisted in the U.S. Army.
They train in combat magic and use their vocal cords to enact “seeds” or “seed sounds”, layering vocal sounds to create powerful spells.
The series takes place in a female-dominated world in which the U.S. ended persecution of witches 300 years ago during the Salem witch trials after an agreement known as the Salem Accord.
They are fighting against a terrorist organisation known as the Spree, a group against the military conscription of witches.
Supposedly the Spree has only been around since the 1960s and this leaves me questioning so much.
I’m far enough in to know I will let the next episode play rather than going to bed but not far enough in to know if this is a plot hole or intentional.
The Salem witch trials started in February 1692 and the formation of the Spree came in the 1960s.
What happened between those two dates to make the witches want to fight against their life of enforced military servitude and what took them so long to do so? Why weren’t there witches willing to fight against it from the get-go?
And, going back to my first point, why can some of the witches set fire to their faces? Can they all set fire to their faces? (I think I may know the answer to this but I’m not going to say because it would be a massive spoiler for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.)
My biggest question of all is whether this is just a Harry Potter for the 21st century.
There is sexual tension, there are witches (rather than wizards obvs) honing their powers to defeat a known, yet unknown, enemy, there is a kind of college (rather than Hogwarts school) environment, did I mention there is sexual tension?
I never read the Harry Potter books (I read a few pages of the first one during a Thanksgiving trip to my old roommates’ mum’s house and felt it was so badly written – yes, I know it is for children – I didn’t want to read any more) but saw a couple of the early films and Motherland: Fort Salem made me think of them – but with a massive pinch of imminent threat and a side order of darkness and danger. (If you remember American Gothic then that will give you a good idea of the tone.)
If it is a Harry Potter for the 21st century then it just shows the dark times we are living in. While Harry Potter could spend most of his time shopping for wands, playing Quidditch and coming to terms with his identity, the witches in Fort Salem don’t have time for pleasantries.
Lives are at stake and the governments don’t know what to do in order to stop the Spree. If that isn’t a metaphor (unintentional or otherwise) for how governments are handing the pandemic then I don’t know what it is.
Stay safe for another week!