Of all the channels to host a series that is a thinly-veiled indictment of American militarism, I guess Freeform was the most likely? Freeform has been trying to become a young adult channel, which we all rejected for a while just because we were mad they stopped calling themselves ABC Family. But “Motherland: Fort Salem” might be the thing that cements Freeform as a TV channel I respect.
“Motherland: Fort Salem” sets in an alternate history where witches were an integral part of the creation of America. Witches now make up most of the world’s armies and are an essential part of American society. The series follows three new cadets working to prove themselves at basic while the country reels from a host of terrorist attacks committed by The Spree. The Spree is an organization of witches who believe that a military-industrial complex is a modern form of slavery, and they seek to free their kind of clutches.
What makes this show unique is how of its time it is. This show has the potential to be actively critical of the American military, the government, and authority over all. It’s very much a Gen Z show, in that it finds normalcy in the chaos of war and social dysfunction. And not unlike Gen Z, it doesn’t seem like it will shy away from any blatant criticisms. What makes this pilot most interesting is how it paints its villains. Because at a base level, the audience can easily understand why the Spree is so angry. Imagine if your people were the only ones made to fight in the wars for their country. Even when painted as some calling, even some of the main characters can see the appeal in a new life approach.
A point of interest of this show is the lens through with the world is viewed. It can be counted on one hand the number of men that are in this pilot. Every relevant character is female. Women are seen as strong, fearless, and dangerous within this world, and it colors the way characters interact with the world. One of the main characters in the show was born in a community of only women, and one small thing is that she will say “goddess” instead of “god.” It’s just the tiny switching out of one explicative for another, but only that shows how different the roles of women are in this society. While this pilot doesn’t show how normal women exist and how they’re treated in society, it’s clear that gender stereotypes in this world aren’t exactly what they are for us.
One thing that makes Freeform shows great is that they’re not scared of queer characters. Of the three main characters, one of them is very blatantly a woman-loving woman, and that’s not supposed to be some big thing! It’s just a part of her character, which is incredible. And there’s even a steamy love scene between her and another character, which again is so rare. Also, there’s a young black character with a group of core characters, and she’s fantastic because she’s not some stereotype. Her role has a long, rich history concerning the military and is a representation of what their people expect of young cadets. That said, I do wonder if this series will ever try to bring voodoo into its universe. They already have a lot going on, but voodoo is such a unique part of American culture that even exists in the real world, so it would be a bit of a waste not to reference that.
Overall, the pilot does a great job of world-building and introducing the audiences to its main cast. It’s uniquely positioned to make some big statements about the real world through the lens of the supernatural, and it’ll be interesting if it takes the opportunity to take a stand.