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Motherland: Fort Salem - My Witches - Review Roundtable: Escalating War

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This review was written by Aimee Hicks, Donna Cromeans (DJRiter), and Ellys Cartin.

Motherland: Fort Salemcame out of the gates swinging last week and delivered another strong episode with My Witches. Continue reading below to find out our thoughts on the episode. After reading, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Tally (Jessica Sutton) was given a pretty big storyline this episode as the writers dove a bit more into her character. We got to see how much her mom’s disapproval of the army impacts her. We got to see her sweet interaction with the little girl in the park. We also got to see how she reacts when confronted as we saw in the bar. She is a complex character with a lot of different facets to her beyond just being the sweet innocent one of the unit. What do you think the writers have planned for her? Do you think she is more powerful than even she realizes? She did things that one would typically expect to see from a leader, is Abigail (Ashley Nicole Williams) in danger of losing her place as leader if Tally keeps evolving the way she did in this episode?

Aimee: I really can’t tell for sure what the writers have planned for her. They are doing a good job of showing the layers to Tally. She is way more than the wide-eyed girl who charged into the Army despite being exempt. I do think she is very powerful, but I think somewhere in her subconscious she realizes how powerful she is. She knows she has something to offer and that is why she was so driven to join the Army. I do see some possible scenarios where Tally could prevail over Abigail and become more of a leader. With that said, I’m not sure that Tally wants to be a leader. If it happens it’ll be because there is no other choice left. I think Sutton is doing incredible work portraying all the layers the writers have crafted into Tally. She is very skilled at capturing the nuanced aspects of the character. Seeing the contrast of Tally with that little girl versus how she was with the belligerent guy shows that there is so much about this character we have yet to see revealed and I can’t wait to keep watching her grow.

Donna: I think Tally is obviously more powerful than she realizes. Perhaps by being away from her disapproving mother her abilities are beginning to blossom. It does make one wonder though, if her mother’s disapproval comes from knowing or having an idea just how powerful her daughter is and tried to prevent her from joining to keep them from exploiting her abilities. I still contend that the group may not have a clear leader, I see it more as each girl stepping up and taking the lead depending on the circumstances they find themselves in. I’m also a firm believer in show not tell, so Abigail’s insistence of asserting herself as a leader would carry far more weight if she demonstrated her leadership instead of always talking about it. In just two episodes Raelle and Tally have clearly demonstrated leadership qualities.

Ellys: When I see the progression of Tally’s character, I am reminded that the natural leaders in the world aren’t those who are the smartest, strongest, or most charismatic. Natural leaders are those who bring people together. Natural leaders are the ones with steadfast convictions that inspire others. And the most effective leaders are unselfish and honest. Tally is a natural leader.

For a brief moment it seemed like Raelle (Taylor Hickson) was starting to get suspicious regarding Scylla (Amalia Holm). That was until Scylla was able to throw her off her trail with a bit of trickery. While Scylla is clearly working towards something with Raelle she also seems to be really falling hard for her mark. Their time in the forest together felt very heartfelt and genuine. Do you think Raelle will continue to ask questions about Scylla or is fledgling love blinding her? With Raelle already going through a round of suspicion, how long can Scylla keep this ruse going?

Aimee: I think that Raelle has become blinded by her growing feelings for Scylla. I get the idea that Raelle is the type of character who can convince herself to overlook certain things when it comes to matters of the heart. All it took is one compelling story and Raelle was willing to believe her. With that said, I don’t think Raelle is done asking questions. I think eventually she must start putting pieces together. She appears to spend a lot of time with Scylla and at some point, she’s not going to be able to ignore things any longer. This is only the second episode, so I think Scylla can keep this ruse going a good while longer, but eventually her luck will run out. It’s just a matter of when and how Raelle will handle knowing the truth.

Donna: I don’t think Raelle is blinded by anything. I think she is a very smart girl and some part of her knows Scylla is playing her. She’s asking the right questions, just as someone who has been hurt repeatedly would do. I don’t get the impression she is following or going along with everything Scylla is saying. The longer this goes on the more likely Raelle is going to be the one to use her influence over Scylla to turn her against the Spree.

Ellys: To me, Raelle didn’t seem suspicious, just curious. Girl doesn’t have a clue that something isn’t right with her girlfriend. With all the sneaking around, she will stumble onto something out of place sooner rather than later. It’s too early to predict which way Raelle will lean, but I am not confident she would choose the Army over Scylla at this point.

Scylla was seen talking directly to the Spree balloon. She made it clear that Raelle was hers confirming that she did intentionally target her. What do you think it is about Raelle that makes her so special that the Spree dedicated a whole mission to extracting her? Scylla tried to act all brave and in control around the balloon, but as soon as it shattered the glass there was a look of genuine fear on her face. When the time comes, do you think she will actually be able to hand Raelle over to the Spree?

Aimee: From where I see things there are only two possible reasons why they Spree would launch an entire mission to get their hands on Raelle. They either saw Raelle’s mother in battle and saw her power and expected it passed to her daughter. Another possible theory I’ve been thinking about is that Raelle’s mom is very much alive and playing a critical role in the Spree agenda. Only someone power hungry or a mother looking to get her child back would put this much time and effort into launching a mission just to acquire one person. Whomever sent Scylla also knows Raelle well enough to know exactly who had the best chance of catching her attention and be able to woo her. I don’t really have any great amount of evidence to support this theory, I just have a gut feeling that Raelle’s mother may still be alive. As for Scylla and the balloon, I’m not entirely sure she even knows who she works for in terms of who is behind the balloon. I think that up until this point she has just been a good solider doing what she was told to do which is why she was trusted with this mission. But I am getting the impression that Raelle is having as much an impact on her as she is having on Raelle. At this stage in things, I think she would be willing to hand Raelle over to her commanders, but if this relationship continues to evolve that may keep getting progressively harder for her.

Donna: The Spree has a lot of knowledge about Raelle’s healing abilities that they likely learned from her mother. There is more to the story of her mother’s death than we are being told, and if her abilities were like her daughter’s in being able to heal that would make her a valuable tool to an army. While Scylla’s feeling her oats now about deceiving Raelle and thinking she’s reeled her in, I think the reality is that she is vastly underestimating Raelle. When it comes down to it her true feelings for Raelle are going to outweigh her loyalty to the Spree. I could even see them perhaps going on the run together.

Ellys: The only way the Spree could know about Raelle is through some connection to her mother. We’ve been told that her mom had an extraordinary gruesome death. Maybe she was the kind of witch who didn’t go unnoticed by the opposition. Perhaps before she died, Raelle’s mom revealed herself to have some combat powers that the Spree now hope her daughter has. Regardless, Scylla won't consider it handing Raelle over; she will consider it successfully wooing Raelle to the Spree cause. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Scylla fearful; this scene echoed the one where Anacostia did something to Scylla, which raises another question. How powerful is Scylla actually? Is she that powerful at all?

This episode talked more about the pressure Abigail is under in regard to doing proud by her mom. There were also multiple looks into Abigail’s insecurities. Is she capable of being the leader this unit needs at this stage? Can she fulfill the expectations on her because of her mom or will she always be fighting an unwinnable fight trying to meet those expectations?

Aimee: Is she capable? Yes, she is. Is she ready? Absolutely not. She has a long way to go before she can properly lead. I think like with most children of prominent people she will eventually have to stop trying to live up to her mom and carve out her own path. When she makes that decision to go out and truly be her own person void of her mom’s legacy then I think we’ll see Abigail really get to shine and perhaps that is when we’ll see her true leadership ability emerge.

Donna: Abigail will never live up to her mother’s expectations, just as I suspect her mother could never live up to the pressures put upon her. She may be capable of being a leader and a good one at that, but not right now. First, she needs to get out of her own head.

Ellys: Abigail has some social deficiencies, as we’ve seen. The introduction of another person she has beef with, Libba (Sarah Yarkin), confirmed what we know about her. Abigail doesn’t seem crushed by expectations, so much as she still seems to feel that her bloodline should award her a higher status. I enjoyed seeing a less uptight version of Abigail when she and Raelle were hanging out in the pizza parlor. It was the first time I felt chemistry between Hickson and Williams.

We got to see another horrible look into just what the Spree is capable of and it looks like they may be getting the upper hand in this war. Anacostia (Demetria McKinney) also indicated that things were escalating on the battlefield which is why the training was moving at such a fast pace. What do you think the endgame is for the Spree? What do you believe their objective is? Can the witches of the Army really beat back an enemy that can so easily hide and has no moral compass?

Aimee: What the Spree are doing is the very definition of Guerrilla Warfare. That fact is what has made them such a formidable foe for the Army. They don’t follow rules or any moral compass. They are going to be very hard to stop until the Army can find out who is at the core of the organization and target them directly. I think it’s obvious they want to destroy the status quo and bring the world to its knees using horrible terrorist group tactics. They want to destroy the institution of the Army. They don’t seem to want any unity with normal everyday humans and still hold a grudge for the Salem Witch Trials. If, and when they ever show us more members of Spree other than Scylla, I’ll be very interested to see exactly who all makes up this group. Were they all wronged by the Army like Scylla? Were they former Army soldiers gone rogue? I want to know more about the Spree as an organization. For the big bad force of the series we know very little about the group other than what we’ve seen from Scylla and the mysteriously scary balloon.

Donna: The very nature of their name tells me that the Spree are very much like mercenaries in a sense, some are trained to kill and win at all costs. That’s why their tactics are so extreme. I think their endgame is superiority and control over the witches and the world. It’s also my feeling that like the witches the Spree may have a history that goes back to early Salem days. I would not be surprised to find that their leader/leaders were some persecuted witches from that time seeking revenge and retribution. It’s also likely that head of the Spree has a close personal connection to General Adler (Lyne Renee)

Ellys: Most of the Spree, Scylla included if her parents’ story is true, are on the train because they don’t believe witches should be conscripted. I expect the Spree’s leader will have a more personal agenda, and there are no doubt members of Spree who are just in it for the killing and power and chaos. We haven’t seen enough of the witches at war to see if they can match the Spree, but the Spree are terrorists; terrorists are basically unbeatable by normal military strategy, because they refuse to adhere to the rules of war.

Reader Question: Submitted by dhmhtra375: What is your opinion on the CGI used on the series? Do you think they are pretty good for a Freeform TV series or were there moments where they completely took you out of the story due to how bad they were (eg.Once Upon A Time)?

Aimee: I said this in my answers for the review for the series premiere and I will keep reiterating it, this series has some of the very best cinematography I’ve ever seen on a Freeform series. The color schemes they use to set the moods and the overall production value have led to a stunningly aesthetically beautiful series that has no equal on the network. I have seen some shows (**cough** Lucifer **cough**…also, I adore the show, just the CGI bugs me) where the CGI is just so off point that you spend so much time marveling at the weak effort made by the CGI team that you get pulled completely out of the story. That is not a problem that this show has. The CGI is very well crafted and the CGI team behind the show clearly know what they are doing. The tornadoes from the premiere were beautifully done as was Raelle and Scylla’s little floating trick. Freeform clearly put some money into this show and I just really hope they didn’t blow their budget early on because this show has so much potential.

Donna: Given that we’re talking about CGI for show that is not on a major network or on a big movie screen, I’m going to say that the producers have done very well with their budgets. The swarm of tornadoes in the first episode was an impressive image. It will be interesting to see if they can maintain that quality throughout the season or if most of their CGI budget was spent on a pilot episode in order to sell the show. I’ve not watched that many Freeform shows, so I have no context of comparison there.

Ellys: Excuse me while I shudder about that awful season of Once Upon A Time where the show hung out in orange-tinted hell. I do find it an interesting choice that Motherland’s world is constantly bathed in the colors of sunrise, sunset, and night; I don’t find it distracting even though it makes it seem as if the entire world is trapped inches away from a massive wildfire. The effects have been superb, and my scruples about them lie more in execution than quality. I am only just now realizing there don’t seem to be phones or computers in this world either.

Which performer do you think delivered the most memorable performance in the episode? Why did their performance standout for you? What were their best scenes?

Aimee: I thought Taylor Hickson and Amalia Holm were amazing, but I must go with Jessica Sutton this week. I really enjoyed watching her weave in and out of the different complex sides of Tally. Sutton brilliantly took Tally from all giddy and excited about the event and being a good steward of the Army with that little girl to flattening out that obnoxious guy. I think I’m going to really enjoy watching Sutton develop Tally throughout the run of the series.

Donna: I’m going to go in a different direction here and say there was not one memorable performance but three, the three young leads of the show – Taylor Hickson, Jessica Sutton and Ashley Nicole Williams. They were most impressive in their scenes together as a team, echoing the recurring theme of the show for me. Whether it was their training scenes, sparring and sniping at one another in the mess hall or their tipsy bonding moments, these three were stronger as a unit, a point I will repeat as being the point of the show.

Ellys: There have been standout moments for me, but there haven’t been standout performances yet. I loved tipsy Tally declaring wholeheartedly and fervently “You are my witches.”

What are your final thoughts regarding this episode?

Aimee: This was another very strong episode. They aren’t holding back with this show. Unlike a lot of shows that often slowdown a bit to get their bearings and set things up this show just charges right in. The writers very obviously have a clear plan in mind for where things are heading for each character and that clear vision is evident in how well-crafted each character is. I’m really excited for what comes next.

Donna: While we’ve spent the first two episodes getting to know these characters and their world, I am anxious to see how they react under fire. They’ve done a great job with setting things up but it’s time to move the story forward.

Ellys: With the witches’ training being accelerated, I anticipate we’ll see combat sooner rather than later. I need to see the characters challenged more, and I would also like to get more details about the history of Adler and the Army.

Each week we will select one question from all of you to include in our roundtable. Please submit your questions in the comments section below.

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