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Motherland: Fort Salem - Up Is Down - Review Roundtable: Emotional Trauma



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

Motherland: Fort Salem delivered an emotional rollercoaster with Up Is Down. Continue reading below to find out our thoughts on the episode. After reading, please leave your thoughts in the comments.


Scylla's (Amalia Holm) fate was finally revealed in the closing minutes of the episode. What do you think comes next for her? Will she cooperate with the Army? Or will the Spree come to reclaim their rogue agent? Will Raelle (Taylor Hickson) finally be told the truth about her?

Aimee: I think we'll see Scylla in Army custody for the rest of the season. I do think she'll cooperate to a degree. She is seemingly safer in Army custody at the moment versus the Spree getting their hands on her. She is a long way away from being free again. That is going to take a lot for her to earn that. I think the only thing that will get her out of Army custody is if Raelle is in trouble and the Spree gets their hands on her. She is the one thing that the Army, the Spree, and Scylla all have in common, they all want Raelle. I think the prior episode beautifully showed what Scylla is willing to risk for the woman she loves. To protect or save Raelle I can see Scylla and Anacostia (Demetria McKinney) putting aside their differences and working together for her. I can see Anacostia going against Alder (Lyne Renee) to help Raelle. Whatever it is about Raelle, she is someone everyone seems to have an interest in. As for if Raelle will learn the truth, I fully expect she will, but I think she'll find out in a way that will anger her and disenfranchise her from the Army and her unit. She definitely won't be told and will have to find it out on her own which will only anger her more.

Donna: Pain and suffering are on the table for Scylla for the foreseeable future. I think she will cooperate somewhat particularly if Alder uses the same weapon against her as the Spree do – Raelle. If the Spree come it won't be to rescue her, she's just a foot soldier and highly expendable. If they come it will be to eliminate her as a loose end. Will Alder or her officers have a change of heart and tell Raelle the truth about Scylla? No, not unless they need Raelle's abilities to defeat the Spree. A scenario or two I would consider is - One: after the discovery of just why Raelle is so valuable and the revelation of her being in danger, we could get one of the oddest pairings of Anacostia and Scylla joining forces to save her. Two: Raelle trusts her instincts and follows Anacostia or Scylla's teacher and finds her girlfriend.

Ellys: Scylla stands no chance against a witch as formidable as Alder (assuming Alder is still formidable; we haven't seen her in action to back that up) unless the Spree has some sort of spell on their agents for cases just like this. Considering the way the Spree has been threatening Scylla as of late, it's more likely they would send their other on-base agent to kill her, rather than attempting any kind of rescue. If Raelle learns the truth from anyone but Tally, it will drive a major wedge between her and the Army.


Raelle's world was shattered at being told that Scylla had died during the attack. She has a deep connection to her and despite hearing the words she didn't believe the story she was being told. The conflict between what she was being told and what her heart was telling her led her down a self-destructive path. Seeing how Raelle has reacted to thinking Scylla was dead, how do you think she'll react to finding out she is alive? Will she try to free Scylla from Army custody? Will she try to get Scylla to cooperate? Or will she turn her back on Scylla? And what, if any, ramifications do you think there will be from her touching that "mushroom" in the necromancy building?

Aimee: I think Raelle will flip out when she learns the truth. She is already a spitfire, but finding out the woman she loves is being held in Army custody could very well cause her to snap again. We saw how much it messed up Raelle when she thought Scylla was dead. She full-on self-destructed and acted impulsively just to find some way to connect with her love. As for how she'll react when she is face-to-face with Scylla again, that I'm less certain about. I think she'll be hurt and angry, but she'll still love Scylla. I am torn as to if Raelle is going to try to get Scylla to cooperate or not. The only reason she might try to get Scylla to cooperate is if she thinks it'll make Anacostia and Alder go easier on her. I don't think for a second that she'll turn her back on Scylla permanently. She'll need space to process, but I think she'll still be there for Scylla when it counts. Regarding that "mushroom" thing that Raelle touched. That seemed a bit ominous and I want to know what they are doing with whatever it is. I have watched enough sci-fi and fantasy to know that when a phantom hand emerges from a creepy looking substance something bad will eventually happen because of it. I'm curious to learn more about whatever that is and what it does.

Donna: Raelle loves Scylla – pure and simple and despite comments on other roundtables that believe Scylla is un-redeemable, quite the opposite is true. While she may be angry at Scylla for the deception, she's also worldly enough to know that good people can be forced to do things, sometimes bad things against their will. I suspect Alder will use Raelle as a weapon to get Scylla to talk for her selfish motives, she doesn't care who she hurts or what she does as long as she gets what she needs to defeat the Spree. I think that Alder, the Army, and the Spree have underestimated the bond that exists between these two young women. Love, in this case, may be the most powerful weapon on either side. Regarding the mushroom thing, perhaps the fact that it responded to Raelle is an indication of her underlying power. Perhaps they don't know what it does and the fact that it responded to Raelle may make it another weapon the Army can use.

Ellys: Part of me thinks that Scylla's teacher only told Raelle it wasn't dangerous in an attempt to make it seem less interesting. Whatever it is, the mushroom reference implies that it feeds off death. Is Raelle infected with something now that she touched it, and who exactly was reaching out to her from the other side? While Raelle's response to the news about Scylla seemed self-destructive, her actions came directly from a place of desperate grief. She knows in her bones that something about Scylla's death doesn't make sense. The lack of a body. The lack of witness testimony. When her grief subsides a little, these questions will start to bother her more. After this episode, we have to look at Raelle differently. She is an incredibly empathetic person, something we knew before from her healing ventures and her need to help people the moment she sees they are in pain or emotional distress, which also means she feels things on a deeper level than most people. That being said, after her mother's death, Raelle clearly closed a part of her heart off. Until she met Scylla. Hickson's performance as Raelle processed all that torment of being separated from the woman she loves…all the goosebumps!


Tally (Jessica Sutton) and Abigail (Ashley Nicole Williams) had their hands full this week. They were not only trying to comfort Raelle, but each was dealing with their issues. Tally in regards to keeping the secret about Scylla and Abigail in trying to cope with the trauma she went through at the wedding. But when Raelle went missing and was in self-destruction mode they put all their stuff to the side to run to her aid. Do you see this as the start of the unit strengthening as sisters and soldiers? Or is this the beginning of the end for their unit? Can they overcome the secrets and trauma to continue to work together or is this unit destined to fracture apart?

Aimee: I think we'll see a bit of strengthening of the unit initially since they bonded together at the end, but the moment the Scylla secret is revealed I expect a fracture. I do think this is the closing of a chapter for them. That moment on the beach they went from a dysfunctional fledgling unit to sisters. So I don't think this is the end of the unit, but I think they are in for some rough days ahead. Eventually, they'll overcome the trauma and secrets and unite together. Yet, the moment the Scylla secret is out there will be turbulent times ahead for a couple of episodes is my best guess. By the end of the season, I think we'll see them stronger as a unit and sisters because of all they are seemingly about to go through.

Donna: That which does not kill us makes us stronger. This is just the next step in the deepening bond of these three as a unit. That said, it does not mean that all will be smooth sailing. Abigail still has some growing to do, yet her recent experience seems to have opened her eyes some to her behavior. Tally continues to grow as an intuitive and decisive leader, her quickly putting the pieces together when their drug was missing likely saved Raelle's life. Yet, she will endure Raelle's fury after learning she lied to her about Scylla. She is becoming the anchor that will hold this team together. The three of them on the beach at the end of the episode was a powerful statement that this team is growing closer. That final scene was both heartbreaking and powerful with great work from all three young actresses.

Ellys: On one hand, this episode ended with a moment beautiful and painful as heartache when Tally and Abigail joined Raelle on the beach. They will be more united than ever going forward, in terms of honing their military strength. Raelle and Abigail now both have a personal reason to strike against the Spree. However, Tally's secret is a ticking bomb. We saw two very different sides of Tally's personality in this episode. In some moments she was a strong and sure leader, looking out for her sisters and exhorting them; but, in the scene where she was talking herself into feeling okay about her secret, there was a childish sense of reasoning and justification in her demeanor. Tally is a character full of light, but that light may be darkened not so much by keeping the secret but by the self-deception she's practicing just to justify keeping the secret.


The Army took in Tarim refugees, Adil (Tony Giroux) and Khalida (Kylee Brown), and Alder seemed very interested in them for more than humanitarian reasons. While Alder wanted to learn their songs Adil was adamantly against it. He seemed disgusted by her for the way she weaponized her songs back in Salem. What do you think will come of this? Will Alder force Adil and Khalida to teach her their songs? Or will Adil take a stand and protect the songs? How far do you think Alder will go to learn them?

Aimee: Adil absolutely despises Alder. Even when he was trying to be grateful for the aid of the Army for his sister you could see the contempt in his eyes for her. I expect he will ferociously fight to keep the songs from Alder. I would bet she'll try to manipulate Khalida into teaching her. I would love to see an Alder flashback episode to learn more about her. Despite being such a central figure in the show she is a bit enigmatic. Adil must know enough about her to not like her and the Spree certainly don't like her. I'd like to see the show deep dive into her to explain the tension she causes. Adil acted almost like she broke an ancient trust by putting her song out into the world. There is a lot more to her story and that of her people.

Donna: I think Adil will protect Khalida and the songs, proving that Alder is not as powerful as she thinks she is. Alder won't like it, and I think she'll begin acting rashly, blindly grasping anything she can find to battle the Spree, but perhaps she'll find the Spree isn't the real enemy.

Ellys: It is quite the coincidence that after Alder heard the Tarim song, some mysterious illness/infection overtook a Tarim child that required her to be brought to Fort Salem to be healed. Surely this Adil will be on his guard, but I don't trust Alder's integrity enough to rule out her having Adil killed/imprisoned to give her unhampered access to Khalida who might give up the songs more easily. The simple truth is that no one stays alive as long as Adler has without having a god complex and doing some highly questionable things.


In that aftermath of the Spree attack on the wedding it was also discovered that civilians were killed throughout the country at the same time. They were all revealed to be Bellweather's who either through dodging or having children with civilians had lost their connection to the main line. That meant that Abigail was immediately seen to be in danger leading her mom to have a guard assigned to her. Abigail learned a lot from her and in the process seems to have started down a path of maturing as she showed when she took a stand to be able to leave to go find and help Raelle. Do you think this is the start of her becoming a better leader in the wake of the attack? What does all of this mean for her bloodline? Why do you think the Spree is so interested in her line? What does all of this mean for Abigail moving forward?

Aimee: I think we will start to see her grow and mature more in the coming episodes. I predict a rift between Tally and Raelle coming because of the Scylla secret, so she is going to need to step up and lead or her unit will fall apart. I also think the attack was a big wakeup call for her and while we saw a bit of her bratty and stubborn side we also got to see a good bit of maturity emerge and she'll need that to grow into a solid leader. As for the Bellweather bloodline, I'm quite curious to see how that all plays out. I'm guessing the Spree took the voice boxes to weaponize the sound like Alder had done with her songs. What is it about Bellweather songs that make them so powerful? Like with many things on this show, I want to know more. It has to be the songs that the Spree are after just like Alder is after the Tarim songs. I think all of this will cause fundamental shifts within Abigail. She is being forced to learn and grow at a very rapid pace and I have to say that Williams is doing amazing work showing Abigail on this path.

Donna: While a traumatic experience is causing Abigail to become more of a team player and less self-absorbed, are we 100% sure that it was the Spree who attacked the other Bellweathers? Is it the Spree that's interested in the bloodline or is it a black ops group from Alder, desperate to find the key to the special songs. I'm beginning to think there is a third more dangerous player in this game. Who took the voice boxes? Perhaps they are the key to creating the special songs of Khalida and her people. As devastating as they are, the experiences have been good in helping Abigail grow up, but I still don't see her as a leader. She's acting exactly the way the dean of war college did which disgusted her. She's been acting on her entitlement, based on her name and not earning the honor. This episode featured some nice work from Williams, but the character has more growing to do.

Ellys: This is quite the revelation to unpack. We learned that the Spree does not normally target other witches, however, supposedly they targeted 17 witches who were of the Bellweather line and who were childbearing age. (This is interesting also because apparently, witches who aren't pure witch blood are usually weaker than other witches. Or at least that's what most witches believe). It seems unusual for the Spree to be focused on making a witch line extinct; it's also contrary to their entire mission. The alternative is that another witch family is trying to take them out, and we know there's a generations-long rivalry between the Smythes and Bellweathers. However, there's also the fact that General Bellweather doesn't trust Alder. Could someone be killing Bellweathers to increase that rift and divide army loyalties? For now, those unanswered questions are just one more dark cloud hanging over Abigail. We saw her make the first steps toward recovery by trusting Bridey (Naiah Cummins), but her fear of appearing weak or unworthy may prevent her from seeking the additional help she needs.


Reader Question: Submitted by Ivan: Anacostia seems rather protective over Raelle over all the other recruits, why do you think that is?

Aimee: I think Anacostia knows a lot more about Raelle than she is letting on. Raelle is such a source of interest for so many different entities that I expect a lot of people know more about what she is capable of than she knows herself.

Donna: Anacostia is clearly connected to Raelle in some fashion. She either knew and fought alongside her mother or she is privy to ALL the abilities that Raelle possesses and has been tasked with bringing her along slowly.

Ellys: I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Anacostia knew Raelle's mom at some point or was perhaps even close friends with her.


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: Hands down without question this week I have to give this to Hickson though all of them were brilliant. I had a lot of favorite scenes from her in this episode, but the breakdown on the beach was heartbreaking. The amount of hurt and despair she was emoting made Raelle's plight and a heavy array of emotions palpable through the screen. Everything she did in that scene was powerful and stunningly executed. The way she had Raelle gasp back to life only to have her fight off Tally and Abigail in a desperate plea for what she felt in her heart to be real and finally collapsing into them due to exhaustion and a primal need for comfort at that moment was incredible. She was physically battered from her Salva trip and emotionally beaten trying to make sense of what happened with Scylla. Hickson did such amazing work capturing all the painfully raw emotions Raelle had to contend with in this episode.

Donna: For the first time in a while there was a sole performer who stood out this week. While there were great moments from both Williams and Sutton, this episode was Hickson's from the get-go. Her anguish and desperation to find Scylla after the attack was gut-wrenching, her devastation at being told that Scylla was dead was palpable as was her denial and steadfast belief her love wasn't dead. Then finally her resolution and determination to join Scylla, wherever she was, was heart-breaking. The final scene between the three actresses was powerful, powerful work.

Ellys: Without a doubt, a tie for me this week. Williams has basically reconstructed her character from scratch to portray the radical impact of Abigail's trauma. Hickson gave a raw powerhouse performance as Raelle navigated the fear of not knowing what happened to Scylla and the terror at the possibility she was truly dead. The scene Abigail, Raelle, and Tally share at the end, on Scylla's beach, defies words with its stark beauty. Raelle's pain is difficult to watch, but her sisters being there with her and fighting for her at that moment was incredibly impactful.


What are your final thoughts regarding this episode?

Aimee: I really loved this episode. This is one of those rare shows that just keeps better and better each week. This episode was an emotional rollercoaster for all of the characters in regards to their individual journeys and their connected one. The storytelling is tight and well planned out. They are building towards some big conflicts and I can't wait to see what the writers have in store for us next.

Donna: I saw one comment that referred to this episode as a filler and I'm going to strongly disagree. This was an important episode that is laying the groundwork for an action-filled finale. At the forefront for me, it illustrated how important a role Raelle will play in the outcome of the battle between the Army and the Spree. Filler, far from it.

Ellys: Motherland fit in an impressive amount of story and character development into this episode. Scylla's interrogation, Alder's questionable plans for the Tarim visitors, Tally's secret, Abigail's recovery, and Raelle's heartbreak are all going to majorly affect what happens next. And then there's still this issue of Bellweathers being assassinated plus whatever the Spree have on their calendar. It feels like these events are just stacking up and stacking up. It's only going to take one match to light the whole pile on fire, but who is going to be holding that match?


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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