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Motherland: Fort Salem - Mother Mycelium - Review Roundtable: Strength of Heart

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

Motherland: Fort Salem delivered a heartbreaking episode with Mother Mycelium. Continue reading below to find out our thoughts on the episode. After reading, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Raelle (Taylor Hickson) is now aware that Scylla (Amalia Holm) is alive. To what lengths do you think she will go to get Scylla back? Do you think they will be reunited again before the season ends? We have seen how deeply connected they both are well beyond the deception that launched their relationship. Raelle finally told Scylla she loves her too and seems prepared to overlook whatever led Scylla to be locked away. Do you think she will remain steadfastly loyal to Scylla when the full truth is eventually revealed to her? Can their love survive the deception and separation?

Aimee: I think as long as Raelle is void of all the facts she'll try to move heaven and hell to get back to Scylla. However, once she learns the truth, I think things will change. Once she has all the facts it's going to cause a lot of conflict within her mind and heart. They are definitely in for some challenging times that will test their love to the limit. I think they can survive being separated, but I think it's going to be a lot harder for them to overcome Scylla's deception. Until Scylla has a chance to be face-to-face with Raelle and truly be open and honest with her I think their love surviving will be a struggle. I don't mean that Raelle is going to fall out of love with Scylla, I don't think either is capable of not loving the other at this point, but there will be a lot of hurts that will have to address. Until that can happen, I think we'll see Raelle struggle a lot with her feelings once she learns the full truth.

Donna: As much as Raelle professes to love Scylla right now her faith in that love may waver slightly when she learns her love is a Spree. However, as evil as the Spree are, Raelle maybe none too enthused with the Army after seeing firsthand how they are torturing Scylla. They may fight to be united by season's end, but I don't think they're going to be able to do it just the two of them. They are going to need help. Raelle may eventually forgive Scylla for being Spree always wanting to see the best in her girlfriend. She may surmise Scylla was manipulated and coerced into becoming the enemy, not given a choice, much like she may come to feel she was manipulated and coerced into the Army. The help I mentioned I think will come in the form of Anacostia (Demetria McKinney). The officer always had a special interest in Raelle, and I think after learning more about how Scylla became Spree, she is changing her opinion of her as well and will help them.

Ellys: It seems more than a bit of a stretch that Anacostia would take the risk of Raelle learning the truth. She couldn't honestly expect Raelle to believe it was a dream. I must theorize that Anacostia meant to remove the memory from Raelle's mind or at least cloud it more, or else they wouldn't have taken such a risk. I would bet all my money that right now Raelle's loyalties to Scylla outweigh all other concerns. This is the love of her life and knowing she's alive and being tortured (that broken glass scene!) will do nothing to elevate the Army in Raelle's eyes. I don't think Raelle will turn to the Spree either, as she'll view them as having taken advantage of Scylla.

We learned a bit more about Scylla this week. She pretends to be a strong loyal Spree agent, but as Anacostia (Demetria McKinney) noted, Scylla waivered. She seems motivated in her anger by the fact Alder (Lyne Renee) bound witches to regular humans who have and seem to continue to see them as different. Yet she seems to struggle with the murder the Spree requires of their agents. What do you think Scylla's hesitation means? Is her Spree affiliation just the result of what the Army did to her parents? Or was it something else? Can she be redeemed? Anacostia seems like she might become a bit sympathetic towards Scylla. What do you think that means for Scylla's odds of surviving and eventually escaping her captivity?

Aimee: I don't think Scylla is inherently evil. She was made by the circumstances she was born into as a witch in a world that sees them as a commodity instead of equal. To have any standing in the world she was born expected to risk everything to protect humans and I can see where that would disenfranchise some witches and lead to the formation of the Spree. Even with all that in mind I don't think she likes the murderous way the Spree go about things. She will participate, but as we saw, she hesitates before acting on her orders. Deep down she knows murder isn't the answer, but at the same time, I think she also feels at a loss at to what else she can do. That is until she met Raelle and got a front-row seat to see what other options exist. Raelle is half-human and while it never really comes up in the story outside of the first episode, I think Scylla is acutely aware of that. So, I think Scylla post-Raelle might have a smidge more sympathy for humans than Scylla pre-Raelle did. I think Raelle has made Scylla into a being that can be redeemed and reformed. The question grows stronger with each episode, who are the actual bad guys and good guys in this show? The lines keep blurring and while the Spree has the most dastardly tactics, I'm not convinced the writers aren't going to pull some crazy bait and switch on us where we've spent the whole season rooting for the wrong side thinking the Army are the good guys. As for Scylla surviving captivity, I think Anacostia is her best, and only, chance. The fact that Anacostia told Alder that Scylla hesitated, felt the need to highlight that, tells me that she saw something inside Scylla that might make her redeemable. Also, the way Alder mentioned Anacostia's affinity for orphans tells me there is something in Anacostia's past that might make her sympathy for Scylla only grow as they spend more time together during interrogations. I think if Scylla survives this, and surely she will since Holm is the second-billed on the cast list, that it will be because of Anacostia giving her a chance and either making a case for her or straight-up setting her free.

Donna: I think there's more to Scylla's story that we need to hear before we can make those judgments. She did waver. Like many young people she found herself influenced by powerful people. Whether they exploited her weaknesses, made her feel important or valuable, or motivated her need for revenge on the Army for her parents, it could be one or a combination of all that drove her to join the Spree cause. I think she can be redeemed or at least rehabilitated. It was her love for Raelle that has wavered her conviction and love may be what saves her. With Anacostia's new insight into her she may have found a new champion. Scylla will survive, escape is another matter.

Ellys: Admittedly, this episode didn't fill in nearly enough blanks for me regarding Scylla. Apparently, her first Spree mission ever was the attack that started the season, an attack that happened after she'd spent time at Fort Salem. Did something at Fort Salem push her over the edge because she wasn't with the Spree until later? Anacostia's trip into Scylla's mind seemed noticeably short, giving her almost no information, but something we didn't see made Anacostia feel some sympathy towards her. We haven't seen Anacostia care about Scylla one bit, but could this have been because she saw too much of herself in Scylla? Knowing that Anacostia is an orphan and having seen the lengths she goes to demonstrate loyalty to Adler, perhaps Anacostia herself came from parents who dodged the draft and were killed for their actions. Scylla will survive her captivity. I have no doubt about that. But I couldn't predict how she will escape it. We can't forget that there is another Spree agent on the loose at Fort Salem.

Raelle grows stronger each episode even though she still doesn't appreciate her strength. Nothing the Fort Salem Fixers tried could help the seriously ill Khalida (Kylee Brown), yet Raelle was able to drain the infection from her. What did Raelle do that the Fixers didn't that was able to heal her? Or is she really healed? Why didn't Raelle take on part of the illness as she usually does? Did it have something to do with the wall Raelle touched that was affecting her hand? Where do you think her extreme power comes from? Did she inherit it from her mom or is her enhanced ability somehow the result of her father being a civilian?

Aimee: Raelle isn't your typical Fixer, she showcased that when she took down the entire class during training. She doesn't necessarily follow the same rules as the Fixers that were more formally trained. That seems to mean she can tap into elements of the power that they aren't, therefore, making her stronger than them. I do believe that Khalida is healed, she seems immensely powerful in her own right, and if she wasn't healed, I think she'd know it. As to why Raelle didn't take on any of the illness, that is curious. It occurred in the same episode where Raelle was having her finger examined from touching the mysterious mushroom thingy and I don't think that is coincidental. Until we know more about what that mushroom thing is it’s hard to factually speculate. I'd be willing to bet touching it has done something to Raelle. I have a feeling that something will happen to Raelle as a result that will force Anacostia to trust Scylla so they can both save her. Raelle is powerful and I think Anacostia knows more about what Raelle is capable of than she is letting on. Others have speculated that Raelle's power comes from her mom and that Anacostia and Raelle's mom knew each other. I'm inclined to agree with both facts. I also think her unusually strong powers may also have something to do with her having a human father. I think there is more to Raelle's human/witch hybrid heritage than we've learned just yet.

Donna: From the beginning we've been shown that Raelle was not like the other witches. She's more powerful in ways perhaps even the Army hasn't discovered yet. Clearly whatever the mushroom wall thing did or is doing to her is a big reason she was able to heal Khalida. It was also the reason she didn't take on the illness as she has before. I think her greater power is because she comes from a witch/human pairing, which blows the Army and witch hierarchy teachings about their power out of the water. Either way to both sides, she's a danger and a valuable weapon they want to possess. The question is will either side be powerful enough to control or at least stand by her side when she realizes her full potential.

Ellys: The Spree have wanted Raelle on their side all along, and it seems to be because of her mother's reputation as a fixer. The mushroom death wall thing took a liking to Raelle or at least infected her in some way that made it possible for her to unknowingly transfer Khalida's illness directly to the wall. We also know that Raelle's approach to magic is considered pagan by other cadets. She may be a more natural, respectful user of magic by comparison to others, closer to how Adil and Khalida's people approach it. The fact that she doesn't seek magic for corrupt or violent reasons may work in her favor.

Raelle isn't the only member of the team to display special talents. Tally (Jessica Sutton) seems to have developed the ability to sense when someone is near. How will that help the team? She also seems torn about keeping the truth about Scylla from Raelle, how will that affect her in the field during Citydrop? Will she have lost some focus because of her conflicted feelings brought about by the return of Gerit?

Aimee: We've seen signs that Tally is stronger than even she realizes. I think it was only a matter of time before we saw an evolution of her abilities. This new ability could be a great asset to the unit if she can learn how to utilize and harness it. Having the Raelle and Scylla situation as well as the Gerit stuff on her mind is certainly going to be distracting. How her new ability can help the unit will depend on how well she can turn her focus from them to harnessing the ability. Her focus is all over the place now, so I'm quite curious to see if she can pull things together to be present for the unit or if she'll falter under the pressure.

Donna: Like Raelle, Tally is only just beginning to realize where her talents and abilities lay. Some of the things she will discover she can do will frighten her, others she will embrace. The key to Tally harnessing her talents rests in her being able to control her emotions. Right now that's a dangerous thing as they head into battle at Citydrop because her emotions are all over the place with her keeping things from Raelle about Scylla despite seeing the pain her friend and teammate is in and also because of everything she is feeling or fighting to feel about Gerit.

Ellys: In previous episodes Tally excels when foresight or sight is an essential component. She has powers of perception that are unique. That clarity doesn't extend to her personal life, however. She knows in her heart that keeping this secret is a bad thing, and we see her try to distract herself by temporarily reuniting with Gerit. It's not a secret she can keep for long.

The entire culture of Motherland: Fort Salem as we know it is built around witches serving as the world's soldiers, a legacy and responsibility that has shaped Abigail (Ashley Nicole Williams) from even before birth. In meeting Adil (Tony Giroux), she is confronted by the existence of a completely different culture where weaponizing magic is wrong. What does the introduction of this perspective mean for the show's identity? And what could it mean for Abigail ?

Aimee: The last few episodes have seen Abigail's world thrown into chaos. For Abigail's part, I think she might be at a point where she needs something to change in her life. She grew up in the High Atlantic lifestyle which despite its structured appearance seems a bit chaotic. I think she needs some calm stability in her life, and I think that Adil with his calm demeanor could be just what she needs in her life now. As for the show itself, the Tarim, in general, could shake things up. Up until now, the show has had two main players, the Spree, and the Army. With a third neutral party in the mix, it could cause some shifts in the dynamics as we know them.

Donna: Meeting Adil could perhaps be the best thing to happen to Abigail. He's forcing her to not only see a different side to magic and the world but to also face a softer, more empathetic side to herself. Watching their relationship blossom in a sense was lovely to watch, it certainly made her seem more sympathetic to me. Though I fear someone will see Adil as a threat and eliminate him (Alder *cough-cough) will lead Abigail to question about always using magic as a weapon. Not totally question related but kudos to the casting department and the writer's decision to pair these two, they have wonderful chemistry together.

Ellys: It was brutal to watch Adil share that beautiful, invisible moment with Abigail, only for her to immediately wonder at how they might weaponize it. The Army is Abigail's default setting. Her baby bottle probably said Storm and Fury on it. In her mind, magic and destruction are one and the same. She's never even considered an alternative where her life isn't dedicated to war. This is a tragic part of the show's world that hasn't been delved into that much, but Adil brings it to the forefront in unmissable fashion. His connection with Abigail is simply charming (loads of chemistry. Give me more. Yes, please). Witches being drafted into the Army is a terrible fate, and there is every reason to assume that many women who aren't suited or skilled for battle are sacrificed needlessly as a result. Adil introduces a darker side to this debate. Diseases and environmental decay are being caused by the misuse of magic. Abigail is blind to reality, but how could she not be? It's a curious thing to ponder if the show might be setting up a future where Abigail realizes that being in the Army isn't her destiny.

Witchfather (Nick E. Tarabay) revealed that there is growing dissatisfaction with the Army and Congress may debate disbanding the Army. Do you think Alder's inability to stop the Spree is spurring this dissatisfaction? And there appears to be a growing rift between humans and witches, is this dissension a natural rift or is it being manipulated by the Spree?

Aimee: In my opinion, the rift between humans and witches never went away. I think the Spree exists because of the rift and because its members have been adversely impacted by the persecution of humans and they want freedom. They are just going about trying to obtain their freedom from the Accord in a wholly wrong way. Murder and mayhem are never the answer, but perhaps they are so desperate it is the only option they feel they have left to stop, as Scylla stated, "being slaves". So I think this is a natural rift and I'm sure the Spree doing what they are doing is only making things worse, but I don't think they are the cause of it, but more a product of it. I think having humans turn on witches could prove for some very compelling and timely storytelling in future seasons.

Donna: The Congress' growing dissatisfaction may stem more from them seeing them losing control over the Army as Alder's thirst for power grows. They are beginning to see her as almost as big a threat as the Spree. Anything or anyone who thinks or believes differently and has power will always be a threat to those in charge. It's all about power, who has it, who wields it, and who controls it. The fear of things out of the norm i.e. witches vs. humans is a conflict that goes back centuries, the intensity of the conflict has probably waxed and waned throughout history and now that cycle is moving back to the natural dissension growing again due to the Spree attacks.

Ellys: One of the most rigid rules of storytelling, rooted in reality, is that there will always be a divide between people who see themselves as special and people who see themselves as ordinary. We've seen that the President isn't the biggest fan of the Army. The Spree said their mission was to keep witches from being conscripted into the Army, but Scylla revealed that the truth is the Spree don't like that the Army binds witches to regular humans/the true enemies of witches. The Spree's attacks on humans are thus intended to turn humans against all witches, and Alder's failure to stop them has only aided this. It's a rift that would no doubt have developed over time anyway, but the Spree has certainly hastened it.

At first Khalida was willing to share her people's song with Alder. Why do you think she stopped? Was there something in Alder's vocalizing of the song that clued her in? Or was there another reason she said that her people's song was not safe with Alder? Were her reservations with Alder or the Army in general?

Aimee: I don't think she ever actually intended to share her song. I think she went into that vocalization session fully intending to teach Alder a bit of a lesson. I don't believe she was trying to be malicious at all, but I think it was more like an adult trying to teach a child an important life lesson with a bit of tough love, only in reverse. Alder has gotten a bit full of herself and needed to be brought down a few notches. I think she can see, feel, and hear something in Alder that just doesn't sit quite right with her. She, like us as viewers, doesn't seem like she can fully peg down Alder's true intentions and that's why she acted to remind Alder that she isn't all-powerful.

Donna: From the outset Khalida has been distrustful of Alder. Her pretending to share the song with Alder was a test as to how the latter would respect the song of her people. Alder quickly snatching onto and trying to "out-sing" Khalida if you will, to make the song stronger told her everything she needed to know about Alder and her motives. I do have a theory about Khalida and her people. Whereas Alder has her entourage who give up their youth to keep her young, I think Khalida is an incredibly old soul and elder to her people, wise and knowing. Perhaps her people age differently than the witches who use magic as a weapon. The older their leaders are, the younger they look. If that is the case, Khalida has likely seen many ambitious witches like Alder come and go and will do whatever she can to protect the song and magic of her people.

Ellys: I don't think Khalida was ever going to share the song. She was intending to send Adler a warning. Khalida doesn't trust the Army or Adler. Like the rest of her people and Adil, she sees them as harming the natural world. The real question is whether Adler will permit Adil and his sister to leave, as desperate as she is to get her hands on their songs.

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: Easily a tie this week between Amalia Holm and Taylor Hickson. They are both phenomenal forces of nature apart but put them together in a scene and they always defy expectations and deliver the most profoundly powerful performances. That was beautifully showcased in the reunion scene. The emotions were so raw that at one point it sounded like Hickson even struggled to get out Raelle's words through the emotions she was channeling into her character. Holm, for her part, had to work so hard to keep Scylla semi-composed to try to make sure that she was strong for Raelle. You could see and hear the emotional struggle in Scylla through Holm's powerful performance. Then Anacostia's team separated Raelle and Scylla and the performances Hickson and Holm delivered were gut-wrenching. That was perhaps the most profoundly heartbreaking and emotionally raw scene I've seen in a long time and the performances were second-to-none. That came on the heels of both actresses just delivering one amazing performance after another in this episode.

Donna: Holm and Hickson were standouts this week if for nothing else than their heart-breaking reunion in the interrogation room. These two young actresses put everything they had into the emotions between these two, "star-crossed", if you will, lovers. They poured it all out onto the table and the result was a raw, emotionally charged scene.

Ellys: All of Ashley Nicole Williams and Tony Giroux's scenes were standouts but for sure the scene that will haunt me until the next episode was Scylla and Raelle's reunion. Amalia Holm delivered all the pain with Scylla's pleas that Raelle not give up on her and not believe everything she would be told.

What are your final thoughts regarding this episode?

Aimee: This episode blew me away. This is one of those rare shows that only keeps getting better. They have yet to deliver anything other than top-notch episodes full of tight writing and powerhouse performance and this episode was no exception. I genuinely am excited about this show each week and can't wait to see the new episode to see what comes next. This show has so much rich story to be told and the writers know just how much to reveal each week to keep us wanting more while giving little tidbits to answer some questions. It's such a well-crafted show and I can't wait to see where the writers take these characters as the season begins its final push to what promises to be some sort of epic season finale.

Donna: I grow more impressed with the series with each episode that airs. They are telling a complicated and layered story expertly and are backing up strong storytelling/writing with solid direction and very mature and polished performances from their young leads. They are building toward an explosive conclusion for the season that is sure to be a very satisfying and surprising finale.

Ellys: Although I still feel we need to know much more about the world of Motherland: Fort Salem to put everything in context (what is the Cession; who is the 4th witch line shown in the credits; why do male witches make weapons but not fight in combat, etc.), the bonds among the characters are keeping the show afloat. I hope the final episodes of the season fire on all cylinders.

Please use the comments section to let us know what your thoughts are on each of the things we talked about in this article.

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