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‘Motherland: Fort Salem’ Deserved More Than Its Rushed Finale

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kutztown chapter.
Spoiler Warning: Major parts of the Motherland: Fort Salem will be discussed, including major character deaths. Read at your own risk.

Fort Salem is a safe haven for witches. Or so it claims. In the world of Motherland: Fort Salem, witch genes are typically passed down from mother to daughter, with a few male exceptions. Those who inherit the ability to use “seed sounds,” sound-based spells, are forced to conscript into the US army at the age of 18. The series follows the Bellweather Unit, comprised of ambitious legacy Abigail Bellweather (Ashley Nicole Williams), optimistic seer Tally Craven (Jessica Sutton), and rebellious healer Raelle Collar (Taylor Hickson), as they navigate training and realize that the enemy they’re fighting might be within their own borders. 

Motherland took a massive step forward in terms of inclusivity and diversity in television, casting multiple POCs in lead roles and containing a cast from around the globe. All of the characters were complex, and the world-building itself provided lots of potential for exploration.  But the show’s potential would remain just that. While creator and showrunner Eliot Laurence had planned the story for seven seasons, Freeform decided to end Motherland after only three. In an attempt to cram four seasons worth of material into one, the writers left fans underwhelmed by over-packed episodes, pacing issues, and plot holes galore, leaving many to dream about what could have been. 

Production Issues Made Short Plotlines Even Shorter

After filming episode one of the final season, actress Taylor Hickson was involved in a major car accident. She was unable to act or even read for months. Production wanted to give Hickson as much time as possible to recover, resulting in last-minute changes to the plot and her character being written out of most of the middle four episodes. Given Raelle’s importance to the plot, many storylines couldn’t be resolved until her return in the final moments of episode seven. And with only ten episodes in the season, the final three episodes sped through resolutions at a dizzying pace in order to compensate. While production made the right choice by prioritizing Hickson’s health, it’s unfortunate that an already limited final season had to suffer even more difficulties when developing the show’s plot.

Too Much Universe, Too Little Time

Motherland: Fort Salem boasts a massive amount of world-building, from different areas of the country like the Native-American council-led Cession and the women-only matrifocal compound to whole time period shifts. Each location opens the audience to different cultures, adding to the show’s intrigue by providing plenty of lore for viewers to dissect. As of season two’s finale, the characters had mainly been based in Fort Salem itself, occasionally forging into the Cession or neighboring towns when the plot allowed. The final season attempted to explore every area that viewers hadn’t yet seen, resulting in locations that would take whole seasons to fully flesh out only receiving a few minutes to be introduced and quickly forgotten. The ever-shifting landscape left viewers suffering from whiplash. It also made it difficult for viewers to gain an attachment to any new content, as most locations would be passed through without significant impact to the plot.

Character Development, What Character Development?

The blitzing pace also left many characters suffering from lack of development. Vice President Silver’s daughter, Penelope (Mellany Barros), was a highlight of season two, having discovered she was a witch and establishing tight connections with the unit. Penelope’s death and resurrection had many fans excited for her eventual confrontation with her father—who had played a large role in her death— an act of revenge that only amounted to about a minute of screen time in the show’s finale. Any new and/or side characters that entered the narrative often made blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances. The Stewards of the First Song were supposed to make a large impact on the series’ conclusion, but many of them appeared for less than five minutes of the show’s runtime. Returning character Gregorio (Praneet Akilla) pops up for the last three episodes of the season and immediately enters a relationship that only had light groundwork from mid-season two.

But the largest disappointments stemmed from two characters in particular being killed off or simply disappearing without a trace. Captain Anacostia Quartermaine (Demetria McKinney), affectionately named Mamacostia by fans, was the Bellweather Unit’s mentor and confidant. Halfway through the finale, Anacostia was killed saving fellow soldiers from a flying truck. Fans were devastated, not only by her death, but by the rushed acknowledgement from the rest of the characters. There was no proper time to mourn, and fans felt that Anacostia deserved more than a quick demise. 

Similarly, Scylla Ramshorn (Amalia Holm), a fan favorite since her appearance in the pilot, was also sidelined in the final episode. Holm had taken over a lot of the narrative left behind during Hickson’s absence, and her character had quickly become a part of the Unit. However, despite characters acknowledging how close Scylla had become to the group, her character disappeared without any acknowledgement before the show’s final scene. For as much as the writers had hyped up her character’s importance, they didn’t even give her a proper good-bye.

When Everyone’s Super…

Laurence chose to end the show in a similar fashion to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with all humans being granted the ability to become witches. Fans questioned what kind of message this implied given the show’s perspective on discrimination. You hate us for having powers, so now you have them too? It also seemed to remove some of the power and specialness from the witches themselves. In the words of Syndrome, “And when everyone’s super, no one will be.” For a show that had been built on women embracing their power and what made them different, leveling the playing field felt like a step backwards.

Let Us Begin

Despite disappointment, fans are determined to fight for Motherland Fort Salem’s renewal via Hulu or other streaming platforms. A petition of almost 30,000 signatures is currently circulating online, and the hashtags #MotherlandFortSalem and #SaveMotherlandFortSalem are both trending among top tier shows like House of the Dragon. The cast and crew have been extremely supportive when interacting with the fanbase, with a majority of the cast expressing interest in filming future seasons should a new network pick up the series. The show has plenty of plotlines left to explore, with Laurence mentioning the possibility of books or TV movies undergoing development in the future if a new season is no longer an option. 

Motherland’s final line, “Let us begin,” is one of hope and renewal. Hopefully, the show will be able to follow suit with a fresh start on a new network, giving it time to fix the issues that plagued its final season.

Sianna Swavely is a Cinema, Television, and Media Production major, with minors in Professional Writing and Communication Studies. In her free time, she can be found video editing, playing the piano, or watching Youtube videos while pretending to study.