'Motherland: Fort Salem' literally empowers female voices, but the empowerment is a fragile one
Spoiler alert for 'Motherland: Fort Salem' pilot episode
The women of 'Motherland: Fort Salem' are powerful in their own ways. The most significant of which, at least as far as the show's premise goes, is the more literal way in which they're empowered.
In this first episode alone, we see witches altering minds, healing wounds, and summoning storms, all with the power of their voice. The show underlines this, as recruits are trained: "Inability to vocalize can rend a soldier powerless."
It's a good metaphor for a feminist show — having a voice is an empowerment. However, the situation that 'Motherland: Fort Salem' puts forth shows that that very power has been exploited by a much more patriarchal society.
While the witches of Fort Salem are shown to be highly respected American heroes throughout the country, the fact remains that none of them really have a choice in being there.
The only witch who does — Tally Craven (Jessica Sutton) — only received that choice because her mother had received a special dispensation, a dispensation that's lost in the ever-present propaganda for witch enlistment.
The witches of America are sent out to die, over and over again, for a country that would otherwise have burned them all at the stake.
In our world, women suspected of being witches were drowned, hung and burned. In the world of 'Motherland: Fort Salem', the witches actually had a measure of bargaining power, the use of their magic.
General Adler (Lyne Renee) didn't use this power to fight back, and whatever her reasons were, her deal with the American government consigned several generations of young women to die in America's wars.
The witches of America are powerful, yes, but their life options amount to either being a good soldier, a dead soldier, or an outcast from society, and despite the power of their voices, they don't appear to have much of a say in that.
If the Spree didn't murder people on such a horrific scale, they'd be more sympathetic villains, fighting for the independence of witches in a country that's managed to segregate its more powerful women and put them in fatal situations.
As it stands, though, the Spree are just one more bad choice in the limited number of options that the witches of America have offered to them.
The next episode of 'Motherland: Fort Salem' airs on March 25 on Freeform.