The unit is reeling after the events of the Bellweather wedding left the bride dead, Scylla missing and so many with a first hand realization of just how bad The Spree are. “Up Is Down” begins in the immediate aftermath of the attack (after a cold open where we see a young man helping a woman through the desert to get to a safe place) with Abigail being debriefed about the events of the attack. Ashely Nicole Williams is stunningly good as she portrays Abigail’s vulnerability and rawness and struggle to keep it together as she recalls what happened. Meanwhile Raelle and Tally are waiting outside, Raelle frantic because she can’t find Scylla and Tally uncharacteristically closed off because she knows Scylla is with The Spree.
Priveleged Abigail who has only ever had to worry about playing politics with the elite and living up to her mother’s name is floundering after the death of her cousin and subsequent fight with The Spree. Always so sure of her abilities suddenly she has to live with the guilt of not noticing anything was wrong while helping Charval with her dress and unsurprisingly she does not handle it well. Luckily Abigail has support who can’t be scared away by her prickly attitude and refusal to admit anything is wrong.
While she can’t quite open up to her unit, her new bodyguard, Friday, manages to crack open her shell and let Abigail grieve and acknowledge her fears that it’s her fault and she’s not good enough. The way “Up Is Down” explores how deeply Abigail is hurt by the events of a wedding where all she thought she’d have to worry about are keeping her shitbird unit in line and not disappointing her mother is powerful. Suddenly the squabbling about War College seems unimportant in the face of real tragedy but that’s all she can cling to. It will be disappointing if next week Abigail is over it and back to normal after this episode did such a good job exploring her grief but I have faith Motherland: Fort Salem will continue to show how grief piles up and takes you by surprise.
On the flipside to Abigail’s story is Raelle’s. All too familiar with grief Raelle has two modes, fierce and demanding answers and numbing herself to try and get through the day. The more answers she gets about Scylla’s disappearance the further she fades away but is still there enough to reassure Abigail and cement the unit’s bond which is good because by the end it’s Raelle’s turn to need her sisters. So sure that Scylla isn’t missing or dead but at her safe space, the lighthouse she mentioned in the last episode, Raelle flees and overdoses in an attempt to be close to her. Raelle consistently finds herself on the wrong end of the scheming happening at the upper levels of this witch’s army and if she ends up turning to The Spree it will be completely understandable. Hopefully The Unit is enough to hold her together.
“Up Is Down” was such a powerful episode for Abigail and Raelle that Tally’s little freakout over whether or not she should say anything about knowing Scylla is Spree felt boring and childish. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the girls are only 18 and other times it’s very obvious. Tally has been the glue between the strong opposing forces of Raelle and Abigail and this secret could easily destroy that bond, just as they’ve started to accept that there is one at all.
The continuity and world building in this show and the way it continues to build upon itself is so wonderful. Yeah some of it is obvious like the Salva Raelle and Scylla take earlier in the show being used to tie them together in “Up Is Down” but even then it’s done well. Specifically, We find out more about General Alder and how she twisted the songs for battle against their intended use and has been trying to do so with other families’ songs. The young man and his sister from the cold open are the keepers of seeds that will be lost when they die as mentioned in “A Biddies Life” but he refuses to give them to the witch from Salem who not only shared her families songs, but weaponized them as well.
The family mark that’s weirdly tied to virginity (it goes silvery after a witch has had sex as we saw in “Beltane”) show up even on people who don’t know they are witches, faint but there, which is how we find out that there are a lot of unrealized witches out there and that The Spree are targeting the Bellweathers specifically.
Next week we see Raelle going all Tim Drake trying to convince everyone Batman is still alive and find out more about what makes her special while Tally struggles with the secret she knows about Scylla and Abigail is more determined than ever, channeling her grief into purpose.
‘Motherland: Fort Salem’ Episode 6 – “Up Is Down”
“Up Is Down” was such a powerful episode for Abigail and Raelle that Tally’s little freakout over whether or not she should say anything about knowing Scylla is Spree felt boring and childish. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the girls are only 18 and other times it’s very obvious.