If you haven’t seen “Raised by Wolves” yet, you probably won’t get it when you first start watching. Do not worry; that’s why I wrote you this article. But you won’t understand “Raised by Wolves” after reading this article either. You won’t get it by the end of Season 1, nor Season 2, which ends Thursday on HBO Max.
And I’m here to tell you that everything is fine. I have eagerly watched all 18 episodes, read fan theories and watched comments, and still don’t quite understand this drama about atheist (deep breath) robots raising children and religious fundamentalist humans struggling to survive on a hostile planet littered with relics of its ancient inhabitants. Think “Alien” meets the Book of Genesis meets “Land of the Lost”.
But if you let go of the need to understand “Raised by Wolves” and abandoned experimenting it, this is one of the most fascinating TV series currently on offer. It may not be consistent. It is not even, strictly speaking, always good. But in an era of gimmicky television prowess, it’s something better than that: a wild, mind-blowing big swing.
The series was created by Aaron Guzikowski (“The Red Road”), who sketched a backstory that owes as much to ancient myth as to science, and executive production by director Ridley Scott, who contributes his extravagant sense of design. and his fondness for ferocious mothers, body horror and milk-bleeding robots.
A century and a change in the future, the Earth was destroyed in a war between two groups of people: the theocrat Mithraic, who worships a deity called Sol, and the technocratic atheists. In recent days, atheists have been throwing two robots on a probe with a load of humans embryos, with the mission to populate the habitable planet Kepler-22b.
After the probe lands, the android mother (Amanda Collin) has the embryos gestated (by connecting their amniotic containers to her abdomen with tubes, as if it were a multiport USB charger), then dedicates herself to keeping her children alive. . She is aided by her father (Abubakar Salim), a kind and naive “service android” programmed with an endless supply of icebreaker jokes about dad.
The hostile landscape is their first challenge. Next is the arrival of an “ark” of Mithraic settlers, led by Marcus (Travis Fimmel of “Vikings”), a former atheist who, with his wife Sue (Niamh Algar), hid his identities to escape from Earth. .
Like many converts, Marcus takes on his new role with zeal, and he and his holy warriors view androids as the enemy. The mother has a secret advantage, however; she is a reconfigured Necromancer, a robotic weapon of mass destruction that can transform into a gilded Art Deco figure like something out of “Metropolis”.
Fly with crucifix-style arms and can detonate bodies with a scream. In an overwhelming scene from the pilot, she strides across a Mithraic ship, the sticky remnants of her enemies floating around her.
From here things get weird. The more I looked, the more my vision notes seemed like the delusions of a madman. (If you want to avoid baffling and out of context spoilers as well, skip the next paragraph.)
But here we are: Kepler-22b has a native population of primitive humanoids that live underground and under an acidic sea. They could be the ancestors of humans on Earth; a mysterious signal transmitted by the planet could be Sol’s “voice”. A character transforms into a tree, the fruit of which contains a delicious, bloody pulp. The mother becomes inexplicably, biologically pregnant and gives birth to a flying snake from her mouth. Later, her snake-child eats the tree-person, a clause I’m pretty sure has never been typed before.
The visual imagination of the series is fascinating. Religious metaphors are abundant; you don’t need a doctorate in theology to notice the snake and the tree of life. It all takes place in a phantasmagoric reality that could come straight from the cover of a 1970s prog-rock album.
But “Raised by Wolves” is more than a feast for the eyes; is a deeply emotional story about the volcanic force of parental love. The mother acts as a cult leader, guided by her ideals and devoted to her family – which grows to include a group of Mithraic children whom she frees from the enemy – but she loves mercilessly.
Beatific and terrifying as an archangel, Collin is giving one of the best performances on television right now; she is the biggest radical mum on TV since Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings in “The Americans”. As Russell’s Soviet spy, she feels a tension between feeding her children and serving her wider mission than hers. She sees her children drawn to a faith she rejects – “Faith in the unreal can comfort the human mind, but it also weakens it” – and she risks driving them out by pressing too hard to control them.
And Salim, with his C-3PO righteousness as a father, makes a great contrast. At a low point in the pilot, he claims to surrender to the Mithraic, upsetting his militant partner. “I thought we were in sync!” he tells him and stabs him in the tooth of a giant fossil. (Oh, didn’t I mention the giant fossils?) But they move further, as do couples.
Just like parenting with a killing machine, watching “Raised by Wolves” requires a willingness to overlook a few flaws. Writing tends to be stylized and contrived, which works for Android protagonists but leaves humans flatter. The twists and turns and shifting alliances provoke a whiplash, and the near-scientific explanations are just this side of “A Wizard Did It”. (A major storyline, heavily relied upon by the Season 2 finale, concerns “deevolution,” an idea with a questionable history in current science.)
But you can find consistency everywhere. “Raised by Wolves” is the kind of fevered dream that requires a leap of faith to be seen. You must bond with the probe, fall freely into its molten core and trust that you will come out the other side. I can’t guarantee that future seasons won’t fall apart. But a good TV shouldn’t be safe.