It’s easy for TV shows to get lost in the shuffle these days, and that’s the sad fate that seems to have befallen HBO MAX’s Raised by Wolves. A MAX original, the show has gotten a mildly positive critical response but doesn’t seem to have lit social media on fire.
That's a shame, because this new sci-fi series from Ridley Scott (yes, that Ridley Scott) is phenomenal. The show draws from a lot of classic science fiction, but it doesn’t feel repetitive. Rather, there’s no TV show quite like it. Here are three reasons why you need to catch up on Raised by Wolves ASAP.
Warning! This article contains spoilers for Raised by Wolves' story so far.
3. Mother And Father: The duo at the heart of Raised by Wolves are the ones doing the raising. Mother and Father are androids and the first characters we meet in the show’s hypnotic pilot. Played wonderfully by Amanda Collin and Abubakar Salim (whose voice gamers might recognize as Bayek from Assassin’s Creed: Origins), the two are set to become the last parents to human children in the universe, raising six children on the exoplanet Kepler-22b after the Earth was destroyed in a great war.
Over the course of the pilot, Mother and Father experience tremendous loss. They tirelessly work to create a small semblance of society and watch it collapse before their eyes, powerless. The two are built differently — Mother with tendencies towards strength and violence, Father with a sense of humor.
As loss builds up around them, Mother starts to experience greater and greater power. Her confusion at, and embrace of, these powers plays out on her face. It's startling to watch.
The show’s visual elements are sparse, but Raised by Wolves makes every detail count. The show’s signature element is Mother, who can enter an attack mode of sorts that enables flight, turns her body metallic, and activates a vocal sonic weapon able to explode people and cause earthquakes. Against the show’s harsh, vast expanse (it was filmed in South Africa), Mother casts a dramatic pose.
Father’s jokes are also crucial. The show's grand statements on parenting and the inherent nature of humanity are fascinating, but Father’s programmed dad jokes provide the levity that humorless, "serious" sci-fi often overlooks.
2. Fascinating worldbuilding: The show takes place on Kepler-22b, which exists in the real world far beyond our solar system. Scientists believe that Kepler-22b is potentially habitable. It's around twice the size of Earth, although its landscape is unknowable.
All this makes it a perfect playground for creator Aaron Guzikowski and executive producer Ridley Scott, who bring out the planet in dribs and drabs. A giant skeleton in the desert, rumors of a more habitable tropical zone, and giant holes everywhere. There’s a frontier feel to this Kepler-22b, giving the show something of a Little House on The Prairie vibe — if that show dealt with the difficult choice of killing alien creatures or eating moss to survive.
But it’s not just Kepler-22b that the show delves into. Opposing Mother and Father are a group of hardcore religious humans fleeing Earth’s disastrous end. All that’s known about the wars that destroyed humanity are that they took place between atheists and Mithraics, who appear to worship the Sun and dress like Napoleonic soldiers.
We see them through Marcus, played by Travis Fimmel of Vikings, and Niamh Algar’s Sue. They play fake parents, just like Mother and Father, who are struggling to make their lies become real.
1. The kids: What Raised by Wolves does best is bring large, existential questions down to very small stakes. Questions about humanity’s inherent nature are suddenly thrust into the decisions of children who are prone to different types of mistakes than adults. They’re as malleable as the adults are rigid, living in a world where a pet mouse is as important as food and shelter.
The kids of Raised by Wolves are not presented with great role models on either side of the divide. Both groups of potential parents have committed their fair share of atrocities, forcing them into boxes from which some want to break free. Watching how each child deals with this imperfect world keeps me coming back week after week. And also, trying to figure out what lies at the bottom of those holes.
Raised by Wolves is available to watch on HBO MAX.