Julien Neaves – Editor
It’s so hard to find a great Sci Fi series these days. You know what I’m talking about. The kind of show that equally lights up your eyes and your brain. I had hoped I would find that with George RR Martin’s Nightflyers (the 2018 Syfy/Netflix series and not the 1987 film version) but that one was high concept, mediocre execution. So I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered the HBO Max series Raised by Wolves. I went into this show with some high expectations and I am happy to report that they exceeded them.
The series is executive producer by Ridley Scott, who has some serious genre cred with Alien and Blade Runner but has lost it somewhat with his recent work in the Alien franchise, and he also directed the first two episodes. Now I considered doing a review of the ten episode first season (September 3rd-October 1st) but by the dearth of chatter about the show on my Facebook Sci Fi pages I have a feeling a lot of people have not seen it yet. So rather than a review this article will be a preview to whet your appetite with the mildest of spoilers. Let’s get into five reasons Raised by Wolves Season 1 is Sci Fi excellence:
Reason 1 – A Whole New World
In the distant future a religious war between two factions (monotheistic, Sol-worshipping Mithraic and the atheists) has left the Earth destroyed. Two androids, Father and Mother, arrive on the seemingly barren planet Kepler-22b with some human embryos. Their mission is to raise the children and create a new human colony. But that mission is complicated by the arrival of a Mithraic ship and some deadly secrets on their new home.
I love a rich, deep, engrossing Sci Fi world. This is why I am such a huge Trekkie and fan of franchises like Dune. I find it such a rewarding experience to get lost in these fantastical worlds, and I devour every new detail like my mother’s fried chicken wings (trust me, they’re scrumptious). And I had a time with the world of Raised by Wolves. You don’t start off knowing much but as the season progresses you learn more about the androids, the two factions, and the planet. And you can tell the writers took their time to map out and flesh out this world, and I appreciated that.
Reason 2 – Mother, Father and the Children of Sol
So you’ve built an impressive Sci Fi world, now you have to find impressive characters to populate it with. And I thoroughly enjoyed the characters on this show. Mother is the central focus and she is not your grandfather’s flat, emotionless android. She was programmed to mimic emotion so she is like an untrained actor giving her approximation of human behaviour. And just seeing her walk and talk was interesting for me. Her backstory is that she is a reprogrammed powerful war android called a “Necromancer” and she therefore has to balance her motherly, nurturing ways with her ability to deliver death and destruction on a massive scale (more on that in the next point). As Mother, Amanda Collin gives a masterful, nuanced, and seemingly effortless performance which will have you rooting for the character in one moment and fearing her the next (a number of characters fall into a moral gray area).
While I thoroughly enjoyed her performance, and I expect her to be nominated for an award at some point, my favourite character is Father, played by Abubakar Salim. He is a service model android and the more passive partner in their “relationship”. Unlike Mother he is warm, sympathetic and loves making corny jokes. He kind of reminds me of me. While he lacks the character depth of his counterpart there is just something very comforting about him. Rounding off their weird little family is their “son” Campion, who is brought to life with innocence and curiosity by Winta McGrath. He and the other young cast members deliver believable, commendable performances.
It is only while writing this I realised the father-mother-son structure of the android family is reflected in their Mithraic enemies with the soldiers Marcus and Sue and their son and Paul in another unconventional arrangement. Marcus is played by Travis Fimmel who I was a huge fan of as Ragnar Lothbrok from Vikings (after he left the show just wasn’t the same). Here he delivers another odd, complex and intriguing character. And he has one heck of an arc this season as well. Niamh Algar was also solid as the motherly Sue and Felix Jamieson was a revelation as the overly pious Paul. I can’t really get into too much about the other characters without getting into deeper spoiler territory, but suffice to say there is enough here to keep viewers interested.
Reason 3 – Fear the Necromancer
Remember when I spoke about a Sci Fi show lighting up your eyes as well as your brain? You don’t? It was like three paragraphs ago! Try to keep up. Anywho this show looks dang good. The costuming is well done, the production design is stellar, and the visual effects are all top notch. My favourite effect is when Mother goes into Necromancer mode and looks like the statue of a Greek death goddess coms to life. When she rains down death there is copious amounts of blood and as a gore-loving horror fan I dug that. The show is not an action-heavy one but when there are action sequences they don’t skimp.
Reason 4 – Losing My Religion
So now I will get into the show lighting up your brain. For me the best science fiction takes an issue from our world and reflects it back to us through an imaginative, technological filter. And Raised By Wolves ticks this box thrice over. First you have the theme of parenting. What makes a good parent? How should one parent? Can one truly be a parent without that biological connection? As a parent of two young children I found this aspect highly entertaining and vaguely informative. And it is not something you see tackled a lot in science fiction shows or movies for that matter.
There is also the theme of religion and faith. The Mithraic appear to have a bastardised Judeo-Christian belief system and as a Christian myself (hey, where did those pitchforks come out from?) I found it interesting how the subject matter was dealt with. It’s easy to do the simplistic “religion bad” thing but Raised By Wolves is smarter than that. Sure the belief in Sol is used to justify bad things and to manipulate, but for the believers it is also a source of hope in a most desperate of situations.
And finally there is the theme of purpose and destiny which we find both with the androids and the Mithraic side. Do you follow a pre-designed purpose or do you create your own destiny? Raised By Wolves explores these rich themes with a subtle touch, and like a good poem it is left up to the viewer to come away with their own interpretation. So yeah, the show will be give the old cerebrum a thorough massage.
Reason 5 – Forget Everything you Know
This final point will be on plot. But Julien, you said no spoilers. We trusted you! Okay, okay, readers, calm down. I promised no spoilers and I meant it. But I will say that the writing for the show is very strong. As someone who consumes so much content I can usually size up a TV series or a movie just by the trailer. But Raised By Wolves? I had no idea what was going to happen from one episode to the next and the many twists had me frequently going “What?” I like a show that surprises me and this one is just chock full of them.
So is your appetite sufficiently whetted? Well I should hope so. But yeah, Raised By Wolves is the epitome of great science fiction and is a must see for genre fans and just fans of great television. And a second season has been confirmed so you don’t have to worry about being stranded on a cliffhanger 😉
For Sommer’s Top 5 Reasons you need to be watching dystopian Sci Fi series Snowpiercer now (or when you can find the time) you can click here. And for more out-of-this-world TV previews you can like and follow Redmangoreviews on Facebook by clicking here.
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”.
I can also be found posting on Instagram as redmanwriter and talking about TV and movie stuff on Facebook at Movieville.