This review is based on the first three episodes of Raised By Wolves.
For most Sci-Fi enthusiasts, the name Ridley Scott should not only ring a bell but cause major excitement and heart palpitations. The 82-year old director and producer have directed some of sci-fi and horror’s bests, most notably select films in Alien franchise, the original The Blade Runner and Hannibal. So when Raised By Wolves made its way to HBO, the interest was instantaneous though sometimes, even the master can falter.
For starters, Raised By Wolves presents an interesting premise, where we follow two androids – Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim, the voice of Bayek in Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Black Mirror), who are tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet titled Kepler-22B. It is definitely an eyebrow-raiser, especially when the show starts with Mother birthing her children.
Yep. And not in the natural way of birthing that we’re so aware of, but rather through poking needles into her body and creating a little hose that connects her to little baby fetuses. After birth, the little family of android parents and human children are seen partaking in agriculture to survive. And just like that, Mother and Father are the planet’s Adam and Eve – except, they’re atheists.
Apart from androids raising human kids, Raised By Wolves’ biggest theme is religion. Or lack of religion. About two episodes in, viewers will learn that the human race has been torn apart by religious differences – the Mithraics and Atheists. Mother and Father being strict atheists themselves refuse to let their human children believe in anything else apart from science. Reinforcing non-religious beliefs are cool or whatever, but with Mother and Father constantly referring to their Human-creator and how he had programmed them to be a certain way smells strongly of irony.
Raised By Wolves certainly doesn’t shy away from other religious connotations. Whilst the Androids try to rebuild Atheism on the virgin planet, the Mithraics have been travelling through space on an ark, with both children and animals in tow. When the Mithraic generals arrive on Kepler-22B, they are dressed like the knights from the Crusades. They get to know her son Campion (Winta McGrath), who unfortunately for the androids, have shown signs of believing in faith. Seeing this, the Mithraics start to believe that Campion may just be a Mithraic prophet that will fulfill a prophecy about how an orphan boy in a strange land will lead the Mithraics to a city of peace. The Mithraics are also seen drinking from a big chalice carried by their priest and eating a white cracker in their arks – seem familiar?
An episode of Raised By Wolves goes up to almost an hour, and viewers are thrown into the show’s world almost immediately. It could be mind boggling at first, but in honesty, it works in generating curiosity at the beginning. Sure, it’s a little twist to the religious scriptures most of us are familiar with, but with such a promising trailer, one can’t help but be intrigued. However, Raised By Wolves takes its own sweet time in getting to the juicy bits and one’s attention can only be sustained for so long. This is a shame because the show has such beautiful visuals when things get a little bit heated. From the vast lands of Kepler -22B and Mother using her superpowers with murderous intent, Raised By Wolves could’ve been a beautiful piece of work if it wasn’t boring.
As mentioned, Mother has incredible superpowers but we only see what she’s capable of in tiny snippets, one and a half hours into the snooze fest. Before she was the Android version of Eve, Mother was a necromancer – a special breed of android. Mother can shed her skin for a bronze chassis and emit sonic blasts that explode any human in her radar.
She can fly ala Jean Grey in X-Men and of course, to pay a little ode to religion, Mother only flies in a crucifix pose. She was reprogrammed from being a murderous android to a nurturer and caretaker, but clearly shows signs of system failure throughout the episodes when she struggles to find a balance between the two programmings.
Other factors that add to the show’s demise is how technical and monotonous the conversations are between the main characters. Yes, they’re androids, but if their creator can programme them to raise kids, he could’ve programmed some personalities into them too. What first comes off as interesting dialogues, slowly turns into the very weapon that makes the characters lose their depth.
Scott forgets that at the end of the day, the viewers are human and that one of the biggest ways to sustain interest in a character or a show is how much we can relate to them. Take Westworld’s hosts for example. They aren’t humans themselves, but they can easily gain love and pity from the show’s audience. It’s hard to be sympathetic or feel any sort of feelings and attachment to the characters when they’re as bleak as characters can get.
The only person who seems to have an interesting backstory is Travis Fimmel’s (Vikings) Marcus. His addition is definitely one of the big highlights for the first three episodes. Fimmel is portrayed as the show’s antagonist and is a Mithraic official who’s come to colonise the android’s lands. Marcus’ hints that he has a rather complex relationship with his identity and faith, making him one of the most relatable characters thus far.
The first three episodes of Raised By Wolves is far from impressive and does not give us the same butterflies we got with Alien. Raised By Wolves would 100% appeal to viewers who do not mind slow-paced story development and have an affinity for big idea sci-fic. If you are able to avoid digging too deep, stop asking too many questions and are willing to ignore the little voice in your head that’s desperately trying to connect the dots, then this could potentially be a good watch for you.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Raised By Wolves is no Alien or The Blade Runner, but is instead a Big Idea sci-fi show that transcends all you know about religion and humanity.
Story - 6/10
Direction - 5/10
Characterisation - 6/10
Geek Satisfaction - 6/10