TV Review: Raised By Wolves
Plot: In the mid-22nd century, Earth has been decimated by a global religious war between the militant atheists and an order known as the Mithraic. In an attempt to save humanity, a man named Campion (Cosmo Jarvis) sends two androids, Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim) and frozen human embryos to Kepler-22b, an Earth-like planet. There they are charged with raising children as atheists and rebuilding humanity as a secular society. However, the dynamic of the planet shifts dramatically when a spaceship carrying over 1,000 Mithraic colonists shows up twelve years later. Can the two groups co-exist or is humanity doomed to repeat its violent tendencies all over again?
***WARNING! MINOR SPOILERS FOR RAISED BY WOLVES AHEAD!!!***
Review: Sigh. HBO’s Raised By Wolves is one of those shows that started off with such promise but ultimately ends up going nowhere and concludes with dramatic resonance of a wet fart. I had such high hopes for this program, considering the developer and writer of most of the episodes was Aaron Guzikowski, the screenwriter of the criminally underrated Prisoners. He even got renowned director Ridley Scott to direct the first two episodes. Indeed Raised By Wolves has a distinct Alien/Prometheus look and feel to it, right down to the androids’ white blood. Kepler-22b is shown to be a stark, harsh, and somewhat barren world inhabited with strange beasts.
The focus of the first episode is mainly on Mother and Father’s development of the initial colony which progresses over a period of twelve years. A handful of children are raised by the android pair, however only Campion (Winta McGrath) – named after the creator behind the mission – survives, with the other five dying from a mysterious sickness. Things get interesting when an Ark arrives carrying 1,000 Mithraic colonists. Their presence triggers a response in Mother who turns out to be a necromancer that can explode people with her voice. She saves several children from the ship and subsequently crashes the Ark with only a few adults surviving.
Sadly, Raised By Wolves peaks with the first two episodes. From there it devolves into a meandering ten episode diatribe about the dangers of religious fundamentalism. We are continually subjected to how radical devotion to an idea (whether it is militant atheism or misplaced religious fervor as with the Mithraic) causes ultimate pain and suffering. This is shown through flashbacks of war-torn Earth and events on Kepler-22b where Mother fervently protects her children and constantly goes out on patrols looking to kill the remaining Mithraic survivors. Meanwhile the Mithraic show ridiculous devotion to their God Sol, claiming a desire for peace yet often resorting to violence.
To Guzikowski’s credit he examines these ideas through the lens of characters Sue (Niamh Algar) and Marcus (Travis Fimmel). Sue and Marcus are actually Mary and Caleb, militant atheists who killed the real Sue and Marcus, underwent facial reconstruction, and took their places on the Ark. It was interesting to watch their relationship evolve through the show as Marcus descends into seeming madness, eventually believing he is Sol’s Chosen One. The dynamic between Sue and Marcus’ son Paul (Felix Jamieson), initially intriguing, descends into banality so that by the end of the season you really don’t care what happens to the three of them.
And that right there is the crux of one of three main problems with Raised By Wolves. For one, I just didn’t care about these characters. I felt no emotional connection or attachment to any of them, mostly because the majority of them are so bland and boring. Collin’s character of Mother gets the lion’s share of character development, shown again mostly in flashbacks involving her reprogramming by Campion. She fiercely protects her children and I really believed that she unconditionally loves them. However Salim’s Father was as forgettable as fidget spinners and the typically great Fimmell became downright insufferable. His descent into madness provokes annoyance rather than fascination or empathy. McGrath’s Campion however showed excellent range and versatility for an actor so young, as did Jamieson’s Paul. Would that the rest of the Raised By Wolves cast showed as much promise.
The second major issue with Raised By Wolves are the themes and ideas it attempts to explore. Obviously the overriding theme is the idea of how blind religious devotion can cause incredible and devastating damage. Indeed it is the main impetus as to why people flee Earth. Yet unfortunately, Raised By Wolves never elevates this idea beyond the remedial axiom that “religious fundamentalism is a bad thing.” Well, no fucking shit. Wolves chooses not to explore beyond this idea or examine its consequences in any meaningful, challenging, or novel way. The result is a meandering journey that’s borderline unwatchable. (For context, season one is ten episodes long and I seriously contemplated stopping after eight episodes.) A subplot involving Mithraic child Tempest (Jordan Loughran) explores the concept of abuse, trauma, and those who enable it to a much more effective degree.
Lastly, the third problem with Raised By Wolves is that it is just so goddamned bleak. It’s like watching the color gray personified play out over ten hours. From the windswept, cold, and stark setting of Kepler-22b to war torn Earth, Raised By Wolves is a chore to watch. Everyone is in a constant state of borderline depression, with every day a struggle for survival. All those involved seem incapable of not only finding joy, but even desiring to find it. Listen, I’m not saying every show I watch has to be unicorns farting rainbows, but considering this fucking dumpster fire of year, Raised By Wolves is not the show most of us need right now. I was hoping against hope that the season finale might evoke some promise of hope but it ended up being stupid beyond belief, to the point I asked myself why I even bothered.
Raised By Wolves started with an interesting premise but the ultimate result is a bland, boring, bleak, and convoluted television show that’s not worth the effort. Go watch Prometheus again instead.
My rating System:
0-1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
4 Sub Par
8 Very Good
10 A Must See
Raised By Wolves rates: 4/10