Raised by Wolves Season Two (HBO Max)
Written by Aaron Guzikowski, Julian Meiojas, and Karen Campbell,
Directed by Ernest Dickerson, Sunu Gonera, Alex Gabassi, and Lukas Ettlin
Few shows being made today are as a pretty wild trip as Raised By Wolves. While watching the season two finale, I think my emotions could be described as confused & stunned, but all in a good way. I think I’ve reached the point where I do not see the show as doing anything important or trying to make a serious point, but the intensity that the showrunners have who think they are makes it such an entertaining experience. Going into the second season, my expectations were reasonably lukewarm. The first season concluded on an odd note that had me wondering where the narrative would go next. Instead of bringing things back down and being grounded to a degree, Raised by Wolves ramped it all up.
The androids Mother and Father (Amanda Collin & Abubakar Salim, respectively) are quickly reunited with their “children” in an encampment belonging to the Collective. The Collective is an atheist faction from Earth who take their orders from the all-knowing A.I. The Trust. The Collective members are suspicious of them all, androids were used as weapons by the Mithraic, but The Trust makes sure they have a home and tasks like everyone else. Meanwhile, Marcus (Travis Fimmel) recruits new disciples for his cult of Sol while his estranged wife Sue (Niamh Algar) struggles to reconnect with the boy they have raised. Oh yes, there’s a quickly growing giant flying snake that threatens the Collective, nightmarish mermaid people, and a massive hole with something terrifying on the bottom.
One of the strangest things about this season is that all of the colonists and androids seem utterly unphased by some of the craziest shit you’ve ever seen. A flying snake that scans reveal is a cybernetic organism warrants some raised eyebrows. Metal polyhedrons bearing strange runes buried in the ground are a quaint curiosity. Cave paintings that match up with religions established on Earth are barely registered. I feel like most people in a similar situation would be freaking the fuck out but not so. Maybe the future is so insane these things wouldn’t register much of a response. I love how wild it all is, but from a writing perspective, this season is so sloppy, going from long, drawn-out plots to suddenly rocket through plot points that could take up a whole season in the last couple of episodes.
At one point this season, there is an extended sequence where a damaged android child who was left for ‘dead’ shows back up with a knife and proceeds to systematically slaughter the people responsible for her harm. The moment is filmed to look like nighttime and with dutch angles and a whole tone that evokes a gory 1980s slasher movie. This is intercut with another character resurrecting a corpse of some alien being they never mention to anyone else for the rest of the season. These eight episodes truly must be seen to be believed, and I hope HBO does not cancel this. There are not a lot of shows out there that can hit this level of total insanity.
The basic premise here has always been great, a beautiful subversion of audience expectations. Earth falls into a destructive war between atheists and the hyper-religious Mithraic. The religious faction has embraced androids as weapons and other high-tech means of enforcement. The atheists are a mixed bag with the sleek streamlined Collective and brutal child soldier machines churning out meat shields. The planet they have all ended up on presents them with wild environments and mysterious relics hinting at a highly advanced society. The acting is not remarkable except for the two leads as Mother and Father. I could watch these two all day, and they definitely help compared to the rough performances from other actors.
I get the sense that the showrunners know where they want to with the series but are trying to draw out that endgame, leading to an inconsistent pace that can induce whiplash. You’ll have info-dump moments that start setting up many things, but they come near the end of each season, leaving us on a cliffhanger. The cliffhanger from season one is resolved by the end of season two…but I could not explain to you what exactly happened and what it meant for the overall story. Ridley Scott is a producer on the series, and there are a lot of shared elements between Raised and Prometheus; however, in serialized form, the bizarre alien evolution and android drama play out much better. It’s still weird as hell, though, and such a delight to watch. If you have become bored by most television, I recommend Raised by Wolves. I can genuinely say I was completely surprised with every single episode, unpredictable television.