Raised by Wolves warns us: don’t get between a mother and her children. Even when the mother in question is an android.
The new HBO Max sci-fi series from Ridley Scott follows two androids raising human children on a mysterious planet. Mother and Father work to instill good atheist beliefs in their children, since a religious war destroyed their last planet. But then the sun god worshipping Mithraic arrive, and with them, more potential for war.
Note: This review contains some spoilers for the first three episodes of Raised by Wolves. Jump down to “The Bottom Line” for the spoiler-free final assessment.
The first episode of Raised by Wolves sets up a unique sci-fi world. From the opening scene with the androids Mother and Father, we can see how their unusual – inhuman – reactions will shape the series. Feelings of unease and intrigue are heightened when a voiceover from Campion (one of the kids) matter-of-factly tells us, “All the bad stuff that happened wasn’t their fault.”
And boy, does bad stuff happen.
I spent a lot of the time watching Raised by Wolves audibly exclaiming, Oh! What the f#@?!
By the time we’re halfway through the pilot episode, the 8 person family (Mother, Father, and six kids) is down to just two.
Then the Mithraic arrive and attempt to kidnap Campion.
And Mother unleashes hell.
As Mother starts brutally taking out the Mithraic, it becomes clear she’s not quite the “generic mother figure” we’ve been led to believe. This android is INSANELY powerful. She’s FLYING. She’s BULLETPROOF. She can make people literally EXPLODE by screaming at them. And don’t even get me started on what happens when you just look at her.
After easily dispatching all of the Mithraic in her camp, Mother heads straight to the source – their ark ship. She seems to get more powerful with every passing second. In the end, she single-handedly takes control of the ship and crashes it, killing nearly everyone on board.
Except for the five children she’s kidnapped to replace the ones she lost, that is.
It’s an exhilarating sequence. The action is intense, the effects are cool. Mother becomes infinitely more terrifying and fascinating all at once. You’ll finish the pilot episode and eagerly hit “play” on episode 2.
Unfortunately, while the pilot feels like an exciting escalation with every new turn, the following episodes…don’t.
They’re not bad. But they do suffer from a serious loss of momentum. After watching Mother break out a truly insane level of special powers, it’s pretty dull to shift the focus to the children. I realize the kids are essential to the story, of course. But a bunch of regular human kids learning to farm is just never going to be as interesting as a super-powered android single-handedly taking down a spaceship full of hostiles.
And then there’s the question of the subject matter. It does feel at times that Raised by Wolves is one of those shows that’s stirring up controversial issues just for the sake of being edgy. There’s the religious/secular debate at the heart of the story, of course. The early episodes also bring up elements of abortion, as well as the sexual assault of a minor. (To be clear, this is referenced, not shown on screen.) Only three episodes in, it’s hard to tell if Raised by Wolves has something real to say here, or if it’s just trying to press buttons.
Raised by Wolves: The Bottom Line
Raised by Wolves gains points for being an original sci-fi concept and for keeping viewers on the edge of their seat in the pilot episode. Unfortunately, it loses more and more momentum as the series progresses. But ultimately, I’m interested enough in the world (and Mother) to want to keep watching and see where the story goes. If nothing else, it’s got a lot of potential.
You can stream the first three episodes of Raised by Wolves now on HBO Max.