Published Sep 01, 2020Between Alien, Blade Runner and The Martian, director Ridley Scott is responsible for some of the most iconic sci-fi films of the past few decades. He handles the first two episodes of Raised by Wolves (also acting as executive producer) and gets the show off to a pulse-racing start — but the momentum soon begins to peter out.
Humanity has destroyed Earth and nearly wiped itself out — not through a climate apocalypse, which would probably be more plausible and timely, but due to a holy war between atheists and Mithraic followers of the sun god Sol. To save humanity, two androids known simply as Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim) are sent to the real-life Earth-like planet of Keplar 22-b, where they are tasked with raising six human embryos to build a new atheistic civilization.
The post-apocalyptic terror ramps up quickly: all of the children fall ill except for a boy named Campion (Winta McGrath), Mother turns out to have sinister latent powers, and a Mithraic legion show up overhead on a spaceship called the Ark of Heaven. The planet is bleak and desert-like, and there are monstrous, serpentine skeletons strewn around the settlement. It's a promising start that at times recalls the horror-tinged desolation of Scott's own Prometheus, at others the creepy robo parenting of A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
If this were a movie, that would be the climax right there — but since this is a 10-episode series, Raised by Wolves instead downshifts into a slightly uneventful routine. Mother and Father bicker over parenting, kids bond and act out, and there is far too much foraging for viable food sources. A backstory involving an android romance doesn't achieve the intended pathos, and instead gets in the way of more horror-driven action.
Only six episodes were made available to critics, but even with this abridged season, Raised by Wolves ends up being a bit of a slog, broken up into dour 50-minute chunks. At worst, the debates about vegetarianism (because Campion doesn't want to eat the alien predators that prowl the settlement at night), domestic squabbles and one-dimensional discussions of religion are just a bit dull. This show doesn't do subtlety very well.
From the haunting desert location to the occasional bursts of futuristic action, Raised by Wolves has enough redeeming qualities to keep audiences watching in hopes that the show will turn things around and regain the creepy momentum of the beginning. It's tough to know who to blame for the show's pacing problems; maybe the subsequent directors after Ridley Scott (Luke Scott, Alex Gabassi, Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, James Hawes) aren't quite up to the task, or maybe the fault is with writer/creator Aaron Guzikowski. In any case, the first six episodes feel a bit like Raised by Wolves is exploring alien territory, still trying to make it feel like home. (HBO Max)