A pair of androids struggle to raise human children on a hostile planet in Raised by Wolves, the new sci-fi series that just concluded its first season on HBO Max. In this era of bankable franchises, reboots, and adaptations, it was refreshing to see something so original and visionary hit the small screen, and we had high hopes for the series.
That hope was sadly misplaced. Granted, in its earlier episodes, Raised by Wolves is moody, atmospheric, strangely disquieting, and thought-provoking, with gorgeous cinematography. So it's especially maddening that the show squanders all that considerable promise with a clunky, incoherent finale featuring a hackneyed, ham-fisted, totally unnecessary twist that left us seriously questioning whether we even want to tune in for a second season.
(Spoilers below, but all major reveals about the finale—because WTAF?—are below the gallery and we'll give a heads up when we get there.)
As we reported previously, the series was created by Aaron Guzikowski, who also penned the script for the 2013 thriller Prisoners. The ten-episode series was initially a straight-to-series order for TNT but moved to HBO Max last October. Executive Producer Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, etc., etc.) directed the first two episodes, making this his US TV directorial debut. Those two episodes are terrific, but the series becomes increasingly "Ridley-ized" for the worse as things progress, veering directly into Prometheus territory in the finale.
The story involves two androids serving as Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim) figures on a strange virgin planet, Kepler 22b (an actual observed extrasolar planet), after Earth has been destroyed by the outbreak of a religious war. They are programmed to incubate, birth, and raise human children to rebuild the population and set up an atheist civilization to keep the human race from going extinct. It's a harsh, dangerous environment, even for androids, and only one of their original six children survives: Campion (Winta McGrath).
Then the remnants of an extreme religious sect from Earth, the Mithraic, who worship Sol, find their way to the same planet aboard a spaceship, or ark, called Heaven. The reconnaissance team tries to abduct Campion and kill Mother. That's when we discover that Mother has special abilities: she's actually a reprogrammed weaponized android called The Necromancer, who once slaughtered atheists back on Earth. Now her deadly sonic screams—which can disintegrate humans in seconds—are turned on the Mithraic, and she crashes their ark onto the planet. Her new maternal instincts lead her to bring the surviving Mithraic children into her fold.
Complicating matters further: among the Mithraic survivors are an atheist soldier, Marcus (nee Caleb, played by Travis Fimmel) and his partner, Sue (nee Mary, played by Niamh Algar), who infiltrated the sect to escape a doomed Earth. They are determined to rescue their (technically adopted) son Paul (Felix Jamieson) from Mother and Father, against the orders of the Mithraic leader, Ambrose (Awissi Lakou). The various conflicts inevitably escalate, and the planet itself has its own mysterious secrets and hidden dangers, with the fate of the human race lying in the balance.
(WARNING: Major spoilers for the finale below, because we need to vent our inchoate rage. Do not read further if you haven't yet watched the episode.)