Premiering on HBO Max September 3rd is the new sci-fi drama Raised by Wolves, which was created by Aaron Guzikowski (The Red Road) and produced by Academy Award-winner Ridley Scott (Gladiator). The series is a hybrid of Game of Thrones and Westworld, which explains why HBO Max would want it, and blends futuristic technology with a religious medieval tone. The result is an entertaining, science-fiction fantasy that dives into subjects such as religion, technology, death, parenting, and what it means to be a human.
The series begins after a long war that has destroyed Earth, between the church and a rebellious group of atheists. On the verge of losing the war, one of the atheists reprograms a female android named Mother (Amanda Collin), who is a former killing machine with God-like powers, and a male android named Father (Abubakar Salim). The two robots are programmed to take a dozen human embryos to an abandoned planet on a spacecraft, and once there, birth the children and raise them to be atheists. The series jumps ahead twelve years and only one of the children has survived, Campion (Winta McGrath), who still lives with the androids. Trouble begins when a spaceship full of surviving humans from the church discover the planet and visit Campion and his robot guardians.
After the humans discover Mother is an android, she kills almost all the survivors on the ship, and kidnap five of their kids to raise alongside Campion. Marcus (Travis Fimmel) and Sue (Niamh Alger), who is keeping a secret of their own that we discover in flashbacks, survive the attack and lead the rest of the humans to rescue the kids, one of which belongs to them. Meanwhile, the other children teach Campion to believe in religion, Father begins to feel inadequate, Mother discovers her past, and there is a political cue in the Church’s ranks. This new planet also seems to have some secrets of its own, Lost-style, with dead characters reappearing, a mysterious Egyptian Pyramid-size orb in the desert, and strange Xenomorph-looking (possibly wolf-like?) creatures running around on the loose.
The series starts off slow, but once it picks up the action, and the characters are given time to really develop, the show takes off. The first episode is the slowest, but it sets up a lot, and really picks up the pace when the androids meet the humans. The second episode gives us a lot of backstory with flashbacks to the humans before the war and how they got to this point. But for me, the series really gets going in the fourth and fifth episodes, when the conflict between the humans and the androids kicks into gear, and we get more development with both the human and android characters and their backstories. Ridley Scott, who directs the first two episodes, lays some great groundwork for the series, with its tone, stark look, and its debate over humanity, technology, and religion.
Winta McGrath does a good job of portraying Campion, a character whose obnoxiousness could rival GOT’s King Joffrey at times, but the young actor still finds a way to make him innocent and likable. But the bulk of the show’s screen time is given to Amanda Collin and Abubakar Salim, as Mother and Father, respectively, and their performances are what really drive the series. Salim is very strong as Father, an android with insecurities and feelings of inadequacy, and the actor’s emotion comes shining through the character, while never for a second letting you forget that he is not human.
As for her part as a mother, Amanda Collin gives a powerhouse performance and will probably be the breakout star of the series. She is both tender and terrorizing in the role, and has great moments of enormous strength and incredible vulnerability. In some ways, because the story unfolds rather slowly, it takes a while to really get to know these android characters and care for them, but once you do, you’ll be all in.
However, my favorite storyline in the series involves the humans, the backstory of Earth, and the political power-plays within the Church. Travis Fimmel, best known for his role on Vikings, is absolutely electric as Marcus and is probably my favorite character on the show. He’s not in a lot of the first few episodes but is pivotal to the series as it develops. Niamh Algar has great chemistry with Fimmel as his wife, and the search for their son, their secret past, and Marcus’ rise within the religious ranks, were some of my favorite aspects of the show.
In the end, I may have been lukewarm on the series in the beginning, but I definitely got hooked on the first six episodes and can’t wait to see how the first season ends and if they can stick the landing on the incredible groundwork they have laid so far. Raised by Wolves is a great hybrid of sci-fi and fantasy concepts and uses those clichés in a clever way to engage and entertain the audience, but at the same time discuss loftier philosophical issues pertaining to humanity, religion, and the meaning of life.
The first three episodes of Raised by Wolves are now available on HBO Max with new episodes being released every Thursday.