HBO Max, the ‘Netflix-like’ streaming service launched by HBO, is now full-throttle in the US. The streaming service oligopoly has now become a real bloody arena, where the best service offering the most content wins, sword in hand. Owned by Warner Bros, HBO is now in a good position to rival Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple + and Hulu. Most fans, like myself, had to remain occupied before the highly expected Justice League: The Snyder Cut, so I decided to explore what HBO Max (via CRAVE in Canada) had to offer. Speaking of ‘bloody arenas’ (Gladiator reference, wink wink), what drew me to my latest find was the legendary Ridley Scott, producer and sometimes-director of the new sci-fi mini-series Raised by Wolves, a genre he is known to master so well for his work on Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982). As an entirely new story, not adapted from a fiction, screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski mentioned that he was deeply inspired by Ridley Scott’s storyboards to conceive the dystopian world of this series. In other words, if Sir Ridley Scott’s fans were to produce a beautiful work of fiction to honor him, Raised by Wolves would be it…and in spectacular fashion, I might add!
Although Raised by Wolves feels new and fresh, there are definitely key elements that resonate with older science fiction novels, where authors like Isaac Asimov (Foundation) and Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) were obsessed by humanity’s relationship with their own creation: androids. Well, this is pretty much the principle on which the story is based. What makes an AI? How human can these artificial beings be in order to preserve what is left of mankind…
We are many years in the future…but not a very pleasant one. Climate change might have had a big impact on planet Earth, but it is in fact a horrific religious war between two groups, the Mithraics and the Atheists, that devastated what remained of our beloved little blue planet. The Mithraics, who are obsessed devoted soldiers serving the Sun God: Sol. The Atheists, as we suspect, refuse to convert to this religion and decided to rebel. After many years of war, the Mithraics won, but took the Earth with them, as it became inhabitable. In a desperate attempt to build an Atheist colony on another planet, named Keppler 22-B, a scientist decides to send two Androids in rubber suits, Mother (excellent Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim), tasked with this mission, carrying human embryos. Once on the planet, the mission will prove to be a lot more difficult. The embryos, fully grown into young children, can’t seem to adapt to the toxic natural resources of the planet and eventually die..until there is only one left: Campion (Winta McGrath). With the limited time they have to remain functional, Mother and Father will do everything possible with the programming they have to raise and protect Campion from any danger.
However, things get messy when a huge Mithraic ship carrying refugees, similar to Noah’s Arc, arrives on the planet to bring colonies. Let’s just say Mother won’t be too pleased! This ship carries two Mithraic soldiers (Travis Fimmel and Niamh Algar) with a big secret, along with their young son Paul (Felix Jamieson). Their path will clash with the Atheist colony under Mother and Father’s supervision and conflict will arise…
Above everything else, Raised by Wolves is such a beautiful wonder to look at. The sci-fi imagery and cinematography are luscious, sunny and colorful, making the trip so pleasant to the eye. The first two episodes already gave us a taste of what Ridley Scott is known for: an elegant vision of the future. The visuals and cinematography aren’t too far from what Roger Deakins offered us in Blade Runner 2049, the future feels real and tangible. Considering the CGI fest we are used to, where Hollywood’s idea for futuristic imagery only runs through computer imagery and special effects, this show runs on CGI for a shorter period of time, which is great.
The universe of Raised by Wolves is also pretty authentic for exploring such ancient concepts of beliefs and humanity. True to the core principles of the sci-fi genre, the great divide among the characters is the place of religion in a new society and the meaning of life for both humans and androids. I remember reading specific short stories by Isaac Asimov, notably Liar! when I was in University, that specifically explored the concept of android programming in detail and their relationship to humans. We are in a world where, in fact, androids are allowed to hurt or kill humans, but only if they are identified as Atheists (but more on that when you’ll watch the show). After Sir Ridley Scott passes the torch to other directors, the plot moves on smoothly, which gives us enough time to get a better grasp of what is going on.
There is also a very poetic connection to animal nature, specifically how Mother and Father are portrayed. It is well known among biologists and scientists that many animal species on Earth are “matriarchal”, meaning that the female is the dominant sex of the tribe. Raised by Wolves honours it by giving Mother amazing powers and wisdom, while Father is more like a sidekick who can perform the tasks assigned to him. Exactly as it is the case for chimps, honeybees, killer whales and WOLVES (see the reference), Mother’s path is extremely impactful on the story and she remains the dominant character during the whole series. We know Ridley Scott admires strong female protagonists, this series makes no exception and honours Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley.
Obviously, there are many plot twists and revelations along the way that will be head-scratching, a common audience reaction to sci-fi. Raised by Wolves was cleared for a second season, so many questions will be answered next year. The first three episodes will feel a little weird and possibly claustrophobic since the characters stay at the same place (namely the android’s village on Keppler 22-B) for a long period of time, but the pace will rapidly pick around episode 4. I definitely suspect an Emmy nomination eventually for Amanda Collin’s portrayal of Mother. We love to hate her, but we hate to love her as well!
For any sci-fi fanatics who absolutely love what Ridley Scott has worked on over the years, especially his vision for the Alien franchise, this will certainly please them. This show is certainly one of the best, on top of the huge pile of binge-watched series during the nightmare that is 2020. Don’t miss this strange new world worthy of any Star Wars or Star Trek fans out there. All 10 episodes of the first season are already available for streaming. Since HBO Max is only available in the US, Canadians can access the mini-series through CRAVE…and I assure you, stream Raised by Wolves you must!