Yes to learning more about our characters, no to lingering storylines of sexual violence.
- 🤖 The glitch effects in the memory simulator
- 🤖 Any scene where Mother and Father just... talk
- 🤖 Marcus's blood-soaked religious hallucinations!
- 🤖 No matter where the Tempest pregnancy is headed, it's gonna be a problem
This post contains spoilers for episodes "Nature's Course" and "Infected Memory" of Raised by Wolves.
Check out our review of the first three episodes here.
After an opening salvo of episodes meant to establish life on Kepler-22b and ask big questions about humanity’s future, the next two episodes of Raised by Wolves are back to the business of plot. By the end of "Infected Memory," the Mithraic have a new leader, Mother has a new batch of memories, and Father – well, Father is Father. Even in the grand science fiction tradition of Ridley Scott, some things will always remain the same.
Our latest episodes open with both sets of “parents” still fighting for their children’s safety. While the partnership has been renewed between the two androids, Father (Abubakar Salim) struggles with feelings of inadequacy in the wake of Mother’s (Amanda Collin) developing powers. What protection can he offer that would ever be as valuable as a pair of godlike eyes? Recognizing his frustration, Mother gives him a wide latitude when it comes to training the children how to hunt and defend themselves against the planet’s bipedal predators. Like any damaged marriage, the two are slowly trying to repair the trust that has been lost.
Miles away, Marcus (Travis Fimmel) and Sue (Niamh Algar) have their own problems. When their group of survivors stumbles upon a glowing obelisk – an obelisk that bears at least a passing similarity to a Mithraic prophecy – Marcus uses the surrounding uncertainty as an excuse to kill the reigning high priest and step into a leadership role. Sue is thrilled to be no longer restrained from chasing her son, but Marcus finds himself best by hallucinations of violence in the shadow of this landmark. Could it be that the Mithraic god Sol is speaking to him? It’s hard to name a religious text where things worked out particularly well for the prophets.
The first few episodes worked best when Mother and the Mithraic were treated as broad archetypes, but with an emphasis on the story comes a corresponding focus on character. Earlier in the season, we learned that Tempest (Jordan Loughran), one of the Ark survivors, had been sexually assaulted in stasis by a high-ranking member of the Mithraic clergy. When Mother learns that Tempest is pregnant, she isolated the young woman from the rest of the group, determined to provide the physical and emotional support she will need to bring her child to term. Now we find that her rapist is still alive, tethered to an android guardian, and hidden behind a spiked helmet that will implode at the press of a button. He claims that he was following Sol’s words, and Marcus may soon look to him for answers.
Of the dozen different directions the Tempest storyline could head, many of them come with a full share of red flags. Thankfully, the one episode of Raised by Wolves to deal most directly with sexual violence is also the first episode of the series written by a woman. Heather Bellson, a veteran producer and screenwriter who has worked on shows like American Gods and The Exorcist, is given the unenviable task of turning sexual violence into an Old Testament parable, but we (and Mother) are still being asked to see her as a vessel rather than a whole person herself. Granted, the show seems to acknowledge this – Tempest shouts as much to Mother during one of their many fights – but how it handles this storyline in the future will be critical to its success. You’re doing yourself zero favors with rape as a major plot point.
Speaking of vessels – in her patrols, Mother comes one the stasis pods used by the Mithraic during their travels, allowing her to unlock the memories of her creation. The Necromancer-that-was is shot from the sky on Earth by Campion Sturges (Cosmo Jarvis), a Mithraic heretic who devoted his family fortune to the atheist agenda. Sturges is a highly skilled hacker; once he removes the Necromancer’s eyes, he begins the slow process of reprogramming her in his image. There are setbacks – the Necromancer snaps the neck of an “atheist” android baby, one of several tests Sturges employs to test the limits of her restraint – but over time, the affection between the two grows.
Is this reprogramming an act of benevolence? Is it the android equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome? On these matters, at least through five episodes, the show is silent. All we know is that Sturges was the one to send Mother, Father, and a box of embryos to Kepler-22b in the hope of building a utopian society based on science and reason. But the realization that she had a great love is a wonder to Mother. She returns to the homestead with a renewed desire to follow her creator’s wishes and help the children raise a new atheistic society on the planet, so much so that she ignores every attempt of Father to point out the similarities between her devotion and theistic beliefs.
All of this only scratches the surface of “Nature’s Course” and “Infected Memory.” Both episodes also pepper their runtimes with hints about Sol’s nature and the presence of another intelligent lifeform on this seemingly-uninhabited planet. Aaron Guzikowski’s show remains a marvel of production design and heady futurism, but there’s no denying that the series is steering into some ominous waters. The best thing about auteurist television shows is the presence of an uncompromising vision. Guzikowski certainly has more to say about this world and the people who inhabit it, but a unique concept can also come with a few red flags, especially when diving deep into ideas like reproductive health and sexual violence. For now, let’s hold our breath and see how Raised by Wolves unfolds.
You can stream Raised by Wolves on HBO Max.
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