What to Watch Verdict
A perfect blend of story and spectacle that echoes the dynamic pilot.
🤖 Operatic space sex!
🤖 Sue's smile when Campion refuses to be baptized
🤖 The Battle of the Marcuses
🤖 Father's itchy trigger finger
🤖 Tempest's pregnancy storyline lingers
This post contains spoilers for HBO's Raised by Wolves.
Check out our last review here.
The farther we move from the Raised by Wolves pilot, the more we wonder what form of science fiction this series will become. Was the operatic grandeur of the first episode – including the splatterific hallway sequence referenced in every trailer and piece of promotional material – a core component of the show’s DNA? Or did that represent a Ridley Scott-shaped detour from a more grounded narrative? Can we expect more Prometheus or Battlestar Galactica in the show’s second half?
Both directions are welcome, of course, but after tonight’s episodes, it is good to see that Raised by Wolves can play in Scott’s sandbox even without the director at the helm. In “Lost Paradise” and “Faces,” Aaron Guzikowski’s series picks back up some of the visual flairs that made the first episode so exciting. In the process, it also moves several threads forward, offering us two of the most exciting hours of the show since the pilot.
Since we left our colonists, tensions have escalated. Mother (Amanda Collin) has become something of a memory junky, frequently revisiting the stasis pods to review the unlocked memories of her Creator (Cosmo Jarvis). Exasperated at her frequent departures, Father (Abubakar Salim) begins to pressure Mother to spend more time with the children, especially when Campion (Winta McGrath) and Paul (Felix Jamieson) come to blows over their food situation.
Meanwhile, Marcus (Travis Fimmel) and Sue (Niamh Algar) have traced Mother’s travels back to the stasis pod and have prepared an ambush for her. As one group of soldiers restrain Mother, another group attacks the compound, resulting in an extended gunfight with Father (and his inevitable betrayal by some of the youthful survivors from the Ark). In the resulting confusion, Paul steals Mother’s eyes, allowing Marcus and Sue to disable her.
This unleashes a game of Hannibal Lector that lasts most of Episode 7. At first, Marcus is determined to reprogram Mother – after all, he was able to (mostly) reprogram Father with little resistance. But Mother knows that Marcus is not what he seems. She recognizes the face beneath his face, calling out his acts of self-perseveration and noting that his background leaves him uniquely unsuited to raise a child. “Lost boy,” she whispers, a nudge that pushes Marcus farther away from Sue and Paul and towards his descent into religious mania. Maybe it is Marcus, not Paul or Campion, who will usher in the utopia promised in Mithraic prophecy?
Throughout the show’s first five episodes, ghosts – both literal and figurative - have whispered in these survivors’ ears. In “Lost Paradise,” when Mother finds new artwork etched in the habitat’s windows, she quickly returns to the pods. There she encounters a facsimile of her Creator, Campion Sturges (Cosmo Jarvis), who shares his dark truths about humanity. “They’re antiques,” the Thing That Isn’t Sturges hisses, “chained to time. Their lives are only dying.” But her Creator’s face is too much for Mother, and she quickly gives into his embrace.
But Mother’s lover is not the only ethereal presence in this world. Young Campion is also taunted by the visage of his late sister, who echoes words of despair and encourages him to kill himself and rejoin his missing family. Meanwhile, each attempt that Marcus makes to kill Mother is rebuffed by the voices in his head. When he attempts to disobey their order, he comes face-to-face with himself, the pre-Marcus Caleb. The two figures circle each other and eventually fight, but neither Caleb nor Marcus can land a blow. Each kick or flick of the knife is a perfect counter – until Marcus is distracted by Mother’s escape, resulting in a deep (and self-inflicted) knife wound across his stomach.
While “Lost Paradise” serves as a critical narrative turning point for the show – Mother, Father, and the Mithraic finally come in direct conflict, leaving the androids damaged and the humans victorious – it is the “how” of the episode that elevates it. Director Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (The Terror) brings his best to Episode 6, offering violence and spectacle in equal measure. In its finest moments, “Lost Paradise” offers shades of Tarsem Singh’s signature tableau vivant. Mother and the face of her Creator locked in a passionate embrace. Two bodies, intertwined and frozen in the air, float as drops of white android blood fall around them. We watch as the ceiling pulls away, and the galaxy swirls above a rapturous Mother. Now that’s good television.
Given how much has already been foreshadowed in Raised by Wolves – the Mithraic prophecy, Kepler-22b’s mysterious inhabitants, and the whispers about Mother and Marcus ruling the world – the series continues to dial up the horror and religious futurism slowly. It is no coincidence that these last two episodes were light on flashbacks; the show's future is forward, not behind, and as long as Mother and company keep propelling onward into an uncertain future, nothing can prevent Raised by Wolves from delivering on its sky-high potential.
Matthew Monagle is an Austin-based film and culture critic. His work has appeared in a true hodgepodge of regional and national film publications. He is also the editor and co-founder of Certified Forgotten, an independent horror publication.