Since it’s launch, HBO Max has assembled a wide variety of originals for its streaming platform including rom com, Love Life, adult animated series, Close Enough, and the comic adaptation, Doom Patrol. Today, their first scripted drama, Raised by Wolves, premiered with its first three episodes.
The science fiction series takes place in the future where a great war has decimated Earth causing survivors to flee and build a new home so humanity can start anew. Two androids, dubbed Mother and Father, land on a mysterious planet where they are tasked with raising human children and creating a new colony and civilization.
Life for the children and their surrogate parents is very primitive subsisting off the land through farming and even their toys are homemade. In addition to survival skills, the kids also receive their daily school lessons to carry on the knowledge of all that came before them. Though it is a simple existence, it is also an arduous one dealing with an unforgiving and hostile environment. If the elements weren’t enough, the same conflicts of Earth find their way to the planet when a group of other settlers arrive. Now the family have other things to worry about.
Raised by Wolves has an intriguing story that was unexpected based off of the series description. What originally seems as a man versus nature story, evolves into a struggle between two conflicting sides and philosophies of a religious debate. Add in the parent/child relationships and how impressionable a young mind is and the show touches upon some profound themes.
The first three episodes do a good job fleshing out the main characters. The flashbacks for Mother (Amanda Collin) and her opposing counterparts Marcus (Travis Fimmel) and Sue (Niamh Algar) provide key insights into who they are and give them depth and complexity. In particular, Marcus and Sue’s origin can garner some sympathy for their situation with their own son.
The early part of the story also effectively builds the mystery of the planet itself. If it’s able to sustain humans, what other wildlife is out there? There are large holes scattered throughout the surface and Mother and Father allude to now extinct fierce beasts that made them. We also find some live non-human threats as well.
The special effects for Raised by Wolves are pretty impressive. Having the main location a farm in the middle of nowhere can help save money but the show doesn’t skimp on some of the opportunities outside the homestead. There is high production quality in the scenes depicting the war on Earth and those on board the space ships. Although there is strategic use of CGI, the practical effects are as successful. The artificial birth scene is a bit freaky but fascinating at the same time.
The scenes themselves are well shot and can as easily capture the intensity of war as it can the tender but honest moments between the parental androids and the children. It helps to have famed director, Ridley Scott, direct the first two episodes. The muted and reserved color schemes complement the desolate and bleak tone of this future as well.
During these initial episodes of Raised by Wolves, there are some pacing issues. The scenes on the farm can be boring and uneventful and can seem tedious to show all the different ways life is difficult on this new planet. However, once the new settlers become involved, things do pick up.
In addition, the character of Mother can be frustrating. There are some appealing aspects including the type of android she was before she was domesticated but some of her decision making can be irrational especially for a robot that is supposed to think logical. But maybe that’s how a real parent acts some times.
Despite a slow start, the early episodes provide an interesting take on a science fiction survival show. They touch upon compelling themes and develop complex characters. I’m curious to find out more about the fate of these last hopes of human kind.
Raised by Wolves releases new episodes Thursdays on HBO Max.