8 Sep 2021

Raised by Wolves

From At The Movies, 7:33 pm on 8 September 2021

Two androids and six embryos attempt to start a new civilisation on a distant planet in this new science-fiction series streaming on Neon.

Dan Slevin: Ridley Scott, the director of Alien and Blade Runner and countless other terrific films is 83 years old and still going fairly strong.

But I was surprised to find his name on the new science-fiction series Raised by Wolves which is screening now on Neon. Not just as Executive Producer but also as director of the first two episodes.

And they're great, we got hooked by them but then found ourselves limping along to the finish line as the remaining eight episodes - several directed by Ridley's son Luke - failed to maintain that great start.

The series is set in the future after a war between atheists and the Mitraic - followers of a god named Sol - results in the destruction of Earth. Both sides attempt to start colonies on a distant - and to be honest fairly inhospitable - planet but there's the very real danger that both sides will just start that crap up again, both sides suffering from the kind of zealotry that has bad results for anyone who gets in between them.

The atheists send a pod containing two androids - Mother and Father - and six frozen embryos. Not needing life support means they can travel faster and get a head start. But that also means that they are ill-equipped for the hardships of the new planet and all but one of the children die.

The Sol-worshippers ark - called Heaven which is a bit on the nose - arrives with enough living families to actually start a colony and Father decides that the atheists' only remaining child should join them prompting a swift and extraordinarily violent reaction from Mother who, it appears has powers that she didn't know she had. Kidnapping some of the Mithraic children and destroying everyone else on the Ark appears to set them up nicely once again but that's only episode one and there's a lot more to water to flow under that bridge. A lot.

And that's the main problem we had with Raised by Wolves. It starts out with some elegant, measured world-building, not telling you too much so that your curiosity is always being piqued.

But then in later episodes, it just doesn't stop. More and more world-building - old Earth in flashback and this new Planet and its various dangerous inhabitants - and so much stuff that it's hard to know exactly what Raised by Wolves wants to be. Is it a science-fiction story, full of ideas? Is it an allegory? Is it a spooky horror story? Is it a monster movie? Yes is the answer.

But by the end, I felt it was just treading water. You know those shows that act like they are moving the plot along but, in reality, by the end of each episode, you are back where you started wondering why you just spent an hour with these people.

And there's the other bane of our television watching lives now, the cliffhanger. Hardly any story actually ends these days. They are teased out to be - the producers hope - seven or more seasons long, all ending unsatisfactorily, and then you have to wait - sometimes years - to find out what happens next.

Economists have this term, sunk cost, which is when you've spent so much money on something - car repairs, your internet startup company - that you have to keep spending or what you've already spent is wasted.

Modern television is like that. We watched Season Two and Three of The Handmaids Tale, frustrated as heck with it - but every new season we would grudgingly tune in again because to not do so was to acknowledge all those wasted hours. Luckily, in that case, Season Four was much better so the investment paid off but so often it doesn't.

Raised by Wolves is a big-budget, effects-heavy, adult science fiction that will appeal to those who thought Game of Thrones wasn't violent enough but also there's a thoughtful side to it that eventually just get swamped.

Maybe watch the first two episodes as if you are watching a new Ridley Scott film. That's what worked best for me.

Raised by Wolves is rated R16 for violence and something called "content" and it is streaming now on Neon.