Mother and children.
Photo: Coco Van Oppens/HBOMax
There aren’t any wolves in HBO Max’s big Ridley Scott–Aaron Guzikowski sci-fi series Raised by Wolves, but there are androids, weird mystical religious cults, and a whole lot of questionable child-rearing. The general idea is that a pair of androids, Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim), have landed on the barely hospitable planet Kepler-22b in order to birth and raise a group of human children and teach them the ways of atheism, because there’s a whole war going on between religious humans and atheists back home.
Far be it for me, a guy in his 20s who doesn’t plan to have children anytime soon, to cast aspersions on anyone’s parenting abilities — it’s hard, we’re all trying, I get it — but these androids are especially bad at it. They keep killing people! Though, to be fair, the religious zealot humans who show up on Kepler-22b soon after the androids are also pretty bad parents. Nobody on Kepler-22b is anyone’s role model, which makes for some very entertaining, very dramatic TV — that’s already been renewed for a second season, praise Sol — full of so many questionable child-rearing choices. In honor of today’s truly bonkers season one finale, let’s run through the lessons we learned from the most questionable parenting decisions of this season, one episode at a time. (Obviously, spoilers for all of season one lie ahead.)
Episode 1: Don’t kidnap a bevy of new children after accidentally killing all but one of your original children!
I can’t really slight Mother and Father’s initial attempts as space chrome spandex-clad parents to keep all their children alive, given that Kepler-22b is not a welcoming environment, and they were just trying to cook up whatever sustenance they could. It’s not their fault that they’re not successful (though … we learn a little more about that sustenance later). But parenting-wise, I really have to draw the line at deciding to satisfy your maternal programming by flying into an ark full of Mithraic humans and taking their children as your own. It’s very cool that Mother can put in a pair of super “necromancer” eyes and scream at people in a way that makes them combust, but I can’t say that’s a healthy start to any adoptive parent-child relationship.
Episode 2: Don’t steal other humans’ faces in order to take their place on a spaceship and adopt their child as your own!
Yes, the androids on this show are not great parents, but the humans we meet are also extremely not good parents. In a flashback to before the Mithraic ark took off, we learn that Travis Fimmel and Niamh Algar’s characters schemed their way off of Earth by programming a medical robot to perform plastic surgery on them in order to mimic the faces of a Mithraic couple with access to the ark, whom they then killed. They keep the charade up with that couple’s child Paul (Felix Jamieson), which, again, is not a great way to start a healthy family dynamic. Anyway, soon after the ark crashes, “Marcus” and “Sue” still try to rescue Paul from his new android parents/captors, so props to them for committing to the bit.
Episode 3: Thoroughly test the plants you choose to feed to your children on a new planet!
Once Mother and Father start trying to take care of their new Mithraic children, they discover that they’re all getting sick rather quickly. After Campion, the last of their original children, leads a little escape attempt, Father discovers that the sickness is all due to the fact that the pits inside the “carbos” tubers they’ve been eating are radioactive, something that they didn’t notice in their initial scans of the plants. Mother takes this as a relief because it means her necromancer programming isn’t overriding her ability to be a good mother, but these robots really need better tuber testing capabilities!
Episode 4: Don’t force your children to slaughter the creature you’ve captured in order to teach them about death!
With the carbos off the menu, Father decides everyone on the little Kepler-22b farm is going to have to learn to eat meat instead, beginning with the spindly native creature that father has captured. What’s more, in an effort to define his value against Mother, who can fly around and scream-kill with ease, Father decides he’s going to give the kids a teaching moment and have them kill the creature themselves. This is a borderline case, and I get the necessity of teaching children hard lessons, but these kids have already learned so many hard lessons! People keep dying around them all the time! Maybe don’t just provide further trauma!
Episode 5: Don’t fall in love with the robot you have reprogrammed!
This one goes out to the original Campion (played by Cosmo Jarvis), the Mithraic turned atheist man who captured Mother back when she was just a necromancer and rewrote her code to turn her to Mother-hood. I’m going to call this somewhat analogous to parenting, because the show is thematically interested in all different forms of creation. While you have to love a good Pygmalion-style plot, my advice to anyone who happens to be reprogramming robots is not to fall in love with them. It’s a weird power dynamic, they’re your creation! Also, their love for you might make them act erratically when they’re stuck on a distant planet trying to survive. Which brings us to …
Episode 6: Don’t abandon your children to make out with your creator in a computer simulation!
It’s like potato chips: Once Mother gets a taste of what it is like to relive buried memories of her time with her creator, she simply cannot stop. She keeps flying off alone to spend time in the Mithraic ark’s simulation device, leaving herself open to an attack from some of the surviving Mithraic men, while the others storm the android’s encampment. They can’t kill Mother, she’s way too strong for that, but she still ends up having her eyes stolen by Paul and therefore disarmed. Mothers need alone time, and we all have needs. I sympathize, especially as someone who loves some screen time. But still, rough result.
Episode 7: Don’t forcibly baptize the kid you’re claiming to rescue!
With the humans back in control of the camp, they lock poor Campion (a.k.a. Campion Jr., the kid, not the creator) away and decide they’re going to baptize him in their Mithraic ways. This goes about as well as anything does on Kepler-22b, with Campion lashing out against his captors and “Marcus” getting into a whole doppelgänger fight with his pre-plastic surgery self in the grip of increasingly maddening visions, potentially induced by the Mithraic god Sol. The real moral here: Nothing good ever comes of forced conversion. Keep that in mind, parents.
Episode 8: Don’t start feeding upon blood in order to support the tumor implanted inside your robot body!
After escaping from her human captors, Mother tries to fix herself with the help of a medic android (and several of his copies) in the wreckage of the Mithraic ark. In the process, she discovers that she has a mysterious tumor implanted inside of her that needs something besides robot blood to survive: actual blood! She can’t override her caretaking programming to kill it, and so she decides to drain a local creature to feed it. This is all definitely heading in a good, not-creepy direction.
Episode 9: Be careful in your choice of walking blood bag for your mysterious pregnancy!
The good news is that Mother finds an accessible, morally somewhat okay source of blood in the form of a rapist the Mithraic have been holding captive in a Monty Python–like helmet. The bad news is that, after triggering a hallucination by analyzing a shiny engraved metal card that she’s found lying around Kepler-22b, Mother has her connection to the captive man reversed, directing her blood away from her tumor-fetus and into the captive. He then attacks Mother. This is why you don’t create an umbilical cord between yourself and someone who would attack you in your sleep.
Episode 10: Don’t drive your spaceship through the core of a planet in order to try to kill your floating serpent child that was the result of said mysterious pregnancy!
As everyone knows, this will only make that floating serpent larger, angrier, and more powerful.