The following contains spoilers through Raised by Wolves Episode 4 and Episode 5 on HBO Max.
Welcome back, dear reader, as we continue to review HBO Max’s Raised by Wolves with Episodes 4 and 5. We’re already halfway through the season. It seems to be sliding by all too quickly. I’m sure though that for many, it’s been a painfully slow burn here lately, especially after the high water mark that the pilot episode set. We’ve spent a lot of time in these last four episodes moving chess pieces around the board and filling in backstory. The world building feels like it is getting close to completion.
In the official companion podcast, series creator Aaron Guzikowski is asked what the key question is that’s posed in the series about our relationship with machines. He replies, “Well, I think one of the key questions of the show is kind of faith, you know, in general. What should we put our faith in, or what could we put our faith in?” If that’s the end goal, then Episodes 4 and 5 seem to be leading in to that with several crises of faith.
Mother and Father have lost faith in each other, and even in themselves. The Mithraic survivors have gone through a crisis as a group, losing faith in their mission and their leader. As Caleb/Marcus steps into that role, he too is experiencing his own doubts about his Atheistic worldview. At the end of Episode 5, Mother returns to the settlement with her faith restored, after “meeting” her creator in the simulation. However, that meeting was no less ephemeral than the voices in Caleb’s head. So we’ll see if that lasts.
After a failed assassination attempt on Marcus, the bank of Ambrose is all out of credit when he tries to order the military troops to blast a hole in the artifact. The clerics were already opposed to blowing a hole in what they presume is a sacred object. Mary urges Caleb to back him up, they being the only other two out there not under the sway of a religious delusion. But Caleb gets different direction from the voice in his head, guiding him to press Ambrose against the artifact and burn him alive.
So now, the Mithraic are unknowingly being led by an Atheist. Of course, how long it’s going to remain that way will be seen. Looking through the clips in the trailers, it seems like we are now on a road that leads to Caleb’s conversion from non-believer to believer. Lucius declares him to be a prophet, while Mary is inclined to see his voices as a symptom of psychosis. Caleb is doing his own investigating, questioning Otho about his experience being guided to do horrible things by the voice of Sol. That vision he had while they were making love doesn’t bode well for Mary’s future keeping him anchored in reality.
It seems that we are headed towards a final conflict that will feature an Atheist-converted-to-Mithraic human, father to the Mithraic orphan boy, and a Mithraic-converted-to-Atheist android, mother to the Atheist orphan boy. Meanwhile, the two boys are fast becoming best friends. Hopefully the children will find a way to take the lead.
While Marcus is hearing the voice of Sol in his head, Mother is visiting her own creator in her head as well. First, we fill in a little background, finding out that Gen 2 was wiped out by Gabin and Speria playing with the “snowballs.” Apparently, the two groups were truly going to be spaced a generation apart, with Mother not bringing them to term until after Gen 1 was grown up and on their own. However, she never got that chance. Note that once again, the bodies were thrown into the serpent pit.
Her second trip to the simulation goes back even further into her memories, showing us (and her) how she was captured and reprogrammed. She finds out that her creator was not only proud of her, but also truly loved her. Perhaps he even transmitted some of that love into Father’s “strange mimicry.” She has gone from the low point of thinking that she might be unconsciously sabotaging their mission, to having her faith in herself and their mission fully restored.
Two things of interest also happened during that last trip to the simulation. The “ghost child” led Mother to the cryo-sleep chamber, and then seemed to transition into the simulation world to guide her to the scene of her initial capture. Then at the end, the simulated Campion warns her awake because one of the children is in danger back at the settlement. How does he know this? Even Mother can’t know this. This weird fluidity between the simulation world and the real world has some worrisome implications for where the show could be headed. Yes, I mean that this could all be a simulation.
Now that they’ve discovered the carbos are radioactive and killing the children, Father is moving their settlement backwards in progression, from agrarian to hunter-gather. In doing so, he has taken up the role of the “man,” going out to hunt and kill things. Falling into a trope that when men feel threatened by progressive women taking on their traditional role of protector and provider, they move to regress society back to the “good old days.” He needs to feel more useful and this is his solution.
To some degree, even Mother is showing signs of falling into traditional roles as well. She is the one advocating for the children’s emotional well-being. She tries to shield Campion’s sensitivity to killing. She unilaterally decides to approve Tempest’s request to bring the baby to term in the mobile lab. On the other hand, Father is the practical one, trying to teach the children to be self-sufficient. Of course, having died once already, he has a different perspective on the urgency to that task.
It should probably be mentioned at this point that Kepler-22b is a real planet. It was the first habitable exoplanet discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission in December 2011 (there have been many more since). The star is comparable to our own, but the planet is 2.4 times bigger than Earth and currently thought to be a water world (we’re obviously ignoring that last bit for the sake of the show). The Kepler-22 system is 587 light years away from Earth.
We don’t know yet how or why Kepler-22b was chosen. While it is hospitable to human life, it is only barely so. If there were better choices, they surely should have been explored first. The Atheists chose to go there, even knowing that the Mithraic were headed to the same destination. The Mithraic surmise that if Mother and Father got here ahead of them, there could be others. It would seem that this was the only destination available for the future of mankind.
There apparently had been some degree of prior exploration, as Ambrose had the expectation that this was a “virgin” planet, with no prior civilization. The Mithraic party doesn’t seem all too terribly surprised to encounter the Other (my term for now). They shrug it off with “other humans could have landed here before us.” I’m on the fence at the moment as to whether Mother knows of the Other. Was she just dumping off the trackers in a conveniently remote location, or placing them where she knew the Other would find them and carry them off even further?
The Pentagonal Prophecy
Let’s end once again with the “Pentagonal Prophecy” about this so-called “Promised Land.” At least now we have a hint as to why the prophecy is called “pentagonal.” What we know of it so far is:
- “An orphan boy who dwells in an empty land.” This boy will become a prophet who will discover the Mythraic Mysteries.
- He will lead them to the Promised Land and they will build a city of peace, where only good things happen.
- “And beneath the Promised Land will be demons. When the light is shown upon them, they shall be like us.”
- It has five points, like in the prophecy. “You’ll know them by their shape and their number.” Temples in the holy land where Sol hid the answers to the Mithraic Mysteries.
So now we have this dodecahedron “temple,” sitting by itself in the middle of nowhere. Let’s take the Atheist view that there is no such thing as a true prophecy. They are either the result of manipulated outcomes or tampering with the historical record after events. That would imply that there is a big picture connection between Earth and Kepler-22b. Whoever planted the prophecy on Earth presumably also planted this temple on Kepler-22b. That’s some worrisome Prometheus Engineer-level shit. Oh, let’s hope not.
The other implication would be that time travel is involved. The Promised Land is discovered, and then someone has to go back in time to Earth to plant the prophecy that will lead them to discover the Promised Land. The kind of timey-wimey causal loop crap that gives Star Trek’s Captain Janeway a headache. Oh, let’s really hope not. An actual religious prophecy might be the better option.
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:
- First, a quick correction from last week’s article. I called the song that the Mithraic android was humming “The Hymn for the Souls.” It is actually “The Hymn for the Soulless,” which of course makes a lot more sense.
- Mother’s ability to put the kids to sleep at will is both the creepiest of her abilities and yet the most practical, speaking as a parent. What I wouldn’t give.
- Some of the inevitable comparisons to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus are well founded, like this Reddit post pointing out landscape shots that were used in both.
- There’s a wonderful moment in Episode 4 where Tempest is essentially giving Mother relationship advice based on her vast teenage experience. Which is, granted, more than Mother’s experience.
- Since almost every other food source on this planet has some hidden lethality, why does Father just assume the creeper will be edible and safe?
- There’s one scene that has me really puzzled and I’m hoping someone can help me understand. While Tempest is killing the captured creeper, the other five children are at the dinner table. Campion doesn’t want to eat whatever it is they are having, and even claims it’s poisonous to prevent the others from eating it. It would seem that the meal must be meat, and our newly minted vegan is trying to force his beliefs on the others. But the creeper has not been killed yet. They will eat that meat in a later scene, with Tempest joining them. So what were they eating at this first meal? Was this just an editing glitch?
- It’s been noted there’s a good deal of similarity between Mother’s battle form and the android from the 1927 black and white classic Metropolis.
- There’s also been comparison between how the necromancers fly upright with their arms stretched out and the image of Jesus Christ hanging from the cross.
- The costuming nods to Monty Python and the Holy Grail continue. Tell me the prisoner Otho doesn’t look like the Black Knight in that head-crushing helmet. “None shall pass!”
- Part of the reason it makes sense to use the prisoner as cannon fodder is not just because he is expendable. Through his helmet, he can only see shadows. Somehow, not making eye contact is a means of protecting yourself from the necromancer’s killing abilities. Recall that Marcus shouted to Campion “don’t look at it” when she first manifested and killed the rest of the landing party.
- The encircled capital ‘A’ spray painted on the window and wall of Campion’s lab (in an abandoned church, clever) is an actual symbol for atheism today (see ReligiousTolerance.org). The stained glass window also features the 12 signs of the Zodiac, which must have been incorporated into Mithraism.
- The dodecahedron has 12 sides, just to point out another instance of the number 12 popping up.
- Another real world symbol of atheism shows up in the cards that the Other has in his lair. The “Happy Human” icon is a symbol of Secular Humanism, generally considered an atheistic religion.
- More of an FYI, the music composer on Raised by Wolves is the same Scott used on Prometheus, Marc Streitenfeld.
- What the heck is that “earwig” technology used for in normal day-to-day life among the Mithraic? Apparently something so useful that Ambrose’s android had them on hand, even after the Ark crash and everything else they’d been through.
- Speaking of scary technology, we learn indirectly that another of the necromancer’s abilities is to turn humans into “tickers,” presumably alluding to them becoming ticking time bombs that go off and murder everyone around them. Possibly a less benign variation on her ability to put the children to sleep at will? Yikes.
- Paul and Campion have decided to become vegans. And just like real world vegans, they’re annoying about it to others. Heh.
- It’s interesting that Tempest says that she is just a “walking incubator” to Mother—a common pro-choice point of argument. Later, Father pushes that her PTSD is treatable and they should let nature take its course. It would be nice to believe that if we had an “artificial womb” technology, the entire abortion debate would essentially evaporate overnight. But we see here that the goal posts would just be moved to focus on “natural” versus “unnatural” gestation. Probably all too true.
- Some brilliant Reddit user screen captured the Mithraic scriptures Caleb and Mary were studying in Episode 2 and transcribed them for us here. Nothing too revealing perhaps, but it does show the depth of thinking that went into the world building on the show.
Best lines of Episode 4:
- “You acted like a coward. We all did. Except Vita.”
- “Fine. Whatever you want me to say, I’ll say it.”
- “You are a creator, whereas all I’ll ever be is a creation.”
- “Children often ask for things they do not really want.” “I’m not a child.”
- “If you can’t get it yourself, it’s not really a viable food source, is it?”
- “To think you left earth knowing nothing about medicine, now you’re its sole practitioner.”
- “Yes. I love that name. Pizza.”
- “No repair necessary.”
- “At least you’re not intelligent. I died once. Death can be very unpleasant when you’re intelligent.”
- “Why do things have to die?” “It is nature, and nature is flawed.”
- “She had a baby inside. It was a mother. It was a mother.”
Best lines of Episode 5:
- “Stop doctoring me!”
- “Which part is the baby?”
- “Pregnant females are capable of great athleticism in their first trimester.” “The creature was also pregnant so what exactly is your point?”
- “We’re not human. True happiness is not an achievable goal.” “Well, perhaps it’s a symptom of my inadequacy but I believe it is.”
- “You’re a necromancer, of course you’re cool with death.”
- “It has its perks.” “Yeah, she sure is perky.”
- “Traitor. Thief. I will exterminate you.”
- “Is flattery the test?”
- “You’re more pleasing than I imagined.”
- “Something’s wrong. I’m hurting. Inside.”
- “Go now, start over. You are the new mother of humanity. Save us.”
- “What an odd thing to say. Our creator was real, a human. It doesn’t require any faith to believe in him.”
In The News
Here I try to point you to a few of the more interesting and informative news items over the last week related to Raised by Wolves:
- Ridley Scott, Abubaker Salim (Father) and Amanda Collin (Mother) gave a press tour interview in which Scott compares Mother and Father to Adam and Eve, and says that David Bowie was his inspiration for their androgynous look. [Bangkok Post]
- In another interview, Salim and Collin talk specifically about what it was like for them working with Scott. [Telegraph & Argus]
- The first episode of Raised by Wolves has been made available free on YouTube, so now you can get all your friends hooked.
- The first full episode of the companion podcast (Raised by Wolves: The Podcast) is actually very good and worth a listen. They will apparently be following a format of interviewing someone from the show, then a longer interview with an actual scientist working in the fields of robotics and A.I. The podcast is available on YouTube as well.
- An article on The Cinemaholic explores the filming locations and includes a few behind the scenes pics from cast and crew (nothing too spoilerish).
- I suspect Den of Geek took a tip from my last week’s review and churned out a full article-length background on the real world Mithraic relgion. Super interesting stuff and a great read.
- I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are two great Facebook groups dedicated to the show, Raised by Wolves and Raised by Wolves HBO Max TV Series. We also finally have not one but two Reddit subs as well, r/MaxRaisedByWolves and r/RaisedByWolvesMax. You’ll find me lurking about in all of those forums.
- Release dates have been confirmed with HBO Max, and posted to Twitter by Grace Randolph (“Beyond the Trailer” on YouTube). HBO didn’t correct her, and these match the screeners up through Episode 8 (they haven’t released Episodes 9 and 10 yet). So let’s assume they’re correct. Those dates are: 9/3 – Episodes 1, 2, 3; 9/10 – Episodes 4 & 5; 9/17 – Episodes 6 & 7; 9/24 – Episodes 8 & 9; 10/1 – Episode 10.
That’s all for this week. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings about this week’s episodes, and any theories you have on what’s to come, in the comments below. Remember that 25YL will provide continuing coverage of Raised by Wolves throughout Season 1 and beyond.
All images courtesy of HBO Max