One of the most striking new series to hit the streaming circuit is definitely HBO Max's Raised by Wolves, which mostly takes place on a different planet, involves the attempt to extend humankind's lifeline, and centers largely on two artificially intelligent androids. But despite all those details, and the fact that the project boasts genre giant Ridley Scott as an executive producer, don't go thinking Raised by Wolves is exclusively for science fiction aficionados.
Raised by Wolves takes place after the Earth has been completely ravaged by war, with Amanda Collin and Abubakar Salim playing the A.I. "parents" Mother and Father, respectively, who were sent to the planet Kepler-22b to raise new generations of human children. Religious and social conflicts come into play once other humans enter the picture (naturally), and Mother and Father learn more than they bargained for when it comes to their creators. On paper it sounds very much like something right out of the sci-fi playbook, but once one gets past the veneer of Ridley Scott's vision, the themes at play here are universal.
CinemaBlend spoke with Raised by Wolves' creator and showrunner Aaron Guzikowski ahead of Season 1's premiere on HBO, and the first thing I asked him was how he'd envisioned promoting this complex and brainy series to audiences who aren't necessarily sci-fi fans. Here's how he put it:
Well, I think part of that had to do with the nucleus of the show, which I think is the family. You know, the family story, the Little House on the Prairie aspects of this story. The idea that, while we are telling a very large epic tale about restarting human civilization on this new planet and the first pioneers to arrive there – this family, these two androids with these human children – it's all told basically through a lot of their perspective and through that lens. Which I think humanizes it, despite the fact we're talking about androids. But their children are human and their experience is very human, and so is their kind of evolution. So, I think it is very much [human]. To me, I see it that way; I see it very much as this family story, and that everything kind of grows out of that nucleus.
Without getting into any spoilers, suffice to say Amanda Collin's Mother is immediately one of television's most fascinating approaches to motherhood and femininity, as experienced through the prism of artificial intelligence. From her inherent motivations to her behavioral alterations in response to certain stimuli, Mother is a one-of-a-kind character whose humanity shines brighter through the cracks specifically because she's not one of us, as it were. Of course, she can turn into quite the monster as well.
The other humans in Raised by Wolves – which is where Travis Fimmel and Niamh Algar come in, among others – also bring in some major sci-fi elements with their particular storylines, particularly where the visuals are concerned. However, Fimmel's Marcus and Algar's Sue are also caught up in the midst of a storyline centering squarely on the concept of family and parenthood, albeit in a somewhat different way from what Mother and Father are dealing with. It all comes back to that nucleus.
While space-faring vehicles do show up, along with some other imagery commonly associated with science fiction, the exterior locations and rather primitive settings make Aaron Guzikowski's comparison to Little House on the Prairie quite an apt one. Quite often, viewers wouldn't be out of line for thinking that Raised by Wolves took place thousands of years ago, as opposed to many years in the future. (Well okay, those body suits would instantly give it away.) It's very much about survival of the fittest in a two-clan kind of world, where hunting and gathering are they way of the land.
Speaking of Raised by Wolves' eye-catching world, I asked showrunner Aaron Guzikowski what he was most impressed by when comparing his initial scripts for the show to the fully realized final product. For that, he gave major kudos to both Ridley Scott and Amanda Collin. In his words:
So many things. I mean, Ridley brought so much to it visually, just in terms of the design and just, you know, the whole look and the pacing and so on and so forth. Just watching the pilot for the first time was just an ecstatic sort of experience to have the 'master' basically executing the story. So I couldn't be happier on that front. And I think Amanda Collins performance as Mother just makes me so giddy with joy. I mean, really, it's so difficult to figure that out, how to play that, and I think she just had a way into it from the very beginning, and just fully became that character. To me, so much of the show hinged on that. So it was a great and happy surprise with just how well she nailed it.
Certainly, that Season 1 premiere is a breath of WTF air in comparison to just about everything else in HBO Max's original series lineup so far, though it feels right in line with Ridley Scott's sci-fi career. Certainly films like Prometheus and The Martian anyway, if not Blade Runner. And because even a gorgeous TV show is only as good as its actors, it definitely makes sense for Aaron Guzikowski to give Amanda Collin a shout-out as well. She's so good, no matter what genre one thinks this show falls under.
Check out the second, extended trailer for Raised by Wolves below, which definitely lays out the central story in a more cohesive way than the first one did, if you like that sort of thing.
Raised by Wolves made its debut on HBO Max on September 3, with the first three episodes of Season 1 currently available to stream for both sci-fi fans and those who want a very distinct story about raising a family through strife. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more coverage, and head to our Fall 2020 TV premiere schedule to see what other new and returning shows are on the way in the near future.