Or so I feel, at least, upon watching Aaron Guzikowski’s masterpiece on HBO Max. I have not been this excited about a sci-fi series since ‘The Expanse’ (2015), and for good reason. ‘Raised by Wolves’ (2020) is a story about humanity’s last chance at survival after nearly destroying itself. The root of the problem? Religious fundamentalism injected into an authoritarian state versus atheist militias that are willing to become the very monsters they fight against in order to defeat their enemy. But there is more to this than mere concepts of extremism and advanced artificial intelligence.

This is also a story about children, for they are the future.

‘Raised by Wolves’ follows two androids tasked with establishing a human colony on planet Kepler-22B. All they have is a space pod with advanced technology and a handful of human children they must raise in an atheist manner, much like the androids’ ‘creator’, Campion Sturges. While Father is a state-of-the-art service humanoid, Mother is a repurposed Necromancer, a veritable killing machine with a wide array of deadly abilities. Due to her reprogramming as a nurturer, however, Mother doesn’t remember her downright murderous past as a weapon in the hands of the Mithraic, the religious zealots who practically destroyed Earth. She does rediscover the aforementioned abilities, and so her character arc begins as she is tested in her mission to protect the children.


Kepler-22B is not a welcoming planet. It is mostly arid, with freezing nights and deadly creatures lurking in the darkness. Worse even, the androids fail to raise all the children they brought over from Earth. Some succumb to incurable illnesses, while others perish in tragic accidents. Only one, named after Campion Sturges, survives. He becomes a key element as two different worlds begin to collide right in front of him, threatening to change not only his views but also how he perceives life.

The Mithraic have caught up, now docking their enormous Ark into orbit. They have resources, a military force and advanced technologies, and conflict quickly erupts when Mother retaliates and nearly obliterates the entire fleet while taking a handful of children away to replace the ones she lost. One can rarely observe a finer metaphor to address a mother’s grief.


Enter Marcus and Sue, two Atheists posing as Mithraic soldiers, desperate to get their son back from Mother’s clutches. It becomes increasingly hard to root for them once it becomes clear that all Mother wants is to fulfil the original Campion’s dream of a better humanity—a world where no religion exists. Her sole objective is to raise children into worthy humans.

It becomes a battle for our very souls as we begin to see the flaws in our species, so eloquently portrayed by the Mithraic against the sweet and ignorant innocence of younglings. Between them, Mother and Father struggle to do the right thing, shocking us with their ability to learn, to protect, and to love. This complex series is insanely ambitious and downright mind-blowing on multiple levels, and I cannot recommend it enough.


Aaron Guzikowski is no stranger to bold and compelling projects. Better known for penning the screenplays for ‘Papillon’ (2017) and ‘Prisoners’ (2013), the American director has been a showrunner before with ‘The Red Road’ (2014-2015), starring Jason Momoa. Through ‘Raised by Wolves’, however, one can see his spectacularly steep learning curve. It is an impressive accomplishment, to say the least, made even more important with the involvement of luminaries such as Ridley Scott, who also directed the first two episodes.

At the heart of every good film or series is a good screenplay, and it is truly a delight to follow ‘Raised by Wolves’ as it smashes through pretty much every barrier of its genre. Its rhythm isn’t frantic because the story has time to develop, easing us into this strange world much like Mr Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ from a few years back, but it’s not too slow, either. There is hardly a moment where one might get lost. Its threads are loose but gradually coming together in a splendid weave as the religious (Mithraic, worshipers of a deity named Sol), the atheists (Marcus, Sue, Mother, Father), and the non-religious (young Campion) are forced into a series of situations that bring about change on a deeper, fundamental level. When this is over, when we reach the final conclusion, no one will be the same again.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of ‘Raised by Wolves’ is how far the writer is willing to go with an AI’s ability to understand and experience love. For us, humans, it is a sentiment brought on by social interaction and hormonal reactions. What is it like for Mother, one wonders? Her feelings are clear and undeniable. Her emotions raw despite her otherwise strict programming. Mother’s journey from former villain to a hero for her children is truly a splendid feat of screenwriting.


The performances are simply out of this world. Amanda Collin and Abubakar Salim as Mother and Father, respectively, are the heroes that nobody saw coming. It’s impossible not to root for Mother when she is willing to sacrifice herself in order to teach Winta McGrath’s young Campion that violence—though a defining trait of her original design—is not and should never be an option. It’s hard not to love Father for how hard he tries to make everyone happy, teaching the children to survive in a harsh environment while figuring out ways to please his otherwise dangerous partner.

Travis Fimmel of ‘Vikings’ (2012-2017) and ‘Warcraft’ (2016) fame is a beautifully troubling and imperfect Marcus. Niamh Algar is Sue, who does the best she can with what she believes and what she is given. They’re both Atheist Militants pretending to be Mithraic after facial reconstruction surgery. They killed Paul’s parents and took their place on the Ark. It was the only way that they could survive. Prior to their arrival to Kepler-22B, survival and revenge had been their core objectives, but after spending thirteen years in a virtual simulation coma, both Marcus and Sue have become attached to Paul, sweetly portrayed by Felix Jamieson.

To make matters worse, not only has their ‘son’ been taken by a seemingly lethal Necromancer, but Marcus is hearing the god Sol’s voice in his head—this, in turn, bumps him up the hierarchical ladder within the surviving Mithraic cluster that is determined to turn Kepler-22B into another Earth, complete with churches and strict religious traditions.


The children stand out on their own, most of them torn from a zealous cradle and taught by androids, of all things, about compassion, fairness, and mercy. Each of them has a story to tell. Campion is confused by this concept of Sol as the supreme entity but eager to do right by others. Paul wishes to please the parents who have spent most of his life ignoring him, prior to the Ark. Tempest, brought to life by the talented Jordan Loughran, has to deal with an unwanted pregnancy after she was raped during her virtual simulation coma. Aasiya Shah’s Holly and Ethan Hazzard’s Hunter are more bound to the Mithraic than they are to their new android parents. Naturally, betrayal turns the tides and breaks many hearts as the viewers helplessly watch the past repeating itself.

Of course, none of this would be as profoundly arresting without the spectacular camerawork. Mr Guzikowski employs the talents of three stellar cinematographers for ‘Raised by Wolves’, each of them leaving an imprint on their respective episodes. Ross Emery, better known for his work on ‘I, Frankenstein’ (2014) and ‘The Wolverine’ (2013), is responsible for five chapters, including the pilot. Eric Messerschmidt of ‘Mindhunter’ (2017) and ‘Legion’ (2018) renown delivers a visceral vision through three episodes. A noticeable surprise comes from Dariusz Wolski, who has returned to work with Ridley Scott again after ‘The Martian’ (2015) and the epic ‘Prometheus’ (2012).


Also from the ‘Prometheus’ era, Marc Streitenfeld signs the series’ score alongside Ben Frost, the latter known for his more sombre work on ‘Dark’ (2017-2020). Everything about ‘Raised by Wolves’ is meant to stir a certain set of emotions, and I dare say it’s a successful endeavour, considering that the opening theme alone is capable of encompassing everything good and awful about us in just a handful of lyrics.

With Tom McCullagh of ‘Game of Thrones’ (2011-2019) and Chris Seagers of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (1998) signing off on the production design, alongside talented art directors such as Jonathan Hely-Hutchinson and Fiona Gavin, the world of Kepler-22B is as intense and as dreary as the writer intended. It was entirely shot in Cape Town, South Africa, with the production team taking advantage of the country’s breath-taking views, some of which are seamlessly incorporated into the setting. One can’t help but applaud the elegant minimalism of sci-fi elements against the wilderness of an unknown and fundamentally hostile realm. It serves as a metaphor for our condition, as well—try as hard as we’d like, with or without religion, we’re all but fodder for the stars.


Ultimately, ‘Raised by Wolves’ may be perceived as polarizing by religious and atheist viewers alike, though perhaps more by the former than the latter, but the series only has our truth and our violent history to work with. Billions died and more keep dying in wars fuelled by religion and supremacy of one kind or another. Should a cataclysmic event appear on the horizon of our collective existence, how will we survive? If we’re given a second chance at life, what will we do with it?

In Mr Guzikowski’s extraordinary sci-fi drama, these are the very questions that Mother and Father are trying to answer. It’s a rather disappointing conclusion to say that I expect more from the androids than I do from the humans, but given the current climate in which our world festers, perhaps our greatest hope really does lie in our scientific accomplishments. The series serves as a clear warning about the dangers of extremism in every form, religious and atheist alike.

The ultimate threat to humanity, then, is not artificial intelligence like some great minds of the 20th century have warned. Ideologies are.