Richly imagined sci-fi allegory about parenting in the time of war and dogmatism-Entertainment News , Firstpost

Raised by Wolves may have a lot of big Ideas on its mainframe, but it also has a human pulse.

John Lennon famously asked us to imagine a world with “no heaven,” “no hell,” “no religion,” and “nothing to kill or die for.” The hypotheticals are as quixotic as they come. But the overall idea of ​​religion being at the root of so much conflict throughout history is no doubt a legitimate one. After all, faith is what empowers believers to inflict cruelty upon those who believe in Gods/messiahs different to their own. But if theism is inherently violent, does that make atheism inherently non-violent?

Raised by Wolves, the sci-fi thought experiment concocted by Aaron Guzikowski and produced by Ridley Scott, suggests otherwise. In the 22nd century as imagined by Guzikowski, Earth has been laid waste by a war between radical atheists and religious fundamentalists (known as the Mithraic). Two atheist androids, a Mother (Amanda Collin) and a Father (Abubakar Salim), are sent to the planet Kepler 22b, tasked with restarting a new and improved atheistic human civilisation. Only, the two can’t quite usher in Lennon’s utopia, as the war on Earth follows them to the frontier planet.

Raised by Wolves review Richly imagined scifi allegory about parenting in the time of war and dogmatism

A still from Raised By Wolves

If the Mithraics deem the atheists to be lesser beings, the atheists share the same sentiment towards the Mithraics. If the Mithraics worship the god Sol, the atheists put their faith in a quantum computer called The Trust. One of the more intriguing character additions in the second season, the Trust is meant to bring order to the human colony on Kepler 22b and play the role of a puppeteer until it is convinced a human leader can take over. But its methods to ensure peace and fairness are anything but peaceful or fair. The Trust can be considered an AI counterpart to the Old Testament God: a sovereign, harsh and despotic figure. It can ask Mother to teach the colony’s children one day, and put her on corporal punishment duty the next. It enslaves the Mithraics and forces them to wear explosive vests. For the Trust believes eliminating every trace of religion is not only necessary, but a moral requirement for the atheistic utopia it hopes to nurture. What it ends up nurturing however is a technocratic dystopia, where the religious and the irreligious vie for control and struggle to find middle-ground.

Atheism, in this case, proves to be just as morally compromised as the religion it rejects. The Trust starts to mirror the very thing it emphatically decries. Belief or disbelief, when overly dogmatic, exemplify the horseshoe theory. Because disbelief becomes its own kind of dogma. It’s these ideas that shape the horrors of Raised by Wolvesa show whose world comes alive through its impressive ensemble and production design.

Raised by Wolves review Richly imagined scifi allegory about parenting in the time of war and dogmatism

A still from Raised By Wolves

Season 1 begins with the grey-spandexed Mother and Father landing on Kepler 22b with a dozen human embryos, out of which only one, Campion (Winta McGrath), survives. The planet’s habitable but inhospitable desert landscape, its devolved native species, and a giant hole doesn’t make the parenting job any easier. When a spaceship with the last of the Mithraics arrives on the planet, a confrontation between the two factions proves inevitable. Season 2 sees the human colony relocate to a more forgiving tropical part of the planet. But better living conditions and all the exotic fruits of this new world can’t stop humans from giving into their combative nature.

Given how predictable humans can be, it’s the androids who make for the more fascinating character studies in Raised by Wolves, stilted dialogue and demeanour notwithstanding. Mother and Father are forced to make some tough moral choices that test the limits of their programming across the two seasons. “Belief in the unreal can comfort the human mind, but it also weakens it. The (new) civilization…will be built on humanity’s belief in itself, not an imagined deity,” asserts Mother in Season 1. But each new challenge forces the two to deal with situations even their sophisticated parenting databases could not have accounted for . Like the entropy catalysed by atheist couple Marcus/Caleb (Travis Fimmel) and Sue/Mary (Niamh Algar), who killed a Mithraic couple on Earth and assumed their identities to sneak into the Mithraic spaceship bound for the new world. On arriving, Marcus, plagued by messianic delusions of grandeur, starts to believe he is a prophet of Sol, putting him at odds with both Sue and Mother.

If Marcus seems to think he is a prophet, it’s because of a mysterious transmission emanating from the planet’s surface which he believes to be the voice of Sol. Cave paintings and relics around the planet indicate the existence of an entire civilisation that thrived and perished long before the arrival of the atheists and the Mithraics. At its core, Raised by Wolves is the Book of Genesis retold through the distorted lens of sci-fi. There is an Ark (the spaceship that brings the Mithraic to Kepler-22b), an Immaculate Conception, a tree of life, and a serpent to boot. This is also a world where androids bleed milk as they might in a Ridley Scott movie. Mother also happens to be a reprogrammed Necromancer whose eyes grant her the power to fly and make people explode with a single scream. Designed by the Mithraics as a WMD in the war against the atheists, she now flies around, arms spread out like Christ, directing her wrath on those who wish her children harm.

Raised by Wolves review Richly imagined scifi allegory about parenting in the time of war and dogmatism

A still from Raised By Wolves

Raised by Wolves is a reminder of large-scale sci-fi’s transportive draw. Once you are pulled in, you don’t want to let go. Which is why it’s such a pity HBO Max has pulled the plug on the show after only two seasons. Streamers are so quick to give up on good shows before they have had the chance to grow into something great. A fan campaign is already underway to save it. One hopes it finds a home on a new streamer (like Apple TV+) or a cable channel (like Syfy). If not a whole season, at least a feature-length coda should provide fans some measure of closure.

Both seasons of Raised by Wolves will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video from 18 August.

Prahlad Srihari is a film and music writer based in Bengaluru.

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