What Exactly Is Ridley Scott's 'Raised by Wolves'?

The new HBO Max series is like 'Prometheus' meets 'Battlestar Galactica.'

raised by wolves

If you watched the trailer for Raised by Wolves, the Ridley Scott-produced sci-fi show that just premiered on HBO Max, you almost certainly wondered, "Okay, cool, but what is this... about?" The promotional material makes it out to be a story set on some desolate planet where a bunch of children live with their android parents on a mission to restart humanity after some unnamed catastrophe. It is both this, and not this -- that is, it's much more complex than you're led to believe. Here's what you need to know.

Note: If you don't want to know more about it before going in, I suggest you turn around now, go watch the first three episodes (which debuted September 3), and then come back here and see how I did.

The unnamed catastrophe that destroyed Earth was war

The show begins with two androids, who call themselves Father and Mother (played by Abubakar Salim and Amanda Collin), crash-landing on a deserted planet and setting up camp. Mother hooks itself up to a baby-growing machine and, nine months later, six very slimy babies are pulled out of containers of goo. The two androids profess to be programmed to raise them until the kids are old enough to restart humanity. Everything seems pretty straightforward -- and then we meet their enemies, a collective of people known as the Mithraic who arrive via an interstellar ark. We soon learn that the Mithraic happen to be the victors of the huge war that desolated Earth and forced humans to head into outer space forever or die along with their homeworld.

raised by wolves mother

Most of the kids we first meet are not the ones the show follows

Only one of the original six embryos -- a child named Campion (Winta McGrath) -- survives to episode two. Campion's "siblings" mysteriously get sick and die off one by one over approximately a decade, leaving young Campion with only his android caretakers when the Mithraic's ark arrives. Bereft at losing her other children and beginning to show signs of malfunctioning, Mother kills two members of a Mithraic landing party and sneaks aboard the ark on a stealth mission to destroy the ship and kidnap the enemy's children. It is these children, brought by Mother to the planet below, who are "raised by wolves."

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It's actually about religion

The two androids have been programmed by the "atheists," one of Earth's warring factions, to raise the children without religion, presumably to prevent conflicting religious beliefs from leading to war in the future. The Mithraic, by contrast, worship a sun god named Sol, which you definitely know because they have a large sun emblazoned on all their clothing. While we meet a few of Mithraics, garbed in white tunics and space armor that makes them look like cosmic Crusaders, in the first few episodes, we don't know yet what the atheist humans looked like, if they even survived Earth's destruction. Conflict arises between the androids when Father suggests that they hand Campion over to the Mithraic, who seem to be the winning survivors of the war, because they're at least human like their young charge, but Mother's atheistic programming compels her to try to destroy her non-secular "enemies," steal their children, and raise them in accordance with her own beliefs.

It's sort of an(other) Alien prequel? 

The first two episodes were directed by Ridley Scott, who is also one of the show's executive producer, and, yes, the androids bleed milk when they're injured -- basically a Ridley Scott staple at this point. Raised by Wolves is in no way directly tied to anything having to do with Alien or its sequels, but it's very funny to see this trademark in something utterly disconnected from his other work. It does have a very Prometheus-like interest in the robots' characters, rounding them out even better than the human ones. The show was actually created by Aaron Guzikowski, who, most famously, wrote the script for the 2013 Denis Villeneuve thriller Prisoners.

There's a lot of SUPER-GROSS EYE STUFF

Mother is not originally a service android; she's actually technology, called a "Necromancer," that the atheists stole from the Mithraic and that gives her the power to levitate and kill people sonically via high-pitched screaming. Her power seems to reside in her robot eyes, which she removes after rediscovering what she is, thinking to protect her children from herself. She doesn't destroy the eyes, though, and convinces Father to let her simply hide them, in case she needs to use them again to defend their home. I wonder if she'll put them back in one day. I really wonder!

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.