Raised By Wolves episode 1 proves a highly watchable introduction to a new sci-fi epic with some lofty ideas.
This recap of Raised by Wolves season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.
Raised By Wolves episode 1 begins in the way you’d expect a lofty Ridley Scott-produced science-fiction saga to begin — with two androids crash-landing on a barren planet in a craft that looks a bit like an electric razor. Well… perhaps not that second bit. But androids are very Ridley. They’re arriving on the depleted Kepler-22b with the mandate to seed life, which they accomplish by hooking Mother up to some wires in a fancy pop-up tent and growing frozen embryos in little tanks of goo.
There are twelve of the tykes. Well, eleven, technically, since the last one out is stillborn, but despite their programming dictating that he should be broken down and fed to the others, Mother wants to nurse him. When she cries, so does the baby — the boy who lived proves that perhaps fistfuls of wiring don’t prohibit the presence of a soul, even if Mother and Father would both tell you otherwise. That’s the hook of Raised By Wolves, and it starts here, in one of the first scenes of the first episode.
As the kids grow up, most of them die. A voiceover extols the virtues of Mother and Father, and laments the cruelty and indifference of the world, as the kids fall in the planet’s giant pits and succumb to disease one by one. Soon, only two remain. Then, just the one — Campion. He’s raised on a strict diet of natural produce and staunch atheism: “We will never advance unless you resist the urge to seek solace in fantasy,” Mother tells him, in amongst history lessons of how the androids were spirited away by atheists losing a religious war to zealots known as the Mithraic.
But all Campion has ever known is a loss, and each trauma he experiences pushes him closer to faith, despite Mother’s creepy and misguided attempts to imitate his sister’s face and voice for comfort. That ability to take on another form is a surprise to her — it’s the first, but won’t be the last, as she explores the capabilities of her programming. She has no choice but to do so since the Mithraic are orbiting the planet in the Ark of Heaven, a vessel full of humanity’s surviving remnants. With both Mother and Father due to break down — Mother has already started oozing white goo from her nose — the Mithraic represent Campion’s only chance of salvation, so Father attempts to make contact by descending into one of the planet’s many deep holes, where they left their ship. After losing one of the kids to this deadly fissure, the androids invented a fiction about deadly serpents that live down there, to keep the others away. This is the first lie Campion catches them in. Again, it won’t be the last.
Now, we’re told, the war is over; Campion will be taken in, even if he’ll have to pretend to ascribe to the Mithraic’s beliefs. It’s the only way he’ll be safe. But Mother has other ideas. She dreams of herself encased in bronze, swooping over a battlefield, which inspires her. When Father tells her of his plan to contact the Mithraic, she loses it. They fight and she impales him on the bones of some ancient indigenous creature. She burrows a hand into his abdomen and plucks his gooey processor out.
Naturally, she lies about this to Campion, who’s suspicious enough about her story to go down the hole during the night and contact the Mithraic himself. When he returns he finds mother asleep in a field of bones and lays with her until they’re both woken in the morning by men, led by Marcus, who received their signal. Representatives of the Ark and dressed like Templar Knights, they eat with Mother and Campion and graciously ask to stay the night. She acquiesces, obviously fuming, or at least as close to fuming as an android can get. In private, the men, having deduced Mother is an android, plan to take Campion by force, believing he might be their elusive prophet.
This, it turns out, is a bad idea, since Mother isn’t exactly the low-end model they think she is, and when they try and subdue her she melts their faces with a banshee scream. Marcus is able to escape as she takes flight, arms outstretched, in the same form she dreamed of herself embodying. Throwing him from his own craft, though leaving him alive, she pilots it up and into space, taking his form to bypass security, and then docking on the Ark of Heaven, where she proceeds to splatter everyone in a gloriously gory sequence that Raised by Wolves episode 1 spent most of its runtime building towards.
With most of its crew dead, Mother puts the Ark on a collision course with the planet. But on her way out she sees the Ark’s children, and can’t resist the instinct to take a few with her. She arrives back on Kepler-22b with five of them, as the Ark plunges into the planet’s surface in a shower of light and fire.
Hey, nobody said parenting was easy.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.