If you’ve been following HBO Max’s Raised by Wolves from the beginning then you’ll know that an off-the-charts insane finale was to be expected. After all, the show is indisputably completely batshit. But it also happens to be so in the best possible ways. As someone who isn’t often into hard sci-fi, I was riveted by the zigs and zags Raised by Wolves took from the onset. There was no predicting what came next. This is a show that introduced a whole fleet of human children raised by two android parents, and then killed all but one of them off in the premiere. It set up a pro-atheistic expectation and then subverted that immediately. The religious Mithraic weren’t anti-tech, they were so wildly pro-tech that they created the original Mother and gave her those necromancer powers of pure destruction. Let’s not forget that we also saw a full Face/Off scenario play out in Episode 2, have three possible prophesy-fulfilling characters to consider, and learned that space mullets are the couture of the future. And I haven’t even gotten to the ghost-robot-snake-baby!
Honestly, it’s hard to really think about anything else once you’ve seen the ghost-robot-snake baby. But it’s also something that the show dropped a lot of foreshadowing about. Aside from those we’ve seen land upon it, there doesn’t seem to be a lot happening on Kepler-22b in the now. But there are giant dinosaur snake bones, big holes, and hostile squawking creatures. There’s also a lot of radiation, an unstable weather system, and occasional people running around the fog in robes. There are cave paintings as well as pieces of old machines and tech strewn around, all of which point to prophecies. And yet, most of this has played out in the background. The story was seemingly about Mother and Father and the children, the atheists versus the Mithriac, and survival on this hostile planet. But as Father notes, there is a deep history to Kepler-22b that we do not yet know.
That history, turns out, seems very important moving forward. The season finale, “The Beginning,” suggests that all of the elements of this place are connected. The humans that have been there for a long time are devolving, and have likely become some of the creatures we see now. But there’s also a suggestion that there’s some kind of Snake Cult, one that can not only communicate with androids like Mother (and even, er, impregnate her), but also communicate with humans like Paul. Both Mother and Paul have received signs and symbols acting as heralds for what Mother believed was a human-android hybrid. Instead, it seems like it’s a snake-android hybrid.
One of the major sci-fi tropes that Raised by Wolves continues to subvert is our expectation of future tech and high-functioning androids as being atheistic. With both the Mithraic and the Snake Cult, tech is used as a form of worship. We don’t know what Sol is, for example, and it’s never really explained. Could it have, for example, nuclear origins? The series continues to play with the assumptions we bring to its story. The Snake Cult could appear primitive with its cave paintings, but one of those paintings actually moves. The metal plates Mother and Paul find are actually tech-driven tablets. Cult members (of the past or present, who knows?) are seemingly able to project themselves as the child who fell into the pit in Episode 1, Tally, to emotionally manipulate or endear themselves to the others. Or, they can project as the original Campion enough to get Mother’s defenses fully down. But to what end? Yes, to create a giant flying eel that feeds off of milk, plasma, and energy/radiation, sure, but, um, why?
Thankfully, Raised by Wolves has been renewed for a second season, so some of these questions may be answered then—but likely more will be raised. Who, for instance, were the people Marcus/Caleb kills in the end, and was that their ship flying above him? We know there are several landing sites all across the planet—are some of them atheists? And if so, whose side is Marcus/Caleb on now? (Besides his own, basically calling himself the King of the Planet and devolving into madness of course). Does Kepler-22b have its own good and evil players who are trying to control these travelers? Is Marcus/Caleb not the Chosen One, but the Devil? If so, does that make Campion the potential Savior? (And what of Paul, who apparently communes with some kind of truth-telling knowledge now? Is it tech, or divine? Both?) What’s up with that stone/fire hole? There’s also an argument to be made that the latent radiation is just making everyone totally nuts with hallucinations and delusions of grandeur.
Raised by Wolves sets up the premise that androids are our next evolution, appearing to investigate what a society ruled by their cold logic would create with eight impressionable humans. Normally the path taken here would be about what makes us human, and the show does often address what makes the androids and humans different or alike. And yet, that is clearly not the point of this story. In the end, even the androids are completely “what the fuck?” about the flying eel baby that is possibly part android. Basically, there’s more than just android or human, religious or atheist. As we’ve seen with all of the characters, there are natural predilections and variations that create an entire spectrum of personality and belief. And this flying eel god will rule them all. Or, er, something.
For now, all we know for sure is that Mother and Father have flown through the giant lava hole to the other side Kepler-22b with the ever-growing flying eel baby and left Kid Nation (plus Sue/Mary) on the other side. I can’t believe that’s a sentence I just wrote. I love it. I can’t wait for more. May Sol save us all.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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