Raised by Wolves
The most impressive part of Raised by Wolves Season 2 is the way in which, at times, it is able to cast off the shackles of Ridders-brand science fiction and transform itself into something truly strange, boasting imagery that only ups the ante of the first and suggests the untamed psyches of Miyazaki or Jodorowsky. The least impressive part is also its most catnip quality; the show insistently pursues Lost mystery boxes, week after week, dispensing with one before setting up another (thought that snake was where it was at? Guess again). Will Raised by Wolves win a third season, or will it become HBO’s latest example of a Carnivale?
One has to assume too that the moral-relativist positions of the series’ characters, flipping from “good” to “bad” to somewhere in between on what seems like an episode-by-episode basis, is an expressly intentional one, designed to imprison the viewer in the same non-binary thinking that is at the heart of its overtly transhumanist doctrine. We’ve seen this “ethic” evolving in the TV realm, probably since at least the heyday of Joss Whedon; it was certainly bread and butter for Damon Lindelof on Lost.
These impulses run in tandem in Raised by Wolves, designed to inform one another and create a comprehensive blurring of allegiance. The one thing – so far – we can count on is that religious faith is misplaced, that it’s the gold of fools and will mislead any so inveigled (even AI, as happens to Mother with her pregnancy, having put her faith in her “creator” through their virtual sex act).
The “signs pointing the way” element here is very similar to Lost, with a constant emphasis on unearthing, on discovery and revelation (both material and spiritual); should it ever get that far, though, I don’t somehow think Raised by Wolves will end with the weak swill of a church reunion afterlife. Rather, the Entity, at least as far as producer Jon Krelper is concerned, is the architect and demiurge of the realm. But it is also, as noted in my Season 1 review, the Ahrimanic force, one that alchemises spiritual language and signposts to its own ultimately deceptive ends. Now, it could be that show’s creator Aaron Guzilowski plans some curveballs, but nothing about it, or Scott’s historic work (including Exodus: Gods and Kings, to a degree), suggests he will invoke anything more than an ancient astronauts/Engineers approach to the force steering the planet.
Whether that element is destined to tie into humankind’s origins is up for debate – particularly since we’ve seen such causal patterns a lot, from the Alien series, to Battlestar Galactica, to Planet of the Apes – but in a show such as this, where startling revelation is in its DNA, it would almost be one if there wasn’t something planned as a fundamental, bedrock statement. Indeed, this is exactly the kind of show to “reveal” that mankind, further still than the brain being no more than a biocomputer, is itself an advanced replicant and so has no spiritual high ground on the lowly android.
Certainly, that message comes across loud and clear through the inconsistencies – or express divergences – of android behaviour and reactions to the same. As noted of Season 1, their human/non-human capacities are generally whatever suits the writers at the time. Which is to say, it suits the show and Scott’s game plan to present AI as just like us, if not better. Androids have even been established as emotional to the degree that they need shielding to protect them from impaired judgement (also, obviously, a comment intended to reflect the tolls parenthood inflicts on the average human).
Stressing the inter-android divisions further underlines this, of devoted Father in relation to conflicted Mother, and of new addition Grandmother (Selina Jones), twisting her equation to allow for a satisfying answer (the question of why, given humans are protected, or were, from the Entity’s EM influence, she needed to proceed with her previous, self-designated remit, has been raised by other commentators, but projected long-term outcomes presumably factor in, or Guzikowski hoped no one would notice).
Notably, her solution, of triggering devolution through diet and technology, is exactly the one Elites are perpetrating with an eventual goal of Gnostic Luciferian/transhumanist attainment (ensuring our reliance on tech while degrading the body’s defences through processed and nutrient-deficient food). Grandmother’s imprisonment of Lamia at the end of 2.8: Happiness also echoes David’s Luciferian AI gone bad at the end of Alien: Covenant, spelling out Daniels’ fate.
Campion: They’re as trustworthy as humans. And if you want to keep being my friend, you better show them some respect and treat them as equals.
Thus, Grandmother is established as “not as good” – for the moment – as Mother and Father; her intentions are not as pure, are misguided at best. However, as arch proponent – and the character who appears to be set up as the guiding principle, on the basis that he is “different” in sensibility, and at times no one else can relate to his clarity of vision – Campion informs us, “Androids are why you’re alive”. Further still, “Androids can change, just like human beings”; Campion is the empathic transhumanist, and his language and behaviour throughout are keyed to affording the AI respect and equal status. This extends to his feelings for psycho child android Vrille (Morgan Santo; further to noting “Winta” McGrath last season, Morgan is an intergender name, like that of her human “love interest”). She is programmed with the memories of a deceased human counterpart and exhibits all the symptoms of trauma-based mind control (“My mother broke my neck once”). As Hunter (Ethan Hazzard) notes: “You got Campion crushing on a murder machine”.
Campion: You have a soul.
Vrille: I do?
Campion: Yes. I can sense it in you.
Campion is not a believer, but he grasps at a fundamental precept of belief/faith: the existence of the soul. Consequently, he either perceives or projects this onto Vrille (one idea conjectured with regard to the transhumanist vision, beyond merely controlling the means of reproduction, is to limit the capacities of any soul incarnating into that body; such incarnation could be further limited if prospective souls had no choice but to incarnate in a synthetic one. It’s been further suggested that, in Ahrimanic and Steiner/anthroposophical terms – Steiner having at very least been allowed a platform by the Elite, and so quite possibly engaged in some degree of programming – the antichrist may be materialised as an AI, since Ahriman is conceptually all about materialism and such a “being” might neatly fit the bill**).
Mother: I don’t understand. Why would you choose to love a machine?
Even Mother blanches at Campion’s feelings for Vrille, but she has already encountered the causal factor in her AI-sex assignation the previous season. Such prospective robot love is further mooted between Father and Grandmother (as well as the chosen names implying synthetic incest); it isn’t simply dismissed as something outside of the android sphere (so it would presumably be in sim form, also the designated way for humans in due course).
Mother: It’s very easy to become confused when you’ve been reprogrammed.
Tamerlane: I’m not a fucking android.
Mother: Of course not, but you see, humans can be reprogrammed just as easily, if not more so. Simple redirection, conditioning. Repetition.
Analogising and interchanging human and AI definitions is also found during the interrogation of atheist Tamerlane, happy to do the Trust’s bidding and somewhat bereft without it. This is perhaps the clearest statement of what is going on in Raised by Wolves; while the language (“humans can be reprogrammed”) immediately conjures MKUltra, itself based on perceiving the mind as a biocomputer (and so ripe for transhumanist augmentation), the extrapolation is that both organic and synthetic are readily pliable, whether this is with “lies” about God or emotional prioritisation (for children).
Indeed, the clearest example of blurring comes with Mother. She’s an insane robot with a rictus smile, but we’re conditioned to accept her as “good”, much more so than beta-male-with-muscles Father. She is the divine feminine as saviour figure, the alpha fe-male (or androgyne) adopting the Christ pose as she delivers (Old Testament) fire and brimstone. She is also prey to “righteous” rage, with which we, in a kneejerk way, are supposed to empathise. She will protect her children through murder, violence and destruction.
“You used my children as pawns” she states to the Trust, before switching it off. Yet as far as AIs go, the Trust is the only one to show responses consistent with the utilitarian principles – as opposed to emotive, plot-supportive ones that, Star Trek style, require the needs of the few to come first – one would expect for preserving a settlement. Further still, Mother’s actions are repeatedly shown to be based on false premises and flawed or rash reasoning.
Even Father, whose devotion to the children has been undistorted by prevailing factors, is side-tracked by his quest for knowledge and unseemly jealousies. Absolutely, it’s a nasty thing that the Trust nearly kills Paul, but it appears/appeared to have greater insights into the planet and the imminent dangers of Marcus’ Sol worship (dangers borne out) that escaped everyone else. Which leads to the question of what it knew about the Punisher mask, and how it was aware of the planetary pathogen (that it failed to account for the dangers of Mother shows less circumspection).
The transformation or transmogrification of the human is an ongoing part of the show. On the face of it, there are conflicting processes at work here. If the Entity is Raised by Wolves’ demiurge equivalent, then the snake – associated with Luciferian enlightenment – as its spawn, cannot be. And that it does not yield such a becoming appears to suggest imagery employed, rather than an expressly correspondent designation. It is the AI (Grandmother) that is responsible for arresting humans’ development, and further still, regressing it, but that does not, by process of association, mean that the Entity intends the equal and opposite (the impression one gets is of manipulation designed to achieve a goal that may or may not involve humans but is more about what it wants than what it wants for them).
Mother: I don’t understand how a human could beat you in a fight.
So humans are regressing, and humans are also transforming (into a tree); Sue/Mary turns out to be less a Mary Sue than a fridged wife. Marcus, meanwhile, develops superpowers, briefly. How exactly the “dark photon energy” of Mother’s eyes will do that to a human is anyone’s guess – it’s magic! – but it adds to Raised by Wolves’ transhumanist aura.
Mother: You’re not as strong as you think.
Marcus: None of us are, robot.
Marcus’ arc this season is somewhat erratic. It fits Fimmel’s whirrs-and-ticks performance (his ideal character would surely be Brad Pitt’s Jeffrey Goines in 12 Monkeys) but is at times disconcerting. I mean, yes, his wife turned into a tree – suggestive of Daphne in Greek myths, transformed into a laurel tree, as well as, less illustriously, Gary Cady’s Luke Ward in Doctor Who’s The Mark of the Rani, complete with expressive branch – but his instantaneous loss of faith feels like it derives from a necessity to sprint to the end of the season (the parallels with Mother’s sense of betrayal by the Trust are obvious).
Sue: What you are saying isn’t very far from what Marcus was preaching.
Mother: Then I’m sure you’re not understanding at least one of us.
As I reeled my way through Season 2, I increasingly wondered if the sheer welter of esoterica was designed to give the middle finger – much as the headless droid does to Father – to those who’d like to shape a coherent reading. The snake is a nice-guy/reptile herbivore until it isn’t? Is it only weaponised when the Entity has its way with it? Even if that’s the case, its recent inception was designed by the Entity, and its yen for the fruit seems very much symbiotic and instinctive. By the end of the season, we’re left wondering if the snake was even necessary at all. Or does the Entity (and Aaron Guzilowski) come with a host of readily-discarded contingencies? Like Damon Lindelof.
Certainly, the apparent transformation of Marcus into a vassal for the Entity, via a magic helmet and impromptu crucifixion – on the tree that grew out of serpent that ate the tree that came from Sue who opened the dodecahedron the Entity built – is remarkably resourceful on its part (the dodecahedron represents the element of ether, the invisible element of space, and also the third eye and the power of intuitive thought. Plato used it as the quintessence to describe the cosmos).
There’s a swaggering degree of visual punch to that finale. The upside-down crucifixion instantly evokes the belief some held in Saint Peter’s mode of death (refusing to die upright, because he felt himself unworthy), but also recalls Conan the Barbarian crucified on the tree of woe. And obviously, it references Jesus on a tree. That Marcus is upside down in the Christ pose is a direct inversion – and an inversion of the transhuman saviour, the inverted (sexually) Mother/Lamia.
The mythical Lamia had the body of woman, and also serpentine qualities, but preyed on humans and sucked the blood of children; originally – and clearly this is where Mother is most indebted to that myth – she also had removable eyes and a facility for shapeshifting, courtesy of Zeus. Plus, her madness was driven by the loss of her children. In some versions, she was mother of serpentine Scylla. She’s associated with Hecate too (necromancy). The season cliffhanger inversion also echoes an earlier instance in 2.2: Seven, where Marcus holds up a starfish; it forms an inverted pentacle as he looks through it.
Sue: But this wasn’t God, Paul. This was something real. Like some sort of alien transmission.
Paul: What’s the difference between God and an alien?
Sue: Well, one’s fantasy and one’s an unknown.
Which brings us back round; steeped in esoteric imagery, Raised by Wolves is sure to end up back in the court of scientism for its answers. As Sue alludes above. Probably its greatest strength is that it avoids tangential subplots. The only real offender has been Tempest and her baby, and even that yielded some truly odd/disturbing scenes, such as the devolved sea human snatching away her child, and then, later, suckling it to her teat; Tempest implicitly approves this as the only appropriate destiny of a child born through rape. Where to leave it that the man, Hunter, says no to this, and Tempest is later set right by tending her baby again, is anyone’s guess. Raised by Wolves is nothing if not elusive in motive for some of its choices.
The performances are not, perhaps, the series’ crowning achievement. Collin and Salim serve their characters dutifully, but that in itself is often distracting/bewildering. Fimmel’s a law unto himself. The kids are expectedly variable, but their failings are equally those of writing. Jaimeson’s performance as Pau is more compelling than McGrath’s as Campion. The latter spent the previous season as an intergender surrogate for Mad Men’s Sally Draper. Now he’s grown up into Haley Joel Osment by way of Ben Platt.
Will there be a Raised by Wolves Season 3 (more still the schematised 4 and 5)? Since that would take us to somewhere to the region of 2026, I wouldn’t bet on it*. Although, they might cook the entire thing up in a sim for whatever version of Hollywood is operating at that point. While it broadly seems on board with the progressive programme, if maybe a little too idiosyncratic for some tastes, I suspect that, ironically, it wouldn’t take too much to redirect the ship entirely. If the series does last that long, Sir Ridders will be knocking ninety. Something definitely transhuman in those genes.
First published by Now in Full Color on 12/05/22.
*Addendum 05/09/22: Raised by Wolves has, alas, been cancelled.
**Addendum (26/10/22): It seems Steiner made Ahriman up, whether knowingly or inadvertently. Or his take on Ahriman, at any rate. Who was, anyway, made up. Whereas Satan and Lucifer…