If you have not watched the HBO Max sci-fi series Raised by Wolves, reading this article won’t spoil you about what happens in the Season 2 finale. Not because there aren’t spoilers—it’s filled with them!—but because truly, nothing on this show makes any sense out of context, and sometimes even in context. But not in that frustrating way of a series that is lumbering about trying to create mysteries to keep viewers interested; Raised by Wolves is a wholly unique, utterly insane show that draws us in not because of its mysteries, but because of the fullness and dynamic existence of the alien world it has created, and the compelling beings who inhabit it. It’s fascinating to explore rather than to solve. And a shortened Season 2 has been even more explosively captivating than before.
That said, I have about ten thousand questions after the Season 2 finale, “Happiness,” but I have whittled it down to seven. Hopefully the show will be renewed for Season 3, because if it’s not, I swear to Sol…
The veil has been lifted! And she should definitely put it back on! One of the best things about Raised by Wolves is not only the way it balances its treatment of believers versus nonbelievers, but also in the way that it makes us constantly question Mother/Lamia and her intentions. Grandmother has ancient tech that’s even more advanced than Mother or Father, and Mother’s immediate hostility to her seemed ill-advised, even cruel.
But once again, it seems like she Mother right; Grandmother is a master manipulator, and the veil she shared with Mother to destroy Snake God Eel Baby Number Seven trapped Mother right afterwards. And we still don’t know for certain if Number 7 was weaponized, beyond being jealous of Campion and throwing tantrums because its mom locked it up and won’t feed it milk or fruit. (Also, emotionless-Mother thrusting her hand into the Snake Baby’s eye to pull out its brain was beyond awful!)
What we do know is that Grandmother’s abilities are focused on an intersection of biology and technology; she was able to accelerate Tempest’s baby in its development, and also maybe gave it a webbing mutation. And crucially, as we learned in “Happiness,” the fish people in the acid sea were/are devolved humans—thanks to her. Grandmother explains that they are happier this way. To her credit, they don’t seem to be making weapons to destroy one another like the Earthlings love to do.
What’s fascinating and terrifying about this is that I do believe Grandmother and her commitment to her directive. She is programmed to bio-form humanity to allow them to survive any condition. Here, that means becoming fish people (which also doesn’t incur the wrath of Sol/The Entity… more on that in a moment). But that is a corruption of her purpose; as even she says, these “people” are still “technically” human, so it counts. But it’s entirely logic and math-based, it doesn’t take into account the lives being affected. As Raised by Wolves points out again and again, you can’t rely only on reason or only on emotion; there has been to an intersection.
Most important of all: Who initially decommissioned / destroyed Grandmother? And who made those scratch marks??
Ok maybe I should have led with this, because “Happiness” starts out in the wake of Campion’s faceless, murderous love interest android Vrille getting smoked by his jealous Snake-Storm God brother. Totally relatable.
But let’s also not forget about Paul, whose parents were killed and their faces were taken by two strangers who then became cultists. Then one of them turned into a tree and was eaten by the aforementioned Snake-Storm God. Oh, also his pet mouse was used to transform him into a lizard sack.
Tempest, of course, was raped and then handed her baby over to a fish person in the acid sea; now the baby is back and has immediately logged into a bio-forming gaming server. Holly sees her Mithraic friends all brutally murdered by Vrille. Vita… well, everyone’s trying to protect her from the truth, but she almost got herself turned into a tree. And now Campion is excited to be growing some scales so he can interact more with the acid sea! Rise fish people, rise! (Hunter seems ok, aside from the fact that he’s living on Kepler-22b in general.)
One of the most interesting things about these kids, though, was in seeing their hard-lined belief systems (in either direction) become softened and questioned throughout the early episodes of the season, and how they were able to discuss (calmly, rationally, yet still emotionally) those beliefs. With everything else happening, that was set aside in the later episodes, but it’s still a driving factor going forward I’m sure, especially because in the end, everything seems to come back to two disparate human societies trying to out-weapon each other for dominance. Unless they are turned into fish people, of course.
Or really, what even is “The Entity”? Is it Sol? It definitely seems to know about and engage with Mithraic artifacts and relics, and it specifically manipulates believers into some truly deranged acts. Grandmother has stated that it will be appeased only if the remaining humans become Fish People and go into the acid sea. Why? And is that related at all to the more violent werewolf-esque beings we saw in Season 1?
Here’s what we do know: “Sol/The Entity” (which I will call Sol for the sake of clarity from here on out) impregnated Mother with the Snake-Storm God Baby. It also made Sue become a “tree of knowledge” for said Snake Baby to eat and immediately evolve. But… for what purpose? To eradicate humans from its surface?
Further, why did The Trust want to turn Paul and the others into a lizard sack? Is The Trust actually related to Sol somehow? Or is it in competition just like on Earth? Grandmother seems to be anti-Sol, and yet, she wants to turn people into fish. So are those directives actually in concert with one another? Is everyone just trying to get humans into the sea??
We saw in the “video” that Father and Grandmother show the children (minus Vida) that the seeds cause you to violently and horrifically turn into a tree, and that surrounding that tree were the Snake Cult folks we saw in Season 1. So what is their role in this? And are humans in Kepler-22b essentially given two options: become a fish or a snake cultist to survive?
Grandmother tells Father that ignorance may not be bliss, but it does ensure survival. There was a lot going on in that seaside conversation, but the quiet reveal/confirmation that the mermen that we’ve seen are devolved humans (which is probably also true of the were-people we saw in Season 1) was key. There’s something very powerful in this show about the transfer of energy; consider how Marcus had that tooth on him that resurrected a desiccated were-person. Grandmother, too, seems to be able to mutate humans almost instantly and… through videogames?
One of the wildest pivots Raised by Wolves made in “Happiness” was that too much gaming can devolve you into a fish person. But a happy fish person, I guess? And can they reproduce like that, or are they struggling—which is why one of them followed Tempest around and wanted her baby so badly?
The fish people don’t seem to be violent, Mother just made that call immediately when they started hanging around. So what are they up to in the sea these days? Hopefully Season 3 will reveal more.
To return to an earlier point about Sol/The Entity, the Snake Cult seems connected to it somehow. We learned in “Happiness” that Sol is likely in the core of the planet, and “hardwires” into the surface through the trees and such. So what is the cult’s role in this? It seems like Sol doesn’t want humans on the surface for whatever reason, so do they live in those giant holes somehow? And/or do they just make routine sacrifices to Sol / the Snake in order to be left alone?
The change in weather triggered by Mother’s galactic fight with her Snake Baby (who just wanted to nurse!) might force the humans who are left into the sea or into the holes/caves. Those seem, at the moment, like the only options—and Campion (the potential “chosen one,” the bridge between humans and tech) is currently all for the fish route!
Raised by Wolves’ resident Gaius Baltar / Rasputin has had a hell of a time this season. He went from a violent outsider who believed himself to be a savior (after stealing Mother’s eyes, which granted him some special protections while they were ingested), to kinda teaming up with Mother and, ultimately, turning his back on Sol. But Sol works in mysterious ways, and he wasn’t done with Marcus. Wildcard Lucius took up the brief mantle of The New Savior and crucified Marcus upside down on the tree that was formerly Sue / formerly digested / formerly the Snake Baby.
There are so many Biblical allusions in this show, but I’m not sure how many of them (if any) are to be taken as gospel (ha!) when it comes to how Raised by Wolves is telling its story. It could just be using the ancient creation archetype or even Genesis as a baseline on which to build something new, even though the upside down crucifixion calls back to the wishes of St. Peter the Apostle (although there is, er, a twist here that is decidedly not Biblical). Lucius was instructed to kill Marcus and put the Mithraic helmet on him so he would die in darkness, but it seems to have helped in resurrect. The episode ended then with Marcus floating upside down, still in his cross position, dripping blood on Lucius. This fucking show!!!
Now, couple of questions. Firstly, why would The Trust be using the Punisher Mask for its own punishments if it’s a Mithraic relic? (The people The Trust controlled were also quick to start worshipping a new idol, weren’t they?) And what powers does it possess? Further, what the hell even is Marcus now? Is he some kind of inverted necromancer? Or is he Sol’s answer to Mother? Why did Sol/The Entity want this? To destroy the remaining humans more effectively? Or just the believers? Or just the atheists??
I’ve written almost 2,000 words about this crazy show here, and at some point must rest. “Emotions expend so much energy,” after all, even though I somehow spent zero time talking about my favorite character, Father. I am very invested in him finding happiness! But whatever it all means in the end, I just hope we get the honor of spending more time in this bizarre, incredible world.
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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