Raised by Wolves, Part 4 – Weird Getting Weirder (Season 1 Episodes 8 & 9)

S1E8 “Mass” / S1E9 “Umbilical”

Raised by Wolves - Vita, Tempest, Campion, and Paul huddle around Mother protectively

The following contains spoilers through Raised by Wolves Episode 9 on HBO Max.

Welcome back, dear reader, as we continue to review HBO Max’s Raised by Wolves with Episodes 8 and 9. For once, I’m actually glad these two episodes were released together. Because Episode 8 was almost too much for me. There’s weird (androids having sex), and then there’s really weird (androids getting pregnant). Episode 9 brought things back around a little bit and at least attempted to give all the weirdness a little grounding in the show’s reality.

Overall, Episode 9 had a lot of payoff moments. Father is restored and Hunter is redeemed. All six of the children are reunited with Mother. Mary finally ditches the Mithraic, and the Mithraic finally ditch Caleb. And of course, there was that most satisfactory crunch as Chekov’s helmet finally went off. In fact, given the relatively positive uptick the show takes in Episode 9, I’m extremely worried about where things are going to go in Episode 10.

Tempest lies on the ground looking up with bits of gore splattered on her face
Tempest’s nightmare is over

Mother and Tempest

I think one of the best developing relationships on the show right now is the one between Mother and Tempest. At first, their dynamic was just that of a girl desperately needing a mother figure in her life. There was a hint that there could be more when Tempest turned around and started giving Mother relationship advice.

Now though, they have so much in common. Both were impregnated against their will—both in a simulation even. Mother’s situation might have seemed consensual, but she was clearly manipulated into the encounter. No different than having a date rape drug slipped into her drink. Mother now has to live her advice to Tempest and “feel positive” towards her baby, despite being furious at her attacker. Mother is even experiencing the same bizarre, ravenous behavior Tempest exhibited when she killed the creeper and ate its organs raw.

In interviews, show creator Aaron Guzikowski keeps referring to the fact that Mother and Father are growing up the same as the kids are. They are essentially teenagers trying to raise children. When Mother expresses emotion in front of Karl, he tells her there is no need to keep up the pretense of having actual emotions when there are no humans around. Mother says that she and Father often experience “impulses not dictated by programming.” They are developing true emotions, learning from the children just as much as the children are learning from them.

Now that Mother and Tempest are both going through the same experience, I wonder if their relationship will transition from mother-daughter to that of two best friends. I’d like that, I think.

Raised by Wolves - The clerics stand in the partially erected church looking at something in the distance
The clerics watch on as Marcus and Sue have a fight

Jesus Christ

So last article, I made a big deal about the fact that Mary exclaimed “Jesus Christ!” but I was at a loss as to what it could mean. A commenter named “Wilhelm” suggested that the Atheists could actually be descendants of the Christians. He points out that the names Mary and Caleb are both from the Christian Bible, as opposed to the Roman names of the Mithraic, like Marcus and Lucius. Mother and Father (representing Atheists) bury their dead with a headstone, Christian style, whereas the Mithraic burn theirs in a funeral pyre.

The official page for the show on HBO Max has a “character guide” that includes this revealing description of the Mithraic: “The Mithraic, a cult dedicated to the purification of the soul, becomes a predominant religion on Earth. As Mithraic begin taking control of all seven continents, an atheist army is formed to stop them and a Holy War breaks out for 49 years, rendering Earth uninhabitable.”

OK, so this isn’t an alternative timeline in which Mithraism won out over Christianity as the state religion of ancient Rome. This is merely set 125 years in the future, and Mithraism has somehow arisen and replaced all the religions in the world. Some vestiges of Christianity (and probably other religions) still exist in the language, such as Mary saying “what the hell?” as they escape the silo. Others were absorbed into Mithraism as it spread worldwide, such as the clerics insisting on “baptizing” Campion to purify his soul.

We finally have some hints as to how this came to be. Necromancers are powered by something called “dark photons.” This is apparently a fifth fundamental force of nature that was discovered encoded in the sacred scriptures of the Mithraic religion. In the real world, we have no scriptures for the Mithraic Mysteries. One of the features of these ancient mystery cults was that they did not write down their teachings. You had to be initiated into the cult to learn their doctrines.

So perhaps in the world of the series, Mithraic scriptures were discovered. They had this divine knowledge embedded that lent them the proof that no other religion has ever been able to produce. This allowed Mithraism to take foot and spread throughout the world. Even though they didn’t really understand dark photons, they were able to harness their discovery to create the necromancers. With those “weapons of mass destruction” in hand, they forcibly converted the rest of the world, until an Atheist resistance arose to fight back.

Caleb kneels with his head down, leaning on his walking stick in obvious frustration
It’s not easy being “your eminence”

Two Entities

Last week, I speculated a little bit about “the Entity” that drew Mother back into the simulation and had sex with her. At that time, he confessed to being the ghost child who drew her back to the simulation. Unbeknownst to Mother, the ghost child also seems to be trying to eliminate the children as competition for Mother’s attention. The ghost child really steps up the effort to kill Campion in particular, to the point where he calls her “evil.”

The Entity claimed that he was lonely, but now it’s looking more like he planned to use Mother all along. To him, the human children she is raising are not the Mission. The child growing in her is and has always been the Mission. Interestingly, the fetus seems to react negatively to Campion’s voice when he says “hello” to it (there was no such reaction when Vita says “hi baby”).

I also assumed the Voice of Sol was the Entity, based on the fact that it acts to protect Mother, telling Caleb not to kill her. It’s interesting though that this was the first time the Voice commanded someone to do something against what they were already inclined to do. Otho was already a child molester and Caleb badly wanted to kill Ambrose. When Otho was caught, Sol stopped talking to him. Now that Caleb is outed, will he also be abandoned? He’s so desperate for a sign that he’s practically in ecstasy when Campion burns the newly erected church down. (As signs go, I’d personally find that pretty wide open to interpretation.)

Paul also hears the Voice of Sol, instructing him to get rid of the metal tarot cards. These seem to have been left out in the open for Mother to find by the Other (the hooded figure who grabbed the cards from Marcus). Mother “scans” the card that seems to depict her and father with the children, and she’s taken into a vision of hooded monks standing around a dodecahedron-encased creature. No idea what the heck that was, but somehow seeing that vision triggers the blood flow to reverse into Otho and he is able to steal her strength.

So is the Other acting against the Entity? Is he trying to help Mother with the cards, or hurt her? The flow reversal could have been a reaction of the fetus, not Mother. The Voice of Sol would seem to be aligned against the Other, since it instructed Paul to get rid of the cards. It then gives Paul this happy, shiny message that Sol put that child in Mother, and the child is going to change everything. Sol is not evil, he’s trying to help them. Doesn’t hurt that he bribed Paul by giving him back his mouse.

It just feels like there are two warring factions here. Recall that at the end of her first viewing of her capture and reprogramming, simulated Campion turns and warns her that one of the children (Tempest, it turns out) is in danger. How can this be the same Entity that lured Father away from that very same danger?

Raised by Wolves - Hunter and Father are sitting side by side, Father looks out while Hunter looks towards Father
Hunter tries to fix “Pops”

Quick Takes

A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode:

  • There’s a great discussion thread on the Reddit group about the seven sets of symbols seen in the simulation floor. Worth a read through.
  • Reddit user u/TheBigLahey continues to expand their The Book of Enoch theory with new information from Episodes 6 and 7. This time including bits from Milton’s Paradise Lost (an obvious connection given the title of Episode 6) and the mythological tale of Romulus and Remus (which we brought up briefly last week).
  • The song Campion Sturges was whistling has finally been identified (maybe everyone knew this and I’m just now catching on) as “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” by The Andrews Sisters (1942). That has some interesting lyrics, starting with “I wrote my mother. I wrote my father. And now I’m writing you.” Could also be a bit of a nod to the serpent tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden.
  • I love the sincerity in Father’s “thank you” to Hunter after he is restored. Awww. The father-son relationship that is building between Hunter and “Pops” is equally heart-warming to Tempest and Mother.
  • So I was right, Father was tapping out Morse code. Not too hard to predict, I suppose, but no one could have predicted the message would be “Sol is the light.”
  • The Mithraic (religion) programmed Lamia to hate. Campion Sturges (atheism) reprogrammed her to love.
  • I wonder if Campion Sturges was aware the Mithraic were sending the Ark? He almost had to be, since even Atheist grunts like Caleb and Mary were aware. After all, he could have just sent two service models. Instead, he does something dangerous and really hard, reprogramming a Mithraic “weapon of mass destruction” as Mary put it. He knew the two groups would cross paths and that the Mithraic wouldn’t be content with bygones. This might even explain Mother destroying the Ark and nearly everyone aboard. Maybe Campion programmed her to go nuclear at the slightest sign of aggression from them. From the sounds of it, the Mithraic treated Atheists extremely bad. No Geneva Convention in this reality.
  • The song that plays when Mother and simulated Campion have sex is “Ombra mai fu” from Handel’s opera Serse. The aria is sung by King Xerces I of Persia admiring the shade cast by a plane tree. Which is interesting since just prior to this he tells Mother that she is light and humans are but shadows.
  • Given Mother’s mysterious “dark photon” energy thing, maybe she did pass something on to Campion when she revived him as a newborn. Otho was able to transfer Mother’s power into him, so that he was invulnerable to being stabbed and shot.
  • As the Other spied on Mother and Tempest making their way down to the metal tarot cards, he can be heard breathing. This would seem to poo-poo any notions that he is an android.
  • I loved Karl so much. I can’t believe Mother just killed him slowly like that.
  • As much as the idea of a pregnant android hurts my head, even worse was the notion of a “silicon tumor.” Ah, the hard sci-fi fan inside me just died.
  • On the companion podcast and in other interviews, Guzikowski has been comparing Father to a classic older model car or a solid Ford truck. They don’t make ‘em like they used to. He also promises a backstory for Father and hints that it will explain his fascination with humor.
  • Lucius made Caleb eat the necromancer eyes (I think both, but it’s hard to tell). What this says to me is that sometime in future seasons, another necromancer will arrive so that Mother can defeat it and take over its eyes.
  • The dodecahedron artifact in the desert emits thermal energy, just like the serpent pits.
Raised by Wolves - Mother lies on a table while Karl hangs from chains beside her
“I’m not a blood bag”

Best lines of Episode 8:

  • “Has the Ark landed yet?” “In a manner of speaking, yes.”
  • “I was thinking about our first date.” “That wasn’t a date, I was being tortured.”
  • “All the other prisoners…cracked. But not you. Not my Mary.”
  • “Ah. Without them it will be difficult to care for a thousand colonists.” “I don’t think they’ll be requiring much medical attention.”
  • “My partner and I sometimes suffer from…impulses not dictated by programming.”
  • “Humans often complain of suffering, but they also herald it.”
  • “You’re a necromancer. Your kind was always full of surprises.”
  • “I only know what I’ve been programmed to believe. But of course, same goes for you.”
  • “I’m acting more irrationally than a human.”
  • “Time to do some penance.”
  • “What you’re carrying inside you is the mission. It’s always been the mission. Campion and all the others were just a rehearsal. It was all to prepare you for this. The future of humanity is growing inside you.”
  • “So we don’t have to treat him like the way we treated Atheists on Earth?”

Best lines of Episode 9:

  • “No, we never met, but you know me.”
  • “An android, a black hole, and a glass of milk walk into a bar.”
  • “My sister Tally fell down a pit when we were small. When I was locked up in the silo, she came back and talked to me. And she was different. What’s the word? Evil.”
  • “I can’t believe something so big could actually fly. It must have been magnificent.”
  • “That’s beyond my understanding.”
  • “My programming has become unpredictable. It was just a precaution.”
  • “These remind me of the old tarot cards back on earth.” “Used by the devil cults before we purged their ranks.”
  • “I’m a doctor not a mechanic.”
  • “Though I wonder as an atheist if we have more in common than not.” “Don’t flatter yourself.”
  • “I understand that sometimes we must lie to spare the feelings of humans.”
  • “You seem to be a successful mother, if not a natural one.”
  • “I know that Sol is a lie. But suddenly I understood how when people that can’t believe their luck, they have to make up a god to thank for it.”
  • “What are you doing?” “I’m saving your baby.”
Raised by Wolves - Paul looks over at his father handling the mouse and staring intently at it
Paul is learning to be wary of his father

In The News

Here I try to point you to a few of the more interesting and informative news items over the last week related to Raised by Wolves:

  • Of course, the big news item this week is that Raised by Wolves has been renewed for a second season at HBO Max. Praise Sol! [Variety]
  • Amanda Collin has a lovely interview with In Creative Company where she discusses the process of making the show and the choices she made as an actor to bring the character of Mother to life.
  • TV Line selected Amanda Collin as the performer of the week for September 19.
  • This has been out for a little bit, but Stash interviewed the director of Studio AKA, the team that made the opening title sequence for the show. The article answers one question I had about the “death ray” that the necromancer shoots out of its eyes. This was apparently something Ridley Scott had them add after the fact, to “be bold.”
  • We now have a multimedia tie-in with the free (yes, free) release of an 8-page digital comic detailing a mini backstory for the show. In it, we find out a little more about how the Mithraic became the predominant religion on Earth, how the necromancers were created, and we find out that Mother and Father did indeed know the Mithraic ark ship would be arriving someday. Written in part by Aaron Guzikowski, I’d assume the information it reveals is canonical.
  • Stuck at Home has a long interview with Aaron Guzikowski that reveals a lot of interesting details. There’s also a decent Reddit discussion ongoing that breaks it all down.

That’s all for this week. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings about this week’s episodes, and any theories you have on what’s to come in the comments below. Remember that 25YL will provide continuing coverage of Raised by Wolves throughout Season 1 and beyond.

All images courtesy of HBO Max

Written by Brien Allen

Brien Allen is the last of the original crazy people who responded to this nutjob on Facebook wanting to start an online blog prior to Twin Peaks S3. Some of his other favorite shows have been Vr.5, Buffy, Lost, Stargate: Universe, The OA, and Counterpart. He's an OG BBSer, Trekkie, Blue Blaze Irregular, and former semi-professional improviser. He is also a staunch defender of putting two spaces after a period, but has been told to shut up and color.

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