RAISED BY WOLVES subverts expectations with a brilliantly intelligent second season

After what felt like a lengthy break, Raised by Wolves picks up where the cliffhanger ending of season 1 left us – stranded in the tropical zone with a wild serpent roaming the skies. With plenty more secrets about Keppler-22b’s history waiting to be uncovered, this season delves deeper into the wider lore and answers lingering questions with even more questions.

Not only does the opening of this season catch us back up with our favourite characters, it introduces us to an entire civilisation of Atheists who’ve settled into the tropical zone of Keppler-22b aboard an arc controlled entirely by an AI known as The Trust. With all of these new introductions and the setup of brand new storylines, this season starts off on a much more focused note than the previous one ended. It’s laying the groundwork for more big narratives, and thus, some mysteries of the previous season aren’t really delved further into until the latter half of this season. I largely enjoyed these early moments, since it’s clearly all building to something quite grand in scale, but the refocusing to new plot elements took a bit of adjusting to. It moves very slow with not a lot of advancement in the early episodes, and aside from a couple of notable reveals – it doesn’t begin really making great story leaps until the 4th episode. These early episodes are still very much in line with the tone of the series, sticking well within the realm of intelligent sci-fi, but the 4th episode marks a shift in the season which propels the narrative forward for almost every character.

From there, the season only gets better and better – ramping up the pace, introducing awesome horror elements, enhancing the tension, revealing compelling secrets, and building towards a finale that may in fact be the best episode of the entire series to date! I literally cannot talk about the specifics of the entire latter half of this season because EVERYTHING is a spoiler – but know that I was awestruck by everything going on. I may not have had any clue ‘why’ certain things were happening, but the way every character’s narrative evolves going into these latter episodes made for some thrilling, memorable moments. All of the high-concept sci-fi elements that are teased early on come to a head in what is a brilliant sequence of events – culminating in that phenomenal finale. The scope and scale of the series expands tenfold, a far cry from where it began with a couple of androids raising a few innocent children. What I love is that it doesn’t dumb anything down for its audience – it trusts in the intelligence of its viewers to pick up all the little cues without being force-fed explanations.

One thing that has remained consistent throughout the entire series is its overall aesthetic. The first season was very obviously inspired by the likes of Alien (1979) and Prometheus (2012), especially since Ridley Scott himself established that look by directing the first 2 episodes. Those visuals largely carry through in this season, though the new environment the characters find themselves in does allow the show to create more of its own unique look. Speaking of the visuals, I noticed upon the third episode that some of the special effects seemed like they were lacking in comparison to the first season. There’s a few shots of landscapes in the tropical zone that look a little off, while some early shots of the serpent look a little unfinished. It may be that they used the majority of their visual effects budget on a certain element towards the end of the season, which looks incredible, or they were just pressed for time. I’ll clarify that the visual effects are mostly still fantastic – it’s just a few moments that aren’t as crisp as they could have been.

Meanwhile, the dark and ominous (yet slightly hopeful) tone is even more evident in this season. I mentioned there’s a few episodes that feel like they’re ripped straight out of a sci-fi horror film – and they’re absolutely awesome to watch. It enhances the depth of the series by weaving in more sub-genres, while keeping it rooted in high-concept sci-fi. Even more prevalent in this season is the score, helmed by Marc Streitenfeld – who fittingly also composed the music for Prometheus. The score in here enhances the tension in every single scene phenomenally well, giving off a distinctly eerie vibe that locks you in.

I really want to credit the show’s creator Aaron Guzikowski, who seems to be executing the vision he has for this large-scale narrative impeccably well. This is very clearly a story that can’t be told in 2 seasons, and he’s doing an incredible job to keep things intriguing and always have you wanting more. The way it seems he’s crafted every little detail of this story has the wonderful effect of later episodes improving those that came before it. For instance, the last 2-3 episodes of this season are so breathtaking – with the final episode reaching a huge climax – that they actually improve the earlier episodes that were spent setting up this payoff. It’s just a sign of incredible writing and a clear vision on his part.

This season does come with the introduction of an assortment of new characters, but none of them are focused on enough to really make an impact. The only notable new addition, who I loved, I can’t even talk about since it’s a spoiler. However, the characters we know from the first season all play a part in quite big ways – with each one having a meaningful place in the narrative. From tracking Marcus (Travis Fimmel) and his religious journey following Sol, to Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father’s (Abubakar Salim) continued protection of their kids, every character’s journey has a good amount of emotion, thrills and chills to keep things engaging. It jumps around between each narrative so frequently that it never puts you in the position of wishing you were following someone else. On top of that, it feels like everyone’s journey is linked in some way, so by following one character you’re also furthering another character’s story.

The performances behind the roles are what really bring life to the people. As with the first season, Amanda Collin and Abubakar Salim are fantastic as Mother and Father, respectively. The emotion they bring to the series is incredible, especially considering they’re not portraying humans. Their dynamics with each other, their kids and with other members of the Atheist colony is endlessly entertaining. They are our protagonists, so we see the world through them and root for them in every moment due to their likeable (and at times questionable) qualities. Travis Fimmel is even better in this season than he was in the first. He really sells the complete dedication and love the character has for Sol, to where you’re thoroughly invested in his journey despite being the villain of the show. Niamh Algar plays Sue, and she’s grown on me from the first season. I found myself caring about the character more after a couple of brilliantly well-acted scenes from her. Speaking of growing on me, Winta McGrath is much better in this season as Campion. Last season I thought the youngster was just okay, but he’s definitely grown into the role this time around, with much more for him to do.

In the end, Raised by Wolves delivers a stellar second season that builds on the first in some ways, while also falling below the mark in others. The latter half of this season is some of the best content to date, while the consistency of the first season is what sets it apart. The narrative goes in so many unexpected directions that anything I try to elaborate on is considered a spoiler. It takes a couple of episodes to really take off, but once it does, it builds and builds to a thrilling conclusion. Fans of the first season and anyone after another dose of high-concept intelligent sci-fi should absolutely check out this season. Assuming the series continues, the possibilities of where the narrative could go are exciting!

9/10

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