We’re in the second half of the season and what started as a really compelling new world now seems increasingly reliant on old motifs. Some of this I think is intended to be deliberate. Raised By Wolves is deeply interested in exploring how troubling it is that a whole new world, even one populated by androids, would still be shaped by anger, fear, jealousy, vengeance, and lust. And yet, in “Lost Paradise” we see yet again that the way in which these themes are explored just isn’t particularly innovative.
This can be seen in Mother’s relationship with her creator. Though she claims her primary directive is to do things for the good of the colony and her beloved children, she now spends hours every day escaping to the Mithraic machine that allows her to access and explore her old memories. Mother being drawn back to her own memories is a fascinating concept, but rather than allow us to puzzle with this choice, we instead get a cheesy romantic plotline with her creator, which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Why would an android develop such cliché romantic and sexual feelings? Did her creator program her that way? What is the role of her relationship with poor Father, who yearns to be useful, but can’t seem to keep up with Mother’s abilities? Does he have romantic and sexual feelings for Mother or does he just want to tell jokes all day? There are so many rich questions that come from this situation but Raised By Wolves keeps insisting on running viewers through an increasingly complex web of plot points, rather than allowing us to just experience this strange world and understand each character and their choices.
I want to be clear that the acting (save the ridiculously cheesy sex scenes) is actually quite good. We are just never given the time to actually stay in a moment with characters before some sort of disaster quickly takes us to another scene. We see this in the slow building confrontation between Mother and Father, where every time we are given the opportunity to sit with the complexity, we’re rapidly pulled away into another violent crisis situation. Another problem is repetition. At this point, Mother and Tempest have had a number of similar conversations about Tempest’s pregnancy and yet we’ve seen very little evolution in terms of what this means for either of their characters. Instead, the near hour-long episodes plod along with similar motifs that were intriguing for the first few episodes but now just seem bereft of humor, light, or even genuine intrigue.
What felt intriguing and foreboding in earlier episodes now feels mysterious without being particularly compelling. As Mother, Marcus, Sue, and Campion and the other children continue to rotate around the same motifs over and over again, the character who is the most interesting to me at this juncture is poor jilted Father. Let’s take a moment to celebrate Father, the character who worries the most about his usefulness but who is actually the most steadfast, reliable, and sensitive of everyone on this entire show. He’s not all-powerful, but the fact that he is more vulnerable than Mother makes his choices all the more meaningful. While Mother absconds to the skies, Father stays grounded on the planet they are trying to transform into some sort of home. His look of joy when he sees Paul’s trap and his look of disdain when Hunter mocks him are the closest this episode comes to feeling like flesh and blood, which is why it hurts so much to see Father betrayed by the children he cared for so resolutely.
The war between Mother and the Mithraic proves that she is stronger than Marcus suspected and that she won’t be giving up her family without a fight. Later, when Sue makes the decision to try and rescue the children without getting the appropriate signal from Marcus and his team, we see how she is operating on instincts that seems to run against the male-dominated power games that she sees playing out all around her. Still, it’s worth noting that Marcus is operating on his own kind of instinct too. When he sees that Sue was able to rescue Paul, he creates a bizarre plan that sends his beloved son onto the battlefield as a child soldier, an on-the-nose allusion to his own experiences as a boy.
In the final moments of the episode, we get a similarly sped-up series of plot points, as Paul quickly outwits Mother, who is frantically trying to save poor Father. When Mother chases after him to retrieve her eyes, Marcus come at her with an ax, and we watch as milk spews out of her body while she contorts on the ground in agony. He could have killed her, but hears some mysterious voices and decides not to, holding his son in his blood and milk-stained arms instead.
- I really liked that Paul figured out the puzzle so much faster than Campion! There is so much talk that Campion is special, when he is really just a normal little kid.
- I found Campion’s idea that everything has a soul, including Mother and Father, to be incredibly interesting and something I hope we come back to. It’s been kind of unclear where Campion’s beliefs about anything stem from.
- I really don’t understand Sue’s character at all. Why does she let Marcus run the show? What exactly is her backstory?
- The spirits are strong on this planet—lots of strange voices and ghosts of people who are already gone. If A.I. have souls (like Campion suggested) does that mean Mother and Father might not need their bodies to keep living on in this world?