I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to know if Peak TV has been a net positive, but here’s one thing that is becoming truer season after season of content that we keep missing out on: We’re seeing productions that would’ve never been greenlit if this model was about short-term returns.
One such case is Raised by Wolves, created by Aaron Guzikowski (writer of Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners) and produced by Ridley Scott. I haven’t rewatched it since last its premiere in 2020, so I am not sure if I can confidently say if this is a great series. But what I can say is that when a concept is this original and this creative, I am more than willing to give it at least three seasons of chances.
The premise, if you haven’t gotten around to watching it, is that two androids arrive to a habitable exoplanet planet to give birth and raise humanity from scratch, as Earth has been consumed by a global war between militant atheists and followers of the Mithraic God. This mission was dispatched by the former, but they weren’t the only ones. The story starts 12 years later, with only one surviving child (the robots weren’t very good at things like “perimeter fencing” or “packing ingredients for antibiotics”) and the arrival of Mithraic refugees. Also, the Mother android is actually a reprogrammed weapon of mass destruction, there are uncontacted, semi-intelligent beasts, ancient alien artifacts, prophecies that might be true, the cybernetic ghosts of mad scientists, and militant atheists stealing the identities of their counterparts to get on that ship. Including stealing their literal faces. And then raising the original’s son.
It’s weird, it’s unsettling (the Mother/Necromancer might be the most terrifying creature I’ve seen in media in the last decade), it’s full of obscure references, and I bought it hook, line, and sinker. It doesn’t hurt that the production values are stunning and the alien planet actually looks alien. Sure, they went for a mostly desertic location on season one, but the second has the characters in another, tropical side of the planet. It also doesn’t hurt that I’m wholly into Proto-Indo European religions, like the Mithraic cults.
This trailer shows us more of the alien planet, references to Genesis (flying snake, children eating a foreign fruit), what seems like a Road Warrior-style human culture, Travis Fimmel chewing all of the scenery in his role as a maniac prophet, weird humanoid skeletons, and people screaming in horror while consumed by extraterrestrial substances. Awesome stuff.
I hope they have a clear endgame in sight, learning lessons from the Most Improved showrunner/writer of the Century, Damon Lindelof. Still, I just love that we can have all these weird, big-budget sci-fi series that would’ve never gone into production as films.
Bonus Track: BIGBUG Trailer, by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Speaking of weird, big-budget sci-fi movies, Netflix released the trailer for BIGBUG, from the director of Amélie, set in a futuristic France where humans are tended to by robots, which of course go haywire and trap humanity inside their smart-homes. The whole thing looks as if it had been dipped in acid of the hallucinogenic kind and of the satirical one too. Filmed during Covid, this looks like both a parable and a sci-fi comedy of manners. It already looks more interesting than the later seasons of Black Mirror.
Raised by Wolves Season 2 streams February 3 on HBO Max. BIGBUG premieres February 11 on Netflix.
Image sources (in order of posting): HBO Max, Warner Media