The Daily Stream: Raised By Wolves Will Fill The Prometheus-Shaped Hole In Your Chest... Er, Heart

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Series: "Raised by Wolves"

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max

The Pitch: The Ridley Scott-directed "Alien" movie prequel "Prometheus" stars Michael Fassbender as the android David, a Peter O'Toole stan who decides to experiment on the human crew members of the titular scientific space vessel by slipping a mysterious black goo into their drinks and seeing what happens. It ... does not end well. David would evolve into more of a proper antagonist in the sequel, "Alien: Covenant," giving Fassbender the chance to do his own fingering (no, I am not going to elaborate on that for those who haven't seen "Covenant") in his dual roles as David and a new android known as Walter.

After "Covenant" barely broke even at the box office and Disney bought Fox's media assets, Scott's third "Alien" prequel movie was pushed to the back-burner. It has since been outright dropped in favor of a new "Alien" film directed by Fede Alvarez ("Don't Breathe"), along with a series set in the "Alien" universe from "Fargo" TV show creator Noah Hawley. But what if I told you there was already a newer project that Scott had worked on about relatable, messy androids wrestling with the flaws instilled upon them by their human creators — one that also reveals the secret connection between people on Earth and an ancient alien civilization on a distant world, à la "Prometheus?" Yes, I'm talking about "Raised by Wolves."

Why it's essential viewing

Created and show-run by "Prisoners" and "Papillon" writer Aaron Guzikowski, "Raised by Wolves" is a cheery pick-me-up in the same vein as his earlier work. That is to say, it takes place in a desolate future where Earth has been laid to ruin after years of war between two major factions of humanity: Those who practice Mithraism (a fictional version of the real-life Roman mystery religion that centers on a deity known as Sol) and those who identify as atheists. Needing a new place to call home, the survivors travel to Keppler-22b, a planet located hundreds of light-years away from Earth.

All that grim backstory aside, the show really centers on Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim), a pair of androids tasked with caring for and raising a group of human children as atheists on Keppler-22b. Much like David in "Prometheus" and David and Walter in "Covenant," Mother and Father act as the POV characters for "Raised by Wolves." That, in turn, means they're more complex and compelling than the non-androids around them, with much of their internal conflict coming from their struggles to reconcile their desire to become more human-like with their programmed need to do what's best for their kids and the rest of human-kind.

As much as this dilemma comes right out of the Asimov school of sci-fi, "Raised by Wolves" gives it a fresh spin by adding complicating factors to its leads' backstory (like Mother being a reprogrammed version of a military droid known as a Necromancer) and granting them endearing personality quirks (like Father's habit of telling wonderfully bad Dad Jokes). Collin and Salim similarly bring a lot of nuance to the pair with their performances. They tend to play Mother and Father's emotions as either a little too big or a little too subtle in reactions shots or when delivering a line. It makes it all the easier to believe these are two beings who are still getting the hang of these newfangled human emotions and how they even work.

Praise Sol!

Scott, who's among the show's executive producers, established the look of "Raised by Wolves" by directing its first two episodes with his trusty cinematographer Dariusz Wolski. Season 1 brings "Prometheus" to mind with its muted palette, which goes heavy on the blues and blacks to realize Keppler-22b's starker, monster-infested regions. It serves up its share of gnarly body horror and/or birth-related imagery along the way, including one that gives the C-section scene from "Prometheus" a run for its money. Wisely, the series opens up visually in season 2 by shifting the action to the planet's Tropical Zone, a sun-drenched, lush realm of trippy fruits and acidic oceans populated by sea creatures that recall the Trench from "Aquaman." Even so, season 2 hits just as hard on the horrors of parenthood motifs (motherhood in particular) as season 1 while upping the body count, throwing in even more bizarre monsters, and doubling down on the religious iconography.

The downside to this is "Raised by Wolves" has many of the same qualities that make Scott's "Alien" prequels so polarizing. Be it humans who lack interiority or agency (which the show improves on over time), the excessively brutal moments involving women, or the doom-and-gloom mood, this isn't a series for those who found "Prometheus" and "Covenant" overly portentous. You also shouldn't watch "Raised by Wolves" if you prefer shows that unravel their mysteries at a snappy pace. The series raises plenty of questions to hook you in, from the mysterious link between Mithraism and the entities who once resided on Keppler-22b to the source of the "voice" that Marcus (Travis Fimmel) hears in his head. (Who's Marcus? To put it simply, I've deliberately avoided talking about him and his partner Sue since their sub-plot is best left un-spoiled ahead of time.) But when it comes to answering them? It's getting there, but definitely don't hold your breath.

It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)

"Raised by Wolves" tackles the "nature vs. nurture" debate head-on, examining just how much sentient beings (human, android, or other) are capable of free will and how much of their identities are the result of "programming," be it in a figurative or literal sense. Yet, for as heavily as it deals in existential dilemmas and religious allegories, for me personally, the show's appeal lies more in the vibes than anything else. It's the weirdness of the alien world that Guzikowski, Scott, and their creative team have imagined that draws me in, as ominous and bleak as it can be. There's just comfort to be had in watching Mother and especially poor Father (who's subjected to Charlie Brown-levels of suffering as the series progresses) carry on as determined as ever, no matter how bad things get. When you're digging the company, it's also easier not to care when the show drags its feet about explaining what's even going on and just appreciate the ride.

Even the "Raised by Wolves" opening credits theme, which was written by the Icelandic composer Ben Frost and Swedish musician Mariam Wallentin (who also performs it), is about capturing an emotion more than telling a story. The song just feels like you'd imagine the end of the world would, tapping into the contradictory forces of existence with lyrics that speak of "longing" graves that pull you from the sky, "just like love will do." It's the same deal as with "Prometheus" and "Covenant": You will either be down with all the moodiness and pontificating about life, the universe, and everything (that and murder-bots, snake-babies, and god-level entities that get off on being agents of chaos) or you'll be left scratching your head at those who are enjoying the buzz. Praise Sol, indeed.