Review: Raised by Wolves squanders early promise with clumsy, bizarre finale

Amanda Collin stars as Mother in <em>Raised by Wolves</em>: a deadly Android reprogrammed to raise human children on the virgin planet Kepler-22b to establish an atheist civilization.

Enlarge / Amanda Collin stars as Mother in Raised by Wolves: a deadly Android reprogrammed to raise human children on the virgin planet Kepler-22b to establish an atheist civilization. (credit: HBO Max)

A pair of androids struggle to raise human children on a hostile planet in Raised by Wolves, the new sci-fi series that just concluded its first season on HBO Max. In this era of bankable franchises, reboots, and adaptations, it was refreshing to see something so original and visionary hit the small screen, and we had high hopes for the series.

That hope was sadly misplaced. Granted, in its earlier episodes, Raised by Wolves is moody, atmospheric, strangely disquieting, and thought-provoking, with gorgeous cinematography. So it’s especially maddening that the show squanders all that considerable promise with a clunky, incoherent finale featuring a hackneyed, ham-fisted, totally unnecessary twist that left us seriously questioning whether we even want to tune in for a second season.

(Spoilers below, but all major reveals about the finale—because WTAF?—are below the gallery and we’ll give a heads up when we get there.)

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Review: NOS4A2’s second season is a satisfying, genuinely scary horror story

A young mother must overcome her personal demons to save her son from a psychic vampire in the second season of horror drama NOS4A2 (pronounced “Nosferatu”), an adaptation of the 2013 novel of the same name by Joe Hill. (Hill is having a banner year between this and the successful Netflix adaptation of Locke and Key). While the otherwise compelling first season dragged in places—mostly when it was weighed down a bit by the need to build out the fictional world—S2 wastes no time kicking off the action. NOS4A2 rarely lets up over its newest ten episodes.

(Spoilers for S1 below. Mostly mild spoilers for S2 until after the final gallery. We’ll give you a heads up when we get there.)

As we’ve reported previously, the novel is about a woman named Vic McQueen with a gift for finding lost things. She’s one of a rare group of people known as “strong creatives,” capable of tearing through the fabric that separates the physical world from the world of thought and imagination (their personal “inscapes”) with the help of a talisman-like object dubbed a “knife.” For Vic, her knife is her motorcycle; for a troubled young woman named Maggie, it’s a bag of Scrabble tiles. And for psychic “vampire”/child abductor Charlie Manx, it’s a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith, which seems to have a mind of its own.

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Review: fierce and fun Warrior Nun is a perfect Fourth of July binge-watch

A young woman gains extraordinary powers when a divine artifact is accidentally embedded in her back, and finds herself reluctantly battling demons on Earth in Warrior Nun, a new Netflix series based on the comic books by Ben Dunn. It sounds like a cheesy premise, but this adaptation is anything but. It’s a fiercely fun, entertaining, occasionally thought-provoking series that will have you hooked and eager for a second season.

(Mild spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

As we previously reported, the first issue in Dunn’s manga-style comic book series, “Warrior Nun Areala,” debuted in 1994. The series largely features Sister Shannon Masters, a modern-day crusader for the Catholic Church’s (fictional) Order of the Cruciform Sword. In the series mythology, the Order dates back to 1066, when a young Valkyrie woman named Auria converted to Christianity. Renamed Areala, she selects a new avatar every generation to carry on her mission of battling the agents of hell. Sister Shannon is the Chosen One. It’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer got religion.

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Review: Airplane passengers must outrace a killer sun in Into the Night

Series creator Jason George based the new Netflix series Into the Night on a 2015 Polish science fiction novel.

The glorious sight of the sun’s rays peeking over the horizon as it rises has inspired mankind for millennia. But what if the sun brought death, literally killing people where they stand? That’s the premise behind the pulse-pounding Belgian science fiction drama, Into the Night, that recently debuted on Netflix. It’s a fast-paced, engrossing, and enormously entertaining series that will definitely leave you wanting more.

(Some spoilers below, mostly for the novel.)

The series is based on a 2015 novel called The Old Axolotl, by the visionary Polish science fiction writer Jacek Dukaj, who has been compared to his compatriot, Stanislaw Lem. The novel exists entirely in digital format, designed to be read solely on tablets, smartphones, e-readers, and computers. While most e-books simply recreate the printed text in an electronic medium, Dukaj designed his novel to be something more.

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Review: Killing Eve returns with a solid S3 premiere and an unexpected loss

Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer return for third season of BBC America’s Killing Eve.

The sexually charged cat-and-mouse game between a serial killer and an MI6 agent picks up anew in the S3 premiere of Killing Eve, as Jodie Comer’s Villanelle and Sandra Oh’s titular Eve regroup from the fallout of their last brutal encounter. There’s probably only so much drama you can milk out of their dysfunctional obsession with each other after this season, but judging by the premiere episode, we’re in for another wild ride.

(Spoilers for first two seasons below; mild spoilers for first S3 episode.)

Based on Luke Jennings’ series of thriller novellas, Codename Villanelle, Killing Eve features a self-described psychopathic killer for hire named Villanelle (Comer), who is so good at her job that she frankly starts to be a bit reckless with her assassinations, much to the consternation of her handler, Konstantin (Kim Bodnia). Her string of corpses catches the attention of an MI5 officer named Eve Polastri (Oh), who is obsessed with female killers and correctly guesses there is a new player among their ranks. Eve’s insight earns her a spot on a top-secret MI6 team led by Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw).

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Review: elegiac Star Trek: Picard brings all the feels in bittersweet finale

Nobody can deliver lines with Shakespearean gravitas and comforting emotional resonance like Patrick Stewart, which is why the actor—and his famous Star Trek character, Jean-Luc Picard—remain so beloved in the franchise. He gives yet another sublime performance in the new CBS All Access series, Star Trek: Picard, anchoring the larger-than-life stakes of the broader narrative with his intensely personal portrayal of a grief-stricken, disillusioned retired Starfleet admiral who feels the world he once dominated has passed him by.

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

As Ars’ Kate Cox noted in her review of the pilot episode, the events of 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis “are the plot and emotional scaffolding over which the initial episode of Picard is draped”—most notably, Data sacrificing his life to save the rest of the Enterprise crew. Honestly, that loss drives the entire season, along with 2009’s Star Trek film reboot of the franchise.

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Westworld S3, episode 2: Back in the game, breaking parks again

You better watch out, because she's back in the game.

Enlarge / You better watch out, because she’s back in the game. (credit: HBO)

This piece contains heavy spoilers for Westworld season three, episodes one and two. You probably won’t want to read it unless you’re caught up.

Every premiere episode of Westworld has had to introduce (and re-introduce) viewers to the rules of the world, and last week’s episode was no exception—the show had to cram a lot of information into an hour of runtime to make sure we all start the season on the same page. This week’s episode, by contrast, spends a lot of time in old familiar places—and with old familiar faces, too.

More than anything else, this is a workmanlike episode—it doesn’t wash us down with a firehose of revelations, but it covers its ground efficiently. There are symbolism and neat visuals to dissect here, too, but that stuff needs to wait a couple more weeks—we need a few more reveals to happen first. (As a brief aside, discussing single episodes of a foreshadowing-heavy show like Westworld when I’ve already seen half the season is a hell of a lot harder than I thought it would be. I’ve got a new respect for folks who do this kind of writing on the regular, since it involves a hell of a lot of compartmentalization!)

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