Raised by Wolves Season 2 Unpacks the Mithraic Mysteries

HBO Max sci-fi series Raised by Wolves is set to answer some questions and raise some more in its second season.

Amanda Collin as Mother in Raised by Wolves season 2
Photo: HBO Max

HBO Max series Raised by Wolves has one of sci-fi television’s most compelling titles.

When it first premiered on WarnerMedia’s new streamer in 2020, the Ridley Scott-directed epic not only shared its name with a half-decent U2 song, but it also raised all sorts of interesting questions. Who are the wolves? Are they the androids dubbed Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim) who are charged with keeping a small group of children safe on a foreign planet? Or are they the two warring factions – atheists and Mithraics – whose war stole a happy future from generations to come? 

Also: is being raised by wolves even a bad thing? It certainly worked out decently for Romulus and Remus, the mythical siblings who suckled a she-wolf and founded Rome. Though perhaps that’s not the greatest example as Romulus and Remus factor prominently on Wikipedia’s “fratricide” page.

In any case, Raised by Wolves is set to delve deeper into the mysteries of its title when the first two episodes of season 2 premiere Thursday, Feb. 3 on HBO Max. According to series creator Aaron Guzikowski, the show’s title is just as apt as ever.

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“Obviously the application is broader now in terms of the wolves, as it were,” Guzikowski tells Den of Geek. “It’s gone beyond parents and children. Now it’s also governing a society. Things are expanding in that sense though the theme is very much the same.”

Raised by Wolves’ first season was at times a confusing experience. Mother, Father, and their children’s lives on Kepler-22b was intensely alien – filled with unfamiliar foliage, terrain, and monsters. Paradoxically, season 2 simplifies things a bit by introducing even more characters. Mother, Father, Campion (Winta McGrath), and the rest of their young charges are now among Mother and Father’s preferred atheist faction, trying to build an existence in an inhospitable world. 

Though Mother speaks idyllically (and passionately) about her creator, the elder Campion, this group of atheists aren’t necessarily the sophisticated deep-thinkers the children have been led to believe. Even native atheist Sue (formerly Mary before she stole a Mithraic woman’s face and identity) has a difficult time blending in.

“The people who survived weren’t necessarily the smartest or most enlightened but the most ruthless – especially among the atheists,” Sue actress Niamh Algar says. “Unlike the Mithraic who were all nobles or wealthy people who could gain passage on the ark, the atheists are rough.” 

In addition to embedding with the atheists, Raised by Wolves continues to follow the story of the other half of the civil war that rocked Earth. The religion known as Mithraism was one of the more fascinating aspects of season 1. Mithraism is a real, yet defunct religious cult from Western history, dating back to the Roman mythical figure Mithras in the 1st Century CE. Followers of Mithras and the sun god Sol were known as pursuers of the Mithraic Mysteries. 

It’s unknown whether Raised by Wolves’ Earth is our own in the distant future when Mithraism overtook the other “big three” Abrahamic religions or an alternate version in which the Roman gods lasted into the technological era. Guzikowski says that the show will eventually address the nature of “Earthbound” Mithraism. In season two, however, it is more immediately concerned with the version that newly-enlightened prophet Marcus (Travis Fimmel) is developing. 

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“He is trying to get (Mithraism) to a more intimate, human place,” Guzikowski says. “As opposed to what was going on on Earth, which was more of a modern Catholicism with the pomp and circumstance and pageantry and all of the issues to do with power and hierarchy and all these things. We will get into it more but probably in more of Marcus’s version of it.”

Perhaps Marcus’s kinder, friendlier version of Mithraism would have avoided the Earth civil war and therefore the events of Raised by Wolves altogether. But I suspect the events of season 2 will bear out that humanity brought Earth’s wolves with us to Kepler-22b.

The first two episodes of Raised by Wolves season 2 premiere Thursday, Feb. 3 on HBO Max.