Raised by Wolves review: “Happiness” is a disappointing finale

Raised By Wolves Season 2, Photograph by Coco Van Oppens/HBO Max
Raised By Wolves Season 2, Photograph by Coco Van Oppens/HBO Max /

We’re back with another review of Raised by Wolves. What happens with Mother and snake-baby’s showdown? Does Grandmother have any super secret plans? And is Marcus really joining forces with Mother and the Atheist collective? The finale of Raised by Wolves answered all these questions and more…but as usual, it gave us even more mysteries. There are some serious discussion points to hit this week, so let’s get right to it.

As always, there will be SPOILERS for this episode of Raised by Wolves. If you haven’t watched it, go do that. Because let’s be real, if you haven’t, discussing the events of the episode will sound like the mad ravings of someone on a bad acid trip.

Raised By Wolves Season 2, Photograph by Coco Van Oppens/HBO Max
Raised By Wolves Season 2, Photograph by Coco Van Oppens/HBO Max /

Raised by Wolves review: “Happiness”

After a season full of twists and turns, we’ve arrived at the finale of Raised by Wolves season 2. On a show like this, which is reminiscent of Lost in that it is just constantly introducing new mysteries, my biggest fear is always that it won’t be able to tie them all together in a satisfying way.

Unfortunately, “Happiness” only made that fear worse. The episode doesn’t quite fall flat, but it’s pretty underwhelming. In many ways, it almost feels like last week’s episode, “Feeding,” was the biggest moment of the season, and the finale was just a scramble to tie off…well, not any loose ends, but at least one major plotline.

The episode largely revolves around Mother’s (Amanda Collin) final showdown with snake-baby, and the fallout that follows. After hatching a plan last episode to transplant Grandmother’s veil to Mother to confuse her caregiving protocols enough so that she can kill her serpent child, Mother finally has the means to end the scaly threat.

I was a little frustrated that there wasn’t more actual debate about this. What is it about the veil that confuses Mother’s protocols only for Number Seven? Why wouldn’t it affect her other children? Grandmother obviously had some hidden agenda here, and while I can appreciate the fact that the episode ran with that idea, I wish it didn’t happen because these very intelligent androids forgot to ask some very simple questions. No one is anywhere near skeptical enough, except for maybe Marcus (Travis Fimmel).

Nonetheless, the transplant goes through and Mother flies off to fight Number Seven, who is chasing Campion (Winta McGrath) through the forests and fields of Kepler-22b. Like the lack of conversation around the veil, there’s just something that feels way too contrived about this. Like, Campion really outran an enormous flying serpent for…what, hours? Minutes? It’s not clear how long Campion was running, but it’s long enough that it requires a serious suspension of disbelief. If the serpent really wanted to kill him, he should have been dead. And if it didn’t, that needed to be clearer.

Before snake-baby can hone in on its human half brother, Mother appears and lures it up into outer space. The visuals here are pretty impressive, if not quite as jaw-dropping as the serpent’s initial weaponization last episode. What happens next is classic Raised by Wolves. In its final moments, the serpent attempts to suckle on Mother’s robot teats with its long, weird tongue, but has no luck since she had those feeding ducts sealed shut earlier in the season. As serpent baby wails at the injustice of it all, Mother blasts it with her voice. Then she flies down to where it’s lying nearly dead on the ground, plunges her hand through its eye, and pulls out part of its brain. (I think?)

It’s a brutal end…in large part because it makes the whole serpent plotline feel pretty pointless. The fact that Mother gave birth to this serpent was one of the largest twists of the entire show; it felt like something that should have had a bit more of a long game purpose. Instead, she just murders it and we’re left scratching our heads about the why of it all.

Later we find out that after the serpent died a tree popped up out of its body. It’s not made totally clear, but that tree is probably what destabilizes the Tropical Zone by the end of the episode and allows Sol’s signal to reach the humans who were previously safe there.

Raised By Wolves Season 2, Photograph by Coco Van Oppens/HBO Max
Raised By Wolves Season 2, Photograph by Coco Van Oppens/HBO Max /

Grandmother’s long con

The other main thread in “Happiness” revolves around the newly unveiled android Grandmother (Selina Jones). After giving Mother her veil, Grandmother goes to help Father (Abubakar Salim) watch over the children. It was clear to me from the outset that Grandmother had plans and we weren’t going to like them.

Of all the season finale’s twists and turns, the eventual reveal of what Grandmother was up to was my favorite. It turns out that she was at least partially responsible for the devolving of the humans that once lived on Kepler-22b, and now that she’s loose, she’s tricking the humans of the colony into repeating that cycle. Because I guess if there are no humans on the planet, only the sea creatures they eventually turn into, Sol goes back to sleep. It’s a crazy twist which Mother realizes too late. As the veil grows into a cocoon and traps her, Grandmother places Mother in a simulated Mithraic temple, essentially trapping her in stasis. Their final scene together is great, and both Collin and Jones turn in suburb performances. Jones especially needs a shoutout; this was her first episode without the veil and she really killed it.

However, I did have some issues. Grandmother’s way to devolve humans is with…a new video game? Which everyone is just dying to play, because they’re all bored from only having one video game in the colony this whole time? That twist made me facepalm.

The game looks like a bunch of swirling miasmas being projected into the air. Campion sits in front of it, does something incomprehensible, and then proclaims the game is fun. I wish the show had conveyed a bit better what the actual game is, because this was one of the few moments where the special effects just totally fell flat for me. And that’s looking past the wacky premise that Grandmother is devolving humans…with video games.

All that aside, the ultimate twist that Grandmother is devolving humans to save humans (by turning them into sea creatures, and thus making them immune to Sol) is a good (if weird) one. I was glad that we at least got that particular mystery solved.

Raised By Wolves Season 2, Photograph by Coco Van Oppens/HBO Max
Raised By Wolves Season 2, Photograph by Coco Van Oppens/HBO Max /

Marcus becomes an upside down robot

There’s one other plot threat that we need to talk about. After his surrogate son Paul (Felix Jamieson) figures out that Sol’s signal is coming from the middle of the planet, Marcus decides that he’s going to go to the pit at the Mithraic temple where his followers were massacred and go down to confront the alien deity. I really appreciated the holographic chart that Paul is studying, which basically explained that the tree of knowledge acted as a hardwire to Sol’s signal. Therefore, when the serpent ate the tree, Sol was able to beam its signal directly into it, weaponizing it. Previously, the Tropical Zone was cut off from Sol’s signal, so the whole tree thing was a very roundabout way of circumventing that.

But if the tree of knowledge was really just a stop gap measure in order to allow the serpent to weaponize inside the Tropical Zone, why were there all these prophecies and stuff about it? What in particular makes the serpent being weaponized there matter in the first place? Just because it’s the last part of the planet that Sol can’t reach? The fact that humans and the serpent ended up there felt like anything but a guarantee, so it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Anyway, Marcus goes back to the temple but is shot and captured by Lucius (Matias Varela). With the other tree that popped out of snake-baby’s corpse disrupting the electro magnetic frequency that protected the Tropical Zone, Sol is able to speak to Lucius and corrupt him. He crucifies Marcus to the tree, upside down, and pulls the torturer mask over his head. Apparently Sol dictated that Marcus must die in darkness, and it’s pretty dark inside that mask. Obviously it’s a set up for some twist.

But I have to admit, when the twist came it kind of made me laugh out loud. The finale ends with Lucius realizing Marcus has suddenly vanished from the tree while his back was turned. Droplets of blood rain down on him, causing him to look up…where he sees Marcus floating in an upside down Jesus pose. I hope Raised by Wolves gets a season 3 so we can find out what the hell that was about.

My theory is that the helmet and that particular death caused Marcus to turn into an android like Grandmother. No, don’t ask me to explain the science. But biotechnology has been a recurring theme this season, with Grandmother being “regrown” and the various trees. We don’t know how the original androids were made on Kepler-22b, and I have a feeling we might have just seen it.

Raised by Bullet Points

  • “I don’t understand, why would you choose to love a machine?” Mother asks Campion, referring to his now-dead android crush Vrille. Campion stares at Mother for a long moment that makes the irony clear, since he was raised by an android. If Freud were alive, Raised by Wolves would be his favorite show.
  • Tempest’s back and forth with the baby has started to really irritate me. She is constantly flip-flopping between not wanting anything to do with it and caring for it, and while the show might be trying to convey the complex emotions she has for this child who was created by a horrific rape, at this point it’s just making Tempest’s character feel inconsistent. The show doesn’t need to ditch that conflict altogether, but at the very least I hope it feels more intentional in season 3.
  • Also, of course the baby has a webbed hand, a mutation Hunter believes is from drinking sea monster milk. Because obviously drinking sea monster milk is not a thing human babies are supposed to do.
  • The season ends with the Tropical Zone being destabilized and becoming covered in snow. I like that Raised by Wolves has transitioned to a different type of setting each season, and while I’m sad to see the Tropical Zone go, the show does a good job of depicting humans struggling to survive in a bleaker environment. Color me intrigued for where we go next.

The verdict

While there were plenty of good things about the season 2 finale of Raised by Wolves, like Selina Jones’ full debut as Grandmother and the handful of longstanding questions we got answered, I felt this was one of the more disappointing episodes of the show’s entire run. Number Seven’s death felt abrupt and pointless, and the fact that Grandmother wants to devolve humans using video games felt totally out of place. Considering that the finale of season 1 was one of the most shocking episodes of the series (it was when we found out Mother wasn’t pregnant with a baby, but with a snake-baby), I had high expectations going into this one. Unfortunately, “Happiness” didn’t quite live up to them.

As a whole though, season 2 of Raised by Wolves was a solid step forward for the series and I did enjoy it. Despite my issues with the finale, I hope the show gets a third season so that more of these mysteries can be explored.

Episode grade: C+

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