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The Ending Of Raised By Wolves Season 2 Explained

The eighth and final episode of HBO's "Raised by Wolves" Season 2 premiered on March 17, leaving audiences with as many questions as answers, and revealing a narrative focus slightly more specific than Season 1. Created by Aaron Guzikowski, the series boasts "Alien" director Ridley Scott as one of its Executive Producers, and it's difficult not to see shades of the Sigourney Weaver-piloted films in the series' recurring themes and character dynamics. This is particularly true of the show's sophomore season, which takes Season 1's straightforward exploration of "nature vs nurture" and "programming vs instinct" with regard to what it means to be human, and weaves in ever more complex questions about humanity's inevitable limitations and surprising capacities.

Season 1 followed androids "Mother" and "Father" (Amanda Collin and Abubakar Salim) as they struggled in their objective to raise human children on an inhospitable planet in the wake of a war between scientific zealots and religious zealots (the Atheists and the Mithraic, respectively) that left Earth uninhabitable. When a ship of Mithraic human survivors lands on the planet — led by "Vikings" star Travis Fimmel as Marcus — their peaceful if difficult existence takes a violent turn. 

In Season 2, Mother, Father, and their newfound children and allies are taken in by the technocratic Colony, a commune of humans living on the tropical side of the planet who take their orders from artificial intelligence. Elsewhere on the planet, Marcus attempts to rally and claim new converts, until it's revealed that the Mithraic "God" Sol is actually a malevolent entity sending an electromagnetic signal into the ears of Believers. In short, the symbolism of Season 2 isn't meant to be subtle, and yet, its finale still comes as a bit of a surprise. 

Mothers abound in Raised by Wolves Season 2

Like "Alien" and its numerous sequels, the theme of motherhood runs rampant in "Raised by Wolves." Importantly, not a single one of the series' various mothers have a straightforward or traditional relationship with their offspring (or creations, as is often the case). 

As an android, Mother didn't, biologically speaking, give birth to her last remaining "birth son," Campion (Winta McGrath). And the Serpent, aka #7, that she does deliver is a biotechnical hybrid implanted in her by a mysterious biomechanical entity. As for Sue (Niamh Algar), she obtains her son Paul (Felix Jamieson) after killing his actual mother (Kim Engelbrecht) and stealing her identity, while Decima's "daughter" Vrille (Morgan Santo) is actually an android she programmed to mimic her long-deceased human daughter. 

Tempest (Jordan Loughran) was indeed pregnant and gave birth to a child, but as she was impregnated against her will, her maternal instinct is understandably interrupted and complicated by the reminder of her trauma. Finally, the android that predates Mother — whom Father discovers, reboots, and names "Grandmother" (Selina Jones) — was originally programmed to ensure the survival of the human race, but, unlike Mother, she was wired to do so without emotion. Thus, her "caregiving program" doesn't allow her to see those in her charge as her "children" the way Mother's does.

In addition to offering up this litany of upper- and lower-case mothers, the series repeatedly foregrounds the dynamic between Creator and Creation — an allegory for motherhood around which much of the season and its finale revolve.

Raised by Wolves Season 2 explores the meaning and importance of creating

In a strangely heartbreaking moment of Season 2, Mother is forced to kill the one child she actually carried — or, believed she carried — and gave birth to on her own, when the formerly-vegetarian #7 (in a fit of sibling jealously over Campion) feeds on The Tree of Knowledge (a biological weapon) and becomes a weapon of mass destruction. In Season 1, Mother's envy for the pregnant Tempest was palpable, and her pain over the realization that she'd never be, as she says, "a creator," only "a creation," was surprisingly human. 

Rationally, the viewer knows that Mother is a robot, but her human appearance and displays of emotions force the audience to question that definition, just as they're forced to question, in Season 2, how being able to create factors into that definition. Mother's creator was human. The A.I. that runs the technocratic Colony was created by a human, and when Father figures out how to reboot the ancient android he discovered, he feels for the first time the rush of being a creator. Finally, the religion the Mithraic built was created by humans, born of the human need to believe that we, too, are here as the result of a benevolent creator. And in the season finale, the series reveals what it has to say about the difference between man and machine, using the man-made Grandmother as a vehicle. 

In Episode 8, Grandmother's agenda is revealed

When Mother's caregiving program prevents her from being able to kill her weaponized serpent child, Grandmother suggests she borrow her sensory deprivation veil. Temporarily devoid of the emotions she was given and learned to develop over time, Mother is able to see her birth child as nothing but an objective threat to her human children and to her mission to ensure the survival of their species. Grandmother appears to be on Mother's and the children's sides and even helps the android parents to understand what took place on the planet prior to their arrival. 

According to Grandmother, the conflict between one side and another is inevitable when it comes to human beings — their insatiable need to create (be it a religion, a society, or a technology) will always lead to the creation of ever more destructive weapons as they race to defend said creation from the unavoidable opposition. Already, the viewer learns, the planet has seen its human inhabitants devolve into the amphibious creatures that live in the acid water ocean that surrounds the Colony. Of course, what Grandmother fails to tell Mother and Father is that she played a pretty major role in that devolution.

Grandmother is all about 'the spotless mind'

Thanks to Grandmother's lack of human emotion, she's able to approach the problem of ensuring the survival of the human race in a very pragmatic, soulless way. Rather than attempt to protect or teach humanity, she simply accelerates their devolution. "I have always believed," she tells Father, "that it is happiness, and not knowledge, that is most important to a human being's everlasting life." While she acknowledges that ignorance isn't quite "bliss," she does believe it's a necessary element — a key one, even — to survival. Father argues that "the development of one's mind" is "the key to a life well-lived," but the logic-driven Grandmother's objective is not to ensure that humanity's life is lived well — only that it is lived

The human who cannot think or question cannot create, she reasons, and thus cannot destroy itself in an attempt to defend its creation. It's in the midst of this debate that Father first realizes Grandmother's nefarious (at least by human standards) historical act and future intent: she plans on devolving the planet's new human inhabitants into the fearsome, sea-dwelling creatures into which she transformed its previous human population. Already, Campion is growing scale-like calluses on his skin, and later in the episode, Grandmother distributes a distracting new video game she knows will help dull the colonists' minds. "When overcome with fear," she tells the merchant who'll unwittingly sell her toxic tech, "even atheists will make up gods to pray to." The game is meant to ease those fears, and save humanity from the instinctual (and inevitably destructive) need to seek comfort in a creation of their own. Herein lies the question at the heart of Season 2, though the episode's final scenes only hint at a potential answer.

Season 2 ends on a question of faith and instinct

Ironically, considering her staunch atheism, Mother becomes a deity for the colonists after saving them from #7. In one of the episode's final scenes, a young girl brings a carving of Mother in her battle position (which just so happens to resemble the crucified Christ) to trade at the market. The Christ-like image is mirrored, and inverted, by Marcus, who is bound upside-down by the vengeful Lucius (Matias Varela) to the seemingly dead Tree of Knowledge — which can be viewed as a nod to both Norse mythology and The Hanged Man of traditional Tarot. 

In Norse mythology, Odin is said to have hung upside down from Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights in order to obtain knowledge of other worlds (via Historika); in Tarot, The Hanged Man symbolizes an individual willing to place their fate in the universe's hands in order to gain new insight and perspective (via Biddy Tarot). It's no accident that all three allusions (to Christ, Odin, and the Tarot) are references to faith. The difference, of course, is that Marcus' allusions reference faith in the quest for knowledge, while the allusion to Christ references faith in the quest for, as Grandmother says, "everlasting life." Here, the debate between Grandmother and Father about what defines a human "life" — aka, the thematic crux of the season — is brought into stunning relief. 

The finale of "Raised by Wolves" Season 2 asks its audience whether or not humanity's instinctual will to live (as in, to simply survive) is greater or lesser than our desire to think, learn, and create. Which, it asks, is more innately human? Is the latter truly, as Grandmother reasons, inevitable in its prevention of the former, or merely indicative of a species not yet evolved enough to create in a manner beneficial to its own survival? Perhaps answers to those questions will be explored further if the show gets renewed for Season 3.