[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Raised by Wolves.]
Now that you’ve watched the first season of the HBO Max series Raised by Wolves, I’m sure you have a lot of questions. Like what exactly is Mother’s baby? Why did everyone want to go to Kepler-22b? What is up with that pentagonal temple? Why hasn’t Campion been affected by the radioactive food? What exactly are the visions everyone keeps seeing? What’s going on with the creatures that are devolving? How did the ship survive going through the middle of the planet? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The fact is, Raised by Wolves Season 1 was loaded with WTF moments and tons of intriguing mysteries, which made for a thrilling ride.
Thankfully, shortly after watching the finale, I landed an extended interview with creator and showrunner Aaron Guzikowski where no question was off limits.
During the interview, Guzikowski provided tons of new information about what’s happening on the planet, what exactly is the ship that landed in the finale, how he has a five or six season overall plan, how the Mithraic people got the technology to build Mother and fly to Kepler-22b, how we’re going to get more flashbacks and perhaps some present day Earth peeks in the next season, how only one person can hear Sol at a time, who impregnated mother, and so much more it’s impossible to list it all here.
Since I know some of you like to read interviews while others like watching the video, I’m offering this two ways: You can either view the interview in the player below or further down you can read the entire conversation.
Finally, a huge thank you to Aaron Guzikowski for giving me so much time and for creating one of my favorite series of the past few years. Raised by Wolves stars Amanda Collin, Abubakar Salim, Travis Fimmel, Niamh Algar, Winta McGrath, Matias Varela, Felix Jamieson, Ethan Hazzard, Jordan Loughran, Aasiya Shah, and Ivy Wong.
COLLIDER: This is going to be a very highly spoiler-filled interview, so let’s just get started. When we spoke at the junket with Ridley [Scott], you mentioned you had an idea for five seasons if you could actually do it. Is that still the case? Do you have an arc of five seasons?
AARON GUZIKOWSKI: Yes. Yes it is. If I was forced to truncate that arc, it could be truncated, but I think selectively taking certain events out and putting certain things in. But hopefully, yeah. It’s a good, long five, six-season arc for the whole thing in terms of the map that exists now, yes.
So, as it stands right now, do you know how the series ends?
GUZIKOWSKI: Yes. Yes I do.
Okay. I am so curious. The first thing is after the Season 1 finale, you introduce Mother’s baby which is not at all what people are expecting. I am curious if the baby is a smaller version of the creature we see in Episode 1 of the fossil of that snake?
GUZIKOWSKI: Yes, it is that breed of a snake with some differences. It’s a hybrid version of that. Yes, there is definitely a connection there. It’s definitely… there’s DNA in common. But there is a little bit of a difference because this one comes from Mother, so it has some attributes that some of the snakes that originally existed on the planet do not.
You mention in one of the last episodes of the season that basically the humans got blueprints for what’s essentially Mother and just built without really knowing what was this final function. How much is that a hint towards things to come?
GUZIKOWSKI: It’s a big hint for sure. And there’s definitely, I think, we lay out in Season 1, sort of this kind of mystery in terms of “Where did this technology come from?” The Mithraic discovered it encrypted in their scriptures were these blueprints, essentially, these designs for various technologies, which they proceeded to build and then use to… almost win this war. They basically did win the war, but they also forced the end of the world in the process. So that we do know. We also know that there seems to be a connection between some of that technology and what we have found so far on Kepler-22b.
Why does everyone go to the planet that everyone is going to? Is that from the scriptures? Or…?
GUZIKOWSKI: Yeah. Yeah. I think in the scriptures there, in addition to all these technological blueprints, there are actual coordinates for this planet as well. It also happens to be, I think, that plus the idea that throughout their own space exploration, and satellites, and this and that, they know that this is the only place to go where you can survive without the aid of technology. All the other possibilities apparently have been crossed off the list by this time.
In the future seasons, do you plan on showing more on what happened to Earth and sort of what built to where we are?
GUZIKOWSKI: Yeah, absolutely. There’ll be more flashbacks and perhaps some present day Earth peeks as well to see what might be going on there after everything’s over, because there are still necromancers on Earth. They were left behind, most of them. The Mithraic obviously didn’t want to bring any with them. They were done with them, didn’t trust them. So they left them on Earth except for the one they found waiting for them on 22b. So there is that.
With stuff like the voice of Sol, which has affected certain people, do you know how all of that is going to play out? Because obviously with Travis [Fimmel]’s character, he’s going kind of crazy.
GUZIKOWSKI: Yes, yes. Yeah, he is. It’s interesting [with] Travis’s character, because he was a little bit crazy when he got there. You know what I mean? He was already a former child soldier who then changed his face and spent 12 years pretending to be this religious captain and has all of these issues to begin with. Then he starts hearing the voice and goes where he goes. But I think that’s kind of a clue, the idea that if you really look at it, there is some connection to be made in terms of who hears the voice and when, and how many… Really, I think only one person can hear it at a time.
I have noticed that. Yeah, there’s a lot that you have not revealed yet.
GUZIKOWSKI: Yes, yes.
So are you willing to say who actually impregnated Mother?
GUZIKOWSKI: I can’t say who. I can say how. I think she was digitally impregnated while she was inside of the simulation. So being that she is advanced as she is, just by getting this basically the instructions for how to build something inside of herself, it’s like a 3D printer. If she can get the materials, in this case, one of the materials is plasma, human blood, to build this thing, it can be done in a very different way than a human being would create a baby. She could kind of create anything inside of herself if given the proper instructions and given the right materials.
Something that I’ve also wondered is obviously with Mother’s eyes, that’s how she becomes the necromancer. Have you sort of thought about the technology with the eyes and how this all works? Because without the eyes, she can be killed in a millisecond.
GUZIKOWSKI: Yeah. She’s vulnerable without the eyes. The eyes are sort of like the plutonium in the bomb. She has all of the circuitry, you need all of that stuff. If you just have the eyes, it’s just kind of like you have some plutonium in your hands, but they are essential. It’s kind of like if you have some hardware and you need a dongle to make it work sort of thing. It’s that kind of idea. So she has a lot of stuff built into her body, but it can’t be utilized and activated without the eyes.
I would imagine when you guys were writing Season 1, when you’re figuring it all out, there had to have been some changes, things you thought you were going to do that maybe for budget, or for time, or whatever reason, you couldn’t pull off. Can you share any of that?
GUZIKOWSKI: I’m trying to think. I think there were some things that I think in addition to Mother’s other abilities, and you see a little bit of it in the pilot, she is able to kind of make people see things that aren’t there, when she makes Campion see her as his dead sibling. So there were a few more moments where she was making people see things that weren’t there that were very expensive.
Can you say any more about the five-sided ship that is in the desert?
GUZIKOWSKI: Oh, yes. The pentagonal temple. Well, I can say this. I can say that there are more of them according to the scriptures. There’s five of them, and in each of them is supposed to be hidden the answers to the sort of the ultimate Mithraic mysteries, the thing everybody’s trying to get to the bottom of. But beyond that, I can’t tell you too much more. Except that we’ll see another in Season 2, and I think we’ll get a lot more kind of into what it is and how it works, and all that good stuff.
What should people take from the visions Mother sees in the finale with the creatures by the hole in the ground and the other thing that I can’t even describe in what could be a robot suit? I don’t even know what that is.
GUZIKOWSKI: I mean, that I feel like I can illuminate a little bit in terms of what it is. So basically, when she has that dream and she sees that thing and that weird kind of helmet robot head thing, and the fuel blood starts gushing out of the front of it, kind of the nozzle on the front, what that is, there is actually an android inside of that. It’s sort of like a birthing prison sort of thing. So their body’s inside the pentagonal bottom half. The top piece is a helmet that goes over the android, and the android then births a circuit out the nozzle. So, that’s essentially what that is. That’s kind of what you’re seeing, this kind of foreshadowing of what’s about to happen to her, but she can’t quite put it together but until the very last moment when it’s too late.
In the finale, you have the cave that Paul goes into and you see Mother and Father’s ship. You see other things on the wall that are almost moving. Can you go into more detail about that?
GUZIKOWSKI: Not too much, except the idea that obviously there was: This is not a virgin planet as we’re coming to discover. There was a civilization here. Here we’re seeing imagery that does suggest on some level that something that we know to have happened 13 years ago. Here we see depicted on a cave a drawing that was made several hundred thousand years ago. And how can that be? So I think that’s sort of the question presented there, but I can’t answer it. I mean, that’s what it is.
I don’t think you’re going to answer me, but I’m just going to ask. Have there been other races that have responded to the message that obviously we got on planet Earth that have arrived on this planet prior to humans?
GUZIKOWSKI: I would say this is more of a human-centric story in that sense, yes. Or I would say no. No.
GUZIKOWSKI: I’m just going to go out on a limb and just answer that one.
I’ve been very curious for the entire season why Campion has not been affected by the radioactive food? How much of a story point is that going to be as the series continues?
GUZIKOWSKI: A fairly significant one, yeah. I think it definitely has a lot to do with his destiny on this planet and the role he’s going to play in the future. I will say, it’s not so concealed in terms of the “why” of it all. You know what I mean? I think it is something we could potentially figure out on some level, but yeah, we definitely deal with it down the line and it pays off in a significant way.
How are future seasons with Marcus, with the way he is mentally right now, how is that sort of going to play out in Season 2? What can you tease?
GUZIKOWSKI: Well, I think he’s definitely… He’s gone as crazy as one can go. So the question is where do you go from there and then kind of what’s the next step? He’s kind of been broken down to nothing. He grew up on earth as a child soldier. He was completely powerless and he got to this planet. Suddenly, he was hearing a voice and everyone was worshipping him and he lost his mind, essentially. In the process though, he’s kind of been broken down into his most essential elements, as it were. So I think in Season 2, we’re going to see a sort of rebirth, as it were. Sort of a new… He’s going to kind of redefine himself in Season 2.
Everyone throughout the season sees visions. They see things, some of the kids that have previously died. What can you say about these visions that everyone has been seeing?
GUZIKOWSKI: Obviously, I think that they’re all significant. I think there’s obviously something on this planet that if you are tuned into a certain wavelength, you are able to see things, and see things that might be coming. But beyond that, I can’t say too much about it. I think those sorts of things are kind of what they are.
So what’s up actually with the planet? Paul tells his mom they have to stay on this side to give birth to the baby. He says it was Sol that is like, “You got to do it on this side.” Anything you want to say about that?
GUZIKOWSKI: Well, I would say very much like Earth, every region of this planet is very different. So though we know a lot of what there is to know about the region we spent Season 1 in, the rest of the planet is quite mysterious in terms of all that. Also, too, I think one could also imagine that other things in terms of the hallucinations, the voice, so on and so forth, when you move to another part of the planet, those things are going to shift as well. That we’re dealing with things that seem supernatural and maybe they are, but I think everything also has a technological aspect to it that you could apply here in a sort of really calculated way.
What can you actually say about the history of the planet that maybe hasn’t been revealed in the season, and especially the creatures that are devolving?
GUZIKOWSKI: Well, I think one thing we’ve learned, or one of the things we’ve learned, are these creatures used to be human beings. One might even imagine, for all we know, that maybe human beings evolved here first. We don’t know. So there is definitely a strong connection with this place in humanity as we’ve come to understand it. But you know, the idea here, too, is that, for some reason, something has caused these human beings to kind of turn around and start going the other direction, devolving. But the question is why? Why would that happen? What purpose would that serve? Or what is that? We don’t know. But we do know that that’s exactly what it was. This planet was populated by human beings, and for some reason they’ve all devolved into these more animalistic versions of ourselves. These kind of walking around on all fours, very animalistic, completely devoid of all the things that today we herald as making humans, humans.
Are Mother and Father going to be upset they didn’t kill the baby when they had the chance?
GUZIKOWSKI: Well, I won’t answer that, because it definitely seems like given the last shot of the finale there, it does seem like one would regret that. Yeah, they missed an opportunity to at least try and destroy it while it was small, because it’s no longer that, for sure. So, yeah. I imagine there’s a lot of regret there. But of course we don’t know if Mother and Father even… What becomes of them after they’re shot out of the hole there on the other side of the planet, but…
I’m going to go up there on a ledge due to their performances as actors, they will survive into Season 2?
GUZIKOWSKI: Yeah. I think it’s probably, from the TV standpoint, I think that’s a pretty safe [bet].
How did they all survive going through the middle of the planet?
GUZIKOWSKI: Well, again, you can look at the supernatural possibilities and then you can look at either other things that could be at play here that would make that possible. Because we’re saying, “Okay, this is a planet, but what do we know about planets?” and we’re applying all of that to this planet. But this planet is very, very far away from this one and may have attributes that our planet does not, despite the fact that it’s a Goldilocks planet and on the surface, it does seem to have a lot in common with Earth.
But that’s on the outside. Like I’ve said, this planet is kind of like a haunted house, and it’s got a whole ton of secrets. A whole lot that goes along with it that the people who just moved in aren’t really aware of yet. So I think that would speak to what happens here? This idea that they have passed through, shot out the other side. But again, I would say that this is not like earth in the sense that taking a trip through the middle of it is patently impossible.
Now I just sort of figured out how you can connect different groups in Season 2, if you can travel through the middle.
GUZIKOWSKI: They manage to do it. Yes, yes. I wouldn’t recommend it as just taking a jaunt back and forth, that might not survive. But yes, it can be done.
You also had a huge spaceship show up at the end, too. So everything is possible. What can you say about the tropical side?
GUZIKOWSKI: Well, it’s fairly mysterious at this point in the story, for sure. We know that this is sort of the most bountiful place on the planet, so everyone believes. This is where it seems like whoever is able to plant their flag and really stake their claim to the tropical zone may become the dominant force on this planet forever kind of thing. It’s like that book Guns, Germs, and Steel about Earth and the idea of where people, just by chance, end up evolving on our planet geographically and what they have there, what materials, and weather, and all of these things that kind of come into play, then thousands of years later, they ended up dominating the planet because of it.
You know, these folks coming to Kepler know that quite well, so they’re trying to stake their claim to the tropical zone. Though of course, tropical zone also has this other weird attribute, which is the electromagnetic field that prevents anyone from landing directly in the tropical zone, which also plays into your earlier question, I think, about different sides of the planet, and the voice, and things like that, and how these things might interact with each other.
Yeah, I’m so looking forward already to Season 2. Was the Atheists’ ship always going to arrive in the finale?
GUZIKOWSKI: You mean in terms of the planning of it, or in terms of the story, or?
I guess as a story and more because it introduces what could be thousands of people. It could be 10 people. There’s no…
GUZIKOWSKI: Right. Right, exactly. So we don’t really know. We also kind of got the impression that the Atheists weren’t as advanced as the Mithraic. The Mithraic had all of these quantum gravity propulsion machine… That stuff was in their scriptures as well. One thing I will say about Season 2 is that this ship was actually built by the Mithraic. It was hijacked while it was under construction on Earth. So the people aboard the ship are in fact atheists, but again, in terms of the technology, it’s more Mithraic stuff.
The snake creature is pretty large as it exits the ship. How much larger can it get?
GUZIKOWSKI: I won’t answer that, though I would say it’s pretty darn large right now. But I’ll leave that one open. I’m a huge fan of Godzilla, but I also like to keep things manageable, so we’ll see.
Jumping into Season 2 for a second, when did you know you were getting the pickup versus when they officially announced it?
GUZIKOWSKI: A little bit earlier. I mean, it’s kind of a hard question to answer I think, but I always just assumed that it’s just going to keep going, because I know I don’t, if I stop thinking about it, then if it does keep going, it’ll be too late for me to figure it all out. So I just have to keep assuming it’s going to keep going until someone tells me to stop. So that’s all I can do.
So where are you in the writing process of Season 2?
GUZIKOWSKI: I think in terms of the planning of it, I’m fairly well into it. Fairly well into it. It’s fairly worked out in terms of the outlining and all of that good stuff. Scripts aren’t done.
You’re like, “No.”
GUZIKOWSKI: Scripts aren’t done, no.
Do you have a plan of when you might be filming?
GUZIKOWSKI: I can’t say specifically, but hopefully quite soon. I mean, we’ll see how things go with the virus and just best practices and all that good stuff, but hopefully soon. I think that’s our intent, to get going as soon as we can.
What’s interesting about your show is that it’s not a show that requires hundreds of extras and you have a small cast, and in terms of trying to pull this off, does that make it easier to shoot in the COVID-19 times?
GUZIKOWSKI: I guess we’ll know when we get there, but one would assume so, yeah. I mean, obviously crowds and lots and lots of humans in small spaces, all very bad. So we’ll have to see. We are bringing in more people for Season 2, so will be a little bit more in terms of the population. But still, I think compared to something that’s about Earth, where we’re crowds, crowds, crowds, no. We’re lucky in that sense, yeah.
What was your shooting schedule on Season 1, and did HBO give you any additional days for Season 2?
GUZIKOWSKI: I think it’ll be fairly similar. We had a pretty good schedule for Season 1, a good amount of time to get done what we needed to get done. Ridley really set the pace for Season 1. He is the most efficient director known to man. It starts in the morning, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, gets more done than you thought possible, and everyone’s done, same time every day. I think just the efficiency and the crews there are just incredible. Everybody is just so on it. So yeah, hopefully it’s just going to be that same sort of thing where it’s just a well-oiled machine and just keeps cranking it out.
I think the other good thing is we don’t have to do a lot of night stuff, because we’re on an alien planet, so we can kind of create. We have three moons, which creates a very specific sort of night, and that helps a lot; that’s where things get tough. Especially now with COVID and everything, I’m sure all the tougher.
I’ll dig a little further. Was it an eight-day shooting schedule? Was it a 12-day?
GUZIKOWSKI: I think it was somewhere in between. Somewhere in between. The pilot and Episode 2 is a little bit longer, and then it got a little bit shorter for the following blocks, and we cross boarded it, so we did two at a time. But yeah, it was somewhere in between there.
Are you going to bring back any of the directors you had on Season 1? Will Ridley becoming back?
GUZIKOWSKI: We will see. Ridley’s extraordinarily busy right now. He’s finishing his movie [The Last Duel]. I think he’s got a movie to do right after that. He has expressed interest, but I don’t know that the schedule is going to work out, but who the heck knows. And directors, we’re figuring that out now. We’re going to hopefully have some clarity soon, but right now we don’t. We’re not sure.
Well, what’s interesting is when you do the first season, you really don’t know what the show is going to be, no one really knows what the show is. But now you actually can show directors, “Well, this is what we made. Do you want to play in our sandbox?”
GUZIKOWSKI: Yeah, because it has a very specific, obviously, style. Because we really wanted to do something where Ridley sets the style and kind of the template for how this is going to work, and every director that comes in after, obviously, is going to bring their own flavor to it. But at the same time, we do want to kind of make it feel as consistent as possible, where it’s not so much like every episode feels like it’s a different color, or coming from a different place. Really want it to just play like one long movie where it’s not so noticeable, the directors coming and going. So hopefully we can maintain that for Season 2.
When you make the first season of any show, it is a learning process in terms of how much you can shoot in your schedule, what the money you have for visual effects. It’s basically figuring out the infrastructure of how to make a show. What did you learn making Season 1 that you hope to sort of benefit from while making Season 2?
GUZIKOWSKI: Let me see here. Well, definitely learned a lot in terms of the types of special effects that can be done cheaply and those that cannot, and how to kind of cheat things a little bit to kind of just get more bang for your buck in terms of all the effects you know we’re trying to do in this show. But at the same time, trying to do some of them practically and just figuring out ways to be as efficient as possible to get everything on the screen.
In terms of specific lessons, it’s interesting. The one thing I can say is that Season 2 will take place in a very different region on the planet. So a lot of the lessons that I learned in Season 1won’t even apply. So it’s kind of like I’ve been in California in Season 1, and now I’m going to Michigan for Season 1 and it just… The climate is very different, and the geography and all that good stuff. So unfortunately, I think a lot of those lessons will be moot in this case.
How does it work with the executives at HBO Max? So you obviously delivered Season 1, they saw it, they loved it, they gave you another season. How much do you have to go in and sort of pitch them on your vision for Season 2 and all that stuff and how much is it them saying, “Oh, you did a really good job. Go for it.”
GUZIKOWSKI: Yeah. It’s a little bit of both. I think you’re always going to have to tell them what the plan is. I think at least I do. I haven’t gotten to a place in my career where they’re just like, “Just go for it, and we trust [you]. Whatever you want. Don’t even tell us what you’re going to do.” So I had to work it out and pitch them, and pitch them again. But they have faith. I think it’s not a case where I think we both… They know what kind of show we’re making. They’re not trying to make it into a different show. I think they just want it to help make it as great as it can be and give it the most oxygen it can have and all of the things it needs to have a good life.
So they’ve been really great partners. I think that’s my biggest thing is that they could’ve come in and been like, “All right, well, let’s try and change this around and make this a little bit more like this so it’s a little bit more recognizable, a little easier to sell,” or whatever it is. They didn’t do that. So it’s been great in that respect. But yes, I still have to kind of like, “Okay, here’s what the plan is. Here’s the story. Here’s where this goes. Here’s where that goes.” And just kind of make everybody feel comfortable that I’m not just some madman driving them into a brick wall somewhere.
Last question: You had 10 episodes in the first season. Was it ever going to be eight or a different number, and will it be 10 episodes again with Season 2?
GUZIKOWSKI: Remains to be seen, but no, it was always going to be 10 for Season 1; Season 2, we’ll see. Could potentially be eight, but we’ll see. Eight or 10. I think eight is the new 10 now is what I’m hearing for streaming.
Well, what’s funny is I personally think that more people are willing to invest their time when it’s shorter seasons.
GUZIKOWSKI: Yeah, me too. Yeah, I think so. I mean, obviously it’s… Nobody has time for anything now. But I think you need enough time to really [watch] and I think eight is enough. I think that’s about as short as I could go and still feel like we’re telling a complete novel of a story. Because the show I did previously, The Red Road, I did many years ago, we only did six-episode seasons which was cool but it always felt a little too short. It was almost just kind of like, you just need one or two to really hammer it home. It always felt like you were being kind of pulled off the stage a little too early there. But I think eight is kind of a good number. 10 is good, too.
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