PEAK SCI-FI POTENTIAL
Halfway through its debut season, HBO's Raised by Wolves teeters on the edge of being one of the best sci-fi shows of the year, or an overly ambitious space drama with too many loose plot threads. The show opens with two stoic androids ("Mother" and "Father") arriving on an untouched planet to give humanity a new start. Earth has been destroyed by war between the atheists and Sol-worshipping devout, and a colony of believers soon arrives on the same planet. Raised by Wolves explores some heady themes — nature vs. nurture, the role of religion in advanced civilizations — but at its midway point, the series shows signs of devolving into a messy end. (CHEY SCOTT)
NO COUNTRY FOR MEN
Lauren Beukes is fast becoming one of my favorite authors of grisly genre fiction, telling stories that are as tricky in structure as they are unflinching in their violence. The South African writer's new novel is Afterland, and it's an accidentally timely allegory: A viral pandemic has wiped out most of the world's male population, and one desperate mother finds herself protecting her preteen son who has inexplicably survived. As they escape from government captivity and head to safe haven, they traverse a dystopian wasteland populated by vigilantes, black market criminals, religious cults and hippie communes. (NATHAN WEINBENDER)
Some of you might remember the glorious, brief early '00s moment when bands like Futureheads and the Soundtrack of Our Lives seemed to indicate a genuine garage-rock revival. That didn't happen, but one of my faves of that moment, Sweden's Hives, have kept on rockin,' and they're still one of the best live bands around. Last year Jack White's label captured a Hives show, and the resulting Live at Third Man Records is out Sept. 25. It's a shredding little slab of goodness including memorable takes on "Hate to Say I Told You So," "Walk Idiot Walk" and more. (DAN NAILEN)
VOW TO WATCH THE VOW
You ever get the feeling that there's just something off about those companies selling a miracle cure for your low self-esteem? In this case, you'd be right. The Vow, a new documentary series on HBO, details how a company called Nxivm, promising a sort of revolutionary therapy program, was actually involved in a sex cult with "slaves" branded with the initials of "master" Keith Raniere. There are moments you wish the creators would simply get to the point, but it's still a fascinating look into how an evil company manipulated and exploited well-meaning people. (WILSON CRISCIONE)
THIS WEEK'S PLAYLIST
Some noteworthy new music hits online and in stores Sept. 25. To wit:
BOB MOULD, Blue Hearts. The punk pioneer is at his angriest since his Husker Du days. That's not a bad thing.
IDLES, Ultra Mono. One of the more thrilling new bands of the last few years is back with a third album.
LYDIA LOVELESS, Daughter. The country-rock killer's first album since her divorce is bound to have some exquisite, emotional tunes.