Every once in a while you come across a reminder of your inconsequential place in the great expanse of the universe all thanks to billions of smart apes on a piece of rock who got too curious about what’s up there. You don’t get too many effective reminders these days, that’s why shows like Scavengers Reign from HBO are special.
What’s that? Well, Scavengers Reign was released approximately last month on October 19, 2023. It’s an adult cartoon science fiction series about a group of marooned survivors who were stranded on a strange alien planet after their cargo ship, The Demeter 227, ran into a technical issue.
And while “unique” is a word that has ironically become too common these days when describing every new piece of cookie-cutter idea, you’ll have to take our word for it; Scavengers Reign is that one odd spectacle of a show whose ideas are equal parts beautiful, disturbing, and though-provoking. It is definitively unique.
Scavengers Reign Season 1 Has a Peculiar Main Star
The show’s premise is about the struggles of the three groups of survivors in the aforementioned alien planet of Vesta.
Initially, Scavengers Reign Season 1 displayed signs of formulaic survivor fiction. All three separate survivor groups were left to their own devices in the hostile environment. They must now overcome their human fragility and predilection for comfort to survive. In other words, adapt.
But soon enough, the initial “return to nature, reject capitalism” notion was revealed to just be a layer curtains for the stage’s main star, the planet Vesta itself.
Like Earth, Vesta has its own ecosystem of fauna though in this sense, ‘fauna’ is a generous term, because these members of the Vesta’s own animal kingdom are some of the weirdest and most psychedelic creatures you’ll witness. The flora are also equally otherworldly, if not more so.
All of them are interconnected with their home planet of Vesta, with both plants and animals often acting like digits or communication organs– a conduit between the planet itself and the bunch of survivors trying to find their footing in the alien environment.
Vesta is among the strangest and most novel planets you can see in most media.
The Planet Vesta Redefines the Term ‘Alien’
Granted, all depictions and definitions of ‘alien’ in media are technically unoriginal. Most of the time, if not borrowing from the inherent creepiness of cephalopods, sci-fi artists are usually looking into insects or your usual gas station junkie for inspiration.
To an extent, Scavengers Reign is also guilty of this. Some fauna in Vesta are obviously just weird ostriches while others are weird wildebeests, but the way it seamlessly weaves an ecosystem out of all its moving parts is what makes its sci-fi world coherent and believably alien.
There’s a mystical and often morbid ritual or method for each and every alien species in Scavengers Reign; thus in every episode, discovering the mystery and reason behind these organisms is the hook. The planet is also a character who undergoes its own ‘character development.’
Scavengers Reign is a Sci-fi Show That Dares
So it’s a bunch of space survivors checking out the flavor of the day in a new sci-fi theme park? Well, that would be the reductive synopsis, but it works, and at times, is even an even better storyteller than most sci-fi media simply because there’s less ‘telling’ and more ‘showing.’
One reason why such a deceptively simple setup succeeds even for a complex genre like sci-fi is that Scavengers Reign instills a new sense of wonder that evokes the sci-fi movies and shows of old. Back in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, the most prominent science fiction was about discovery, positive futurism, and diving waist-deep into alien environments.
They weren’t initially about galactic wars, superheroes, or planetary dystopias. Classic sci-fi were typically made to predict either an odd future for mankind or an idea of whatever is out there in the other floating rocks.
Scavengers Reign unintentionally strides on the latter concept and expands its basic sci-fi playground into the most imaginative and personified vision of an alien planet. In a sense, it’s a fresh take on sci-fi.
At the same time, that kind of premise and plot can be a risky venture. Sci-fi these days has become synonymous with the shine and the noise– action blockbusters and a flaunting of their million-dollar budgets in each scene. The most numerous ones being treats for the dwindling attention span of sci-fi viewers.
Scavengers Reign dares in the other direction. It’s a space opera and a drama series on a sci-fi stage. It is by no means a grand tale for humanity, but it remained confident in its own story and ideas to be its own thing and little to no concession into the pressures of the mainstream.
Too Bad It’s Harder to Find
Perhaps that insistence on not conforming to the usual contemporary sci-fi tropes is what became a double-edged sword for Scavengers Reign. Perhaps it didn’t present itself as marketable enough, partly being and anti-capitalist message.
Currently, it’s only available on HBO Max and HBO Max is mostly just available in the US, some countries in Europe, some Latin American countries, and some countries in the Caribbean.
You won’t find Scavengers Reign as common as other mature animated series such as Netflix’s Castlevania.
For that matter, it’s also hard to stay hopeful for the show’s future, or whether there will be a Scavengers Reign Season 2. After all, Scavengers Reign has had a somewhat rocky beginning; Adult Swim rejected it, and HBO promptly picked up the license afterward But even then, it didn’t get as much spotlight compared to their other HBO shows.
Still, those who vehemently seek out such novelties and such a unique take on space sci-fi will be rewarded with a survival story with a contemporary intensity but with the elegance of classics topped off with auditory homages from Chopin and Debussy.