Worth Watching: 'Wolves' Finale, Then 'Calm' Yourself, Smigel's Political Puppets, 'Poisonings' and 'Gangs' on AMC+
A selective critical checklist of notable Thursday TV:
Raised by Wolves (streaming on HBO Max): Lovecraft Country may have dabbled in sci-fi last weekend, but this is the real deal, ending its fascinating first season with a truly jaw-dropping finale. (The last five minutes are almost as disturbing as this week's presidential debate.) Something of an android Mary, Mother (Amanda Collin) is due to give birth to whatever miraculous conception is gestating within her, while Father (Abubakar Salim), restored to an almost human-seeming self, sulks about not having been part of the process. The children are more divided than usual over the kind of religious mania being exhibited by Marcus (Travis Fimmel), and more clues about the mysterious planet Kepler-22b emerge.
A World of Calm (streaming on HBO Max): After this week, we could all use a moment of Zen — or, even better, 10 whole episodes of soothing images and words spoken by mellifluously familiar voices. Like bedtime stories for the unnerved of all ages, Calm (based on Calm's Sleep Stories) presents narratives of tranquility, lavishly illustrated with footage of nature and space — and no shouting. Among the international galaxy of stars participating: Mahershala Ali, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Idris Elba, Oscar Isaac, Nicole Kidman, Zoë Kravitz, Lucy Liu, Cillian Murphy, Keanu Reeves and Kate Winslet.
Let's Be Real (9/8c, Fox): As the iconic Triumph the Insult Comic Dog might say, that debate Tuesday night was something special — for me to poop on! In that spirit, Triumph's creator, humorist Robert Smigel (Saturday Night Live), delivers a half-hour of satire involving puppets, celebrity cameos and remote segments to skewer an already outrageous political season. Let's Be Real is being billed as the first collaboration between Fox Entertainment's scripted and unscripted departments. Let's hope that means anything goes. Besides, who would be rude enough to interrupt Triumph during one of his rants?
Gangs of London (streaming on AMC+): Yes, you saw right. AMC plus, yet another add-on in the proliferating world of niche streaming options. Exclusive to the service is a gripping 10-part British crime drama that opens with London's underworld in turmoil after the assassination of longtime crime boss Finn Wallace (Star Trek's Colm Meaney). When his volatile heir Sean (Joe Cole) takes his place at the head of the table, he closes the docks, halting all illicit trade with international partners until his father's murderer is discovered. During the ensuing turmoil, mysterious low-level observer Elliot Finch (Sope Dirisu) springs into action — and the wild action sequences would make even Jason Bourne go "damn."
Also streaming on AMC+: A quieter tension prevails in the four-part docudrama The Salisbury Poisonings, which AMC expects to air on the linear channel in early 2021. It will be worth the wait. Anne-Marie Duff stars as a public-health director who tries to contain panic and the spread of a lethal nerve agent within the cathedral city of Salisbury in 2018 when a retired Russian double agent and his daughter collapse on a public bench after being exposed.
The real appeal of AMC+, beyond these few originals, is the early access it provides (as of today) to Sunday's episodes of The Walking Dead and spinoff The Walking Dead: World Beyond, and Monday's premiere of the new series Soulmates.
Star Trek: Lower Decks (streaming on CBS All Access): In the world of Star Trek, these are known as fighting words: "Oh, screw the Prime Directive!" On this amusing animated spinoff, it's just the latest chapter in the ongoing conflict between rebellious Ensign Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and exasperated Capt. Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), who happens to be Mariner's mother. When Mariner is ordered into therapy after this latest outburst, she decides to channel her rage and work out her mommy issues by hijacking buddy Brad's (Jack Quaid) brown-nosing holodeck program and creating an action movie where she goes on the attack against the Cerritos as a cackling villain named Vindicta.
Inside Thursday TV: BBC America's Criptales (10/9c) collects six 15-minute monologues written, directed and performed by a person living with disabilities. Presented in acknowledgement of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, each segment captures a potentially life-changing moment, from an actor (series curator Mat Fraser) waiting for an audition to a woman (Years and Years' Ruth Madeley) considering an unexpected pregnancy in 1968… Freeform kicks off its annual "31 Nights of Halloween" stunt with the first of many showings this month of fan favorite Hocus Pocus (9/8c)… The first seasons of two of CBS's best shows of last season, Evil and The Unicorn, are now available for streaming on Netflix… Horror-themed streamer Shudder kicks off the month of Halloween with Scare Me, a very meta horror comedy starring You're the Worst's Aya Cash as a successful genre writer who challenges a would-be novelist (Josh Ruben) to tell a scary story in a winter cabin during a power outage. Saturday Night Live's Chris Redd co-stars.