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HBOWatch Just Binged SCAVENGERS REIGN on Max!

by Jef Dinsmore
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Back on October 19, 2023, Max presented an adult animation series entitled SCAVENGERS REIGN. It is based on a short film that has now been generated into this 12-part series by its creators Joseph Bennett and Charles Huettner. Each episode is 23-26 minutes long and comes out of the animation house Titmouse Inc. Titmouse products include a number of Adult Swim titles that can be seen on Max like THE VENTURE BROTHERS and ROYAL CRACKERS and other titles like Star Trek: Lower Decks. Now comes this surreal sci-fi adventure.


Note: I had the final installment to go when the news dropped that WBD had canceled this animated series. But, I decided to say screw that and saw the show to its end and published my thoughts anyway. Take it and enjoy it, follow it on Netflix if you wish, and grumble how WBD throws away just about anything other than its Discovery/TLC/Magnolia/etc slop. 

Via a press release, we were told that in SCAVENGERS REIGN the remaining crew of a damaged interstellar freighter ship find themselves stranded on a beautiful, yet unforgiving alien planet where they must survive long enough to escape or be rescued. As the survivors struggle to locate their downed ship and missing crewmates, their new home reveals a hostile world allowed to thrive without human interference. HBOWatch watched it and now shares its thoughts. 

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Azi

 Episode # 1 “The Signal”

The spaceship Demeter 227 is heavily damaged and as a consequence, life pods are shown ejecting onto a planet full of strange creatures. Now, just like any new world, viewers need to take Vesta in;  just like you did with the environs of Tatooine or Pandora. Just what kind of world have the survivors plunged themselves into? We are given ample opportunity to do just that as we see flora that turn out to be fauna and vice versa. We witness fungus, molds & spores, and critters that fly, shuffle & waddle along. Some seem lazy, some are hostile and all are unique.      

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Sam and Ursula

In the first episode, we learn that there were at least four jettisoned pods. Living out of one of them is Sam & Ursula. It appears they have acclimated to the environs fairly well and are quite resourceful. Some distance away is another downed pod where Azi has set up camp. She is accompanied by a robotic aide branded Levi. She has set up a barricade of sorts as she confronts hostile lifeforms; and takes quite a beating from them. Another survivor is not as healthy as the others. Kamen is holed up in his pod snagged in a great tree. He is alone and frankly, losing his mind. However, the more seemingly docile of the planet’s creatures, tiny quadrupedal humanoids, are nourishing and helping him. With their telekinetic and telepathic abilities, they guide him away from his pod using visions of a woman; likely a loved one from his memories. 

The fourth pod is discovered by Sam & Ursula. They ventured out to locate a usable battery pack from a downed pod. They were successful in finding one but the occupants were not so lucky. It seems that they were killed off by an aggressive fungus! Can ithere be cordyceps on Vesta? 

The duo needs the battery to juice up a device to signal the Demeter’s landing sequence. The other survivors see it descending through the atmosphere. Perhaps there is a way off the planet after all. The episode sets up our players and the world of  Vesta in a tight 24 minutes. 

 Episode # 2 “The Storm”

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Kamen

The second installment is one of the longest ones at 27 minutes. Equally, a part of the hostile environment is the weather as a large violent storm wreaks havoc over a majority of the planet. All three parties set out regardless to find the Demeter in hopes of finding the rest of the crew or a shuttle to carry them off-world. Even Kamen, aided by the tiny humanoids, knows that his best chance is to get to the Demeter. The woman they use to calm and convince him to stay with them is a vision of his wife Fiona. 

A good portion of the scenes show how the flora & fauna react to the deadly storm and how that impacts the humans. Azi discovers that Levi’s robotic structure is being integrated with alien organic matter as they hole up in a biome sheltered from the storm. Ursula makes the bold move to have her and Sam be protected by an alien sea creature protecting its eggs. Kamen shelters with his ‘wife.’ Sam, Kamen & Levi are all a bit worse for wear afterward but their goal to get to the Demeter is strong. Additional scenes in this episode included flashbacks of Azi aboard the ship and her relationship with a gal named Mia and of Kamen & his wife Fiona on a camping trip.              

Episode # 3 “The Wall” 

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Kamen’s Creature

This episode and the next one show how the teams are faring as they all make their way to the downed ship and hopefully some good luck. Ursula and Sam’s journey takes them through an underground forest. Ursula stops to observe a moving display of natural wonder, but Sam is upset that they’ve become separated. He is suddenly snatched and carried away by a local predator. She seems to be assimilating better to the environment than him. Levi continues to exhibit increasingly independent behavior, and Azi grows further concerned. However, Levi’s seemingly intuitive understanding of nature saves them during a stampede of alien animals. It seems the robot is being assimilated better than Azi. The telepathic creatures manipulate Kamen now into providing it with food. Kamen starts hunting and killing, and the creature begins consuming meat. 

Episode # 4 “The Dream” 

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Levi

Azi attempts to clean up Levi’s hardware and learns that Levi can now experience pain, and doesn’t want to be shut down again.  Ursula mimics the behavior of wildlife to find Sam. She finds him near a crashed escape pod, where they bury the dead crew. Kamen uses traps to continue sourcing food for the telepathic creatures, which have grown larger and more demanding. One creature dominates and expresses displeasure after a failed hunt, so Kamen begins crafting weapons. It is revealed in a flashback that Kamen caused the crash of the Demeter 227 by rerouting to a faster but riskier flight path, against Sam’s orders.

Episode # 5 “The Demeter” 

This episode reveals that there is yet another survivor on Vesta. The viewer learns that we are on the downed Demeter and that a young man named Charlie is able to release himself from suspension to investigate the ship only to discover deadly predators have been able to move through a breach in the hull. Realizing the ship is not safe he takes his chances out on the landscape and viewers already know that it is just as hostile out in the wilds. Will he be able to team up with any of the others? 

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The Demeter

He does and unfortunately for him, it is with the unstable Kamen. Charlie let Kamen know there were people still alive onboard the Demeter. The quadrupedal critter thought Kamen was bringing him more food and killed Charlie. Kamen breaks down even further as he accepts that Charlie and Fiona’s death were all his fault. The creature then absorbs Kamen into its body. Other alien lifeforms once again wreak havoc on Sam and once again help Azi. Sam gets bitten by an organism that took drops of his blood and absorbed into an into an embryonic pouch and unbeknownst to anyone starts to incubate a humanoid figure based on his DNA. Azi just had parasitic fish clean her body of infection. As we come up on the mid-point of the series we wonder how any of them will ever survive Vesta. 

Episode # 6 “The Fall”

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Sam or his clone?

This installment opens up with a lumbering creature getting a blood transfer by the same kind of hanging embryonic plant that took a sample from Sam. That creature died by exploding its guts out and being buried over by the clone that took its place. Oh boy, Sam, you are in big trouble unless Ursula is keen on a way to help you. Sam knows he is in trouble as he begins to let Ursula take the lead as they try to locate the Demeter and casually calls her Captain to boot. He finally admits what’s wrong and Ursula has them stop for the night. Using her survival skills and newfound knowledge about her environs she fashions a camp and tends to Sam’s infection, but the Sam clone looms near. Of course, Ursula battles the clone and defeats it.  

As for the other parties, Azi’s roller bike thing finally breaks down and she and Levi are now on foot. Levi has them following the most direct path to the ship, but they encounter a canyon in their way. A good part of their story here is the ingenious way they find to traverse the chasm by using the roller bike’s tow cable. What they don’t know is that Kamen’s creature hears them and pursues them. It joins them on the tow cable across the canyon. They make it across but so does the creature. And then…

…the most dramatic sequence of the series to date plays out. Using its telekinesis the creature shatters Levi into all its little parts. This is climatic because Levi was no longer just a robotic machine. Due to the integration of organic parts clogging in circuits, Levi had become more sentient and more personable. The

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Levi and Azi on the move!

robot started to display feelings of pain and fear and even started humming on Azi’s lead. Coupled with the voice of Fiona, its programmer, Azi was bonding with the device. The scene builds more as rage overtakes Azi’s and using her blade at least manages to injure Kamen’s creature enough to discover he is inside the creature. However, she loses her fight. She falls into the canyon; she has lost everything. Sam and Ursula have lost everything as well. Now what? 

A spark of hope. That’s what. Just when Sam has given up and hands his credentials/ship codes to Ursula and prepares to die an older woman walks out of the forest. Just when Azi is defeated she finds an operable radio to give out one more plea for help and someone hears it. Hope. 

Best episode to date. We’ll see if it holds up as the best the series has to offer as we reach the halfway point.     

Episode # 7 “The Cure” 

We can only surmise that Sam is healed by the mysterious older woman who walked up on him and Ursula, but a lot more than just that has to happen and it does. 

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Barry, Azi and Kris

Azi’s distress call was heard! Seems there are scavengers over on Vesta’s moon who heard her. We stress that they are scavengers because one, it fits with the title of the show, and two, they aren’t space pirates. The party of three lands on Vesta and finds Azi. They are Kris, who won the right to lead the trio,  Terrence, and Barry. They tell Azi they will help her get back to the Demeter in exchange for free reign to salvage from it what they can. Space pirates wouldn’t just play fair; they’d just take seize. Azi doesn’t really acquiesce and tells them there are people aboard in cryosleep that will need to be awakened. We’ll see how all that plays out and just who is in control of the situation. 

The team faces a major setback when they discover that Kamen’s creature has destroyed their vessel. They are stuck on Vesta just like Azi and seeking the Demeter is now their common goal more than ever. Irtis still Ursula & Sam’s goal as well, but only after he heals first. The older woman who takes them in is quite knowledgeable about how to use the natural resources that abound. Her only flaw it seems is that she is mute or just doesn’t understand their language. She & Ursula obtain a natural remedy to cure Sam’s ills. However, alone with Sam, the old woman places a black seed under his skin which seems quite separate from the first aid she administers. Just what will that do? 

It is eventually divulged by Sam that the old woman is not acting under her own actions. A one-eyed tentacled creature straight out of Lovecraft is controlling the old woman. Did she plant the item in Sam to protect him from this creature perhaps? It did back away from killing him. He and Ursula flee the scene with Sam being cured of one ailment but conflicted with another. We shall see.       

Episode # 8 “The Nest” 

My biggest reaction in watching this eighth episode was that I wasn’t all sure this one was even needed. It

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Ursula and Sam face more creepy critters!

turns out Sam, the poor bloke, was attacked yet again. He is nurturing a seedling of yet another Lovecraftian critter. We know the possible end result for him. He is obsessing about making a nesting chamber for the creature, but we know if it is allowed to happen Sam will become a permanent tool for the creature like the old woman. I just think Sam is stuck on one path in this show, to be prey for every nasty predator Vesta has to offer. Can we give that scenario a rest? It remains to be seen by the installment’s end how Ursula plans to save him from his fate.

The other unnecessary plot line is delving into the lives of Kris, Terrence & Barry. We are only given an understanding of their life together so, that there is some emotional impact when one of the trio meets their demise to yet another deadly lifeform.   

Episode # 9 – “The Mountain” 

Each team, both still strong with the goal of reaching the Demeter, faces a geological obstacle in the form of a mountain. How will each team transverse the crags and what will they learn about each other along the way? 

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Kris has an agenda, take it or leave it.

That’s not all we get. Surprisingly, we get a backstory on what I’ve deemed the Lovecraftian critter. Remember the old lady who aided the critter in infesting Sam? We learned of her downed craft and how the critter wiped out its crew, including that old biddy. It is clear what Sam’s fate is unless Ursula can do something to save him. Luckily, for him, he seems to have stabilized during the daylight hours to be himself. When they face their mountainous terrain they use a molted insect’s shell to traverse a river through a pass. It isn’t easy sailing, of course, as they get pulled into a whirlpool.

As for Azi and the remaining scavengers, they use climbing skills to get up & over. Azi almost loses her life and is angered by Kris’s toying with her about fear, survival and loss as she struggles to hold on. Kris saves her but the two have a more edgier relationship as a result. She begins to sense that Kris intends to seize control of what’s left of the Demeter and anyone alive there is just in the way. 

Sam can get Ursula to dry land but she appears to have drowned. He has the notion to put the invested piece in in her to keep her alive, but she responds in the nick of time, he dismisses his plan to save her as nothing, and her trust shifts. Sam is now dangerous. And speaking of danger, where would we be without it on this planet, Kamen’s creature is shown on the move. We almost forgot about it and Kamen. It seems to be trailing Azi’s team. Some decisions need to be made in the name of survival and sure enough, the next episode is called “The Decision.”   

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Goodbye, Sam

Episode # 10 – “The Decision” 

This whole episode can be explained by the decisions made by key characters. 

Ursula must make the decision to trust the infested Sam or not and make the decision to move on without him or not. Sam must make the decision to confide in Ursula or not and make the decision to give up on the mission or not. Azi must make the decision or not to force Kris’ hand regarding the Demeter crew and make the decision to challenge Kris’ leadership or not. Even Barry has a decision to make – should he stop Azi or not? 

Simply put, this is an important episode but one that plays out rather simply. Sam knows that he is dying as the infectious seed grows within him. He decides to not jeopardize Ursula’s mission to reach the Demeter. His journey ends here. It looks like Azi’s journey might end here also as Barry knocks her out after she tries to dominate Kris. She is tied up and left. Kris & Barry make their move to the Demeter alone, except Kamen’s creature has beaten them to it and it is quite dangerous. Also, as a way of reminding us how miraculous Vesta is, the organisms reconstitute Levi out of its shattered parts to some semblance of its former self.  

Episode # 11 – “The Return” 


A flashback shows how the biological matter infiltrated Levi’s body via a glowing flower shown numerous times throughout the series. Ursula frees Azi from her bindings and finds Levi, who is now made of a different life and is growing a farm on an abandoned escape pod. Kris and Barry explore the Demeter and decide to take the shuttle without waking up the passengers. They use explosives to do so, but Kamen’s creature ambushes them. This attack causes Kamen to wake up within the creature. Kamen realizes he is trapped in a vision and demands to be released. Will they be able to thwart the creature from within and out? Will someone be able to undermine Krls’ plan? Will Ursula, Azi, and Kamen reunite to protect the suspended crew and salvage the Demeter

Episode # 12 – “The Reunion” 

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Levi Saving the day

Kamen’s creature has done a good job of wreaking havoc at the Demeter, not that the ship was in the greatest of shape anyway. Kamen is not the one to save the day. I thought he was the only one able to stop the creature but instead, it was the reincarnated, or is that reassembled, Levi. 

But that is all jumping a bit ahead of the story. At first, Azi and Ursula split up to take gave of the tasks ahead. With the assistance of Levi, Ursula begins to wake up the remaining crew from the undamaged cryo-pods remaining. Azi, on the other hand, needs to resolve issues with Kris. A strong confrontation ensues but Barry sides with wanting to help the crew. So, when the opportunity arises, Kris betrays him and launches the shuttle without him. She takes flight but is not she is not safe from harm. Neither are the others, for as I’ve stated Levi comes to save the day and defeat Kamen’s creature by reverting it back to its original infant form. It’s best just to say that Levi has the power of Vesta within its frame.

Weeks pass, and we see that the survivors have built a colony. Azi has reunited with Mia and Ursula has taken Sam’s role as captain. As for Kamen, he is just a shell of a man sort of living on the fringes and Levi is now a hybrid biomechanical being complete with offspring of its own. They are surviving, but Kris is not so lucky… 

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The cliffhanger of what happens to her almost doesn’t matter as the series was dropped by Max, so we may never know what beings seized her vessel and why Vesta organisms and a Levi offspring have nearly killed her? But the journey that has been SCAVANGERS REIGN has been quite, odd, interesting, and unique. Joseph Bennett and Charles Huettner’s world and creature-building are quite amazing to behold. Vesta was a deadly but awesome place to explore. 

Catch SCAVENGERS REIGN before it leaves Max or follow it to Netflix. BONUS look below at the short film this work is based on – 

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