Almost immediately, The Wilds makes its thesis statement known. Leah (Sarah Pidgeon), a young woman who has just survived a plane crash and other subsequent horrors, is speaking to two seemingly sympathetic men investigating the extreme trauma she’s just experienced. And as the subsequent montage reveals fragments of not just her life, but the lives of the others who we’ll get to know much much better over these 10 episodes, Leah reveals that yes, she’s just been through a near-death experience unlike any she’d ever anticipated. But, she adds, it wasn’t like their lives were all that great before the crash. “Being a teenage girl in normal-ass America — that was the real living hell.”
It’s a bold statement for a show that doesn’t require any subtlety. Even its premise isn’t one that bothers with nuance, making it one of the easiest shows to describe in recent memory: “teen girl Lost.” But while the premise is easy to reduce down to simple terms, the Amazon Prime Video drama builds upon that to create a truly addictive blend of mystery, drama, comedy, and fear. There are plenty of familiar flavors in this stew crafted by creator Sarah Streicher and executive producer Amy B. Harris, but also some spicy surprises — and the combination really works.
The eight girls, played by a cast of relative newcomers, represent a wide swath of cultures and experiences, all united by the fact that there’s plenty they’re struggling with beneath the surface. Leah, we come to know, has some dark secrets lurking in her broken heart. Seemingly superficial Fatin’s (Sophia Ali) family is about to explode. Rachel (Reign Edwards) dreams of gold medals as an Olympic diver, despite the emotional and physical costs. Dot (Shannon Berry) might be the toughest of the group, but she’s tough for a reason.
All of these characters and more get a chance in the spotlight in their own breakout episodes, told in flashback while the main action unfolds: Brought together by a promised “Dawn of Eve” female empowerment retreat in Hawaii, their private plane flight goes awry, and the survivors wake up just offshore from a deserted island, where they’ll struggle to survive the elements with a limited number of resources. Of course, the real challenge will be for these very different people to figure out how to work together — especially against a force larger than they know is out there.
While Lost took its time in the first season to make it clear just how many mysteries were lurking on the island, from the beginning The Wilds makes it clear that there’s a lot more going on here than we might know. Central to that is Gretchen Klein (Rachel Griffiths), the architect of this entire experience, with her own troubles and complications to contend with; Griffiths knows just how to play into the enigma of her character while also keeping her humanity present.
This is going to be a short review because The Wilds is a very hard show to talk about without getting into spoiler territory — and trust me, you don’t want to be spoiled for anything that happens. The pacing of the big reveals is one of the first season’s strongest attributes, with plenty of unexpected surprises that go well beyond what you might expect — no spoilers, but the way that the show plays with its multiple timeframes is downright masterful at times. Sometimes the twists might feel on the verge of over-the-top, but there’s rarely a lack of clarity as to when a certain scene is taking place, and the structure delivers some real gut-punches thanks to savvy editing.
And everything remains grounded in a perspective on adolescent angst that does that rare thing — take it seriously. Each girl’s story is different, but each is rooted in embracing just how real their emotions are to them, how confusing and hard and too much life can feel like at that age. Hell, how it still sometimes feels. Come for the mysteries, stay for the raw emotional catharsis of watching these girls scream. The Wilds is a hell of a ride, and the only downside is that in these uncertain times of production, a second season isn’t necessarily guaranteed. And that would be quite a shame, because not only does the final episode of this season leave us with plenty of questions to be answered, but by that point, we’ve gotten to know these girls so well, we genuinely care what happens to them next.
The Wilds Season 1 is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.
The Colombia-set film features new music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
About The Author