Almost immediately, The wilderness makes his thesis known. Leah (Sarah Pidgeon), a young woman who has just survived a plane crash and other subsequent horrors, speaks to two seemingly personable men who are investigating the extreme trauma she has just experienced. And since the following montage reveals not only fragments of her life, but also the lives of others, whom we will get to know much better in these 10 episodes, Leah shows that she has just gone through a near-death experience that is unparalleled she had ever expected. But she adds it wasn't like her life before the crash was that great. "To be a young girl in America – that was real hell."
It's a bold statement for a show that doesn't require subtlety. Even its premise doesn't mind nuance, which makes it one of the easiest shows to describe in recent history: "Teen Girl Lost". While the premise can be easily reduced to simple terms, the Amazon Prime Video drama builds on it to create a truly addicting mix of mystery, drama, comedy, and fear. There are many familiar flavors in this stew made by the 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 group of relative newcomers, represent a variety of cultures and experiences, all united by the fact that there is much to struggle beneath the surface. We know Leah has some dark secrets in her broken heart. Apparently superficial fatins (Sophia Ali) Family is about to explode. Rachel (Reign of Edward) dreams of gold medals as an Olympic diver, despite the emotional and physical costs. Point (Shannon Berry) may be the toughest of the group, but it's tough for a reason.
Image via Amazon
All of these characters and more get a chance in the limelight in their own breakout episodes, narrated in a flashback as the main action unfolds: brought together by a promised Dawn of Eve retreat to empower women in Hawaii, you go Private flight crooked; and the survivors wake up just off the coast of a desert island where they will battle with a limited number of resources to survive the elements. Of course, the real challenge for these very different people will be figuring out how to work together – especially against a force greater than they know.
While Lost took the time in season one to make it clear how many secrets lurked on the island, The Wilds made it clear from the start that there is a lot more going on here than we might know. The focus is on Gretchen Klein (Rachel Griffiths), the architect of this entire experience, with its own problems and complications; Griffiths knows exactly how to play into the riddle of her character while keeping her humanity present.
This is going to be a quick review as it is very difficult to talk about The Wilds without getting into spoilers territory – and trust me, you don't want to get spoiled for anything that happens. The pace of the big revelations is one of the strongest attributes of season one, with plenty of unexpected surprises far beyond what you might expect – no spoilers, but the way the show plays with its different timeframes is sometimes downright masterful. Sometimes the twists and turns may feel over the top, but there is rarely a lack of clarity about when a particular scene takes place, and the structure provides some real stomach ache thanks to skillful editing.
Image via Amazon
And it all stays grounded in a perspective of adolescent anxiety doing this rare thing – take it seriously. Each girl's story is different, but each one is based on understanding how real her feelings are for her, how confusing and harsh and too much life can feel at that age. Damn how it feels sometimes. Come for the secrets, stay for the raw emotional catharsis of seeing these girls scream. The Wilds is a hell of a ride, and the only downside is that in these uncertain production times, a second season isn't necessarily guaranteed. And that would be a shame, because the last episode of this season not only leaves us with a lot of questions, but we got to know these girls so well at this point that we really care what happens next.
Grade: B +
The Wilds Season 1 is now streamed on Amazon Prime Video.
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About the author
Liz Shannon Miller
(182 articles published)
Liz Shannon Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has been speaking about television on the internet since the dawn of the internet. She is currently Senior TV Editor at Collider. Her work has also been published by Vulture, Variety, the AV Club, the Hollywood Reporter, IGN, The Verge, and Thought Catalog. She's also a Produced Playwright, a variety of podcasts, and a collection of "X-Files" trivia. Follow her on Twitter at @lizlet.
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