The Wilds follows the lives of 9 young women, who on their way to a women-only retreat, crash land in the ocean, surviving by swimming to the shore of a mysterious deserted island. At first glance, the show seems to be a gender swapped Lord of the Flies. Yet there are enough twists that the group of teenagers stuck on an island is where the comparison ends.
The show is structured by intertwining the events on the island, which are told by the girls being interviewed after their rescue in the present day. Each episode is centred around a different character, giving the ensemble cast plenty of screen time and allowing for all of their stories to unfold naturally.
In the first episode, Leah (Sarah Pidgeon), who narrates the start of the series, agrees the girl’s experience was traumatic “but being a teenage girl in normalised America? That was the real living hell.” From here, it is clear to see the show is clearly written with a theme in mind: the struggles of being a girl. Each character has their own demons —be it eating disorders, questioning their sexuality, drugs— that they have to face head on whilst stranded; it sounds almost like they made a checklist to ensure all mental illness and traumatic experiences were included, yet it doesn’t feel like this whilst watching. The show is heavy and emotional throughout and does not shy away from gritty portrayals and each character is developed enough to keep it from coming across as a form of trauma-porn. Alongside the broken-hearted Leah, the line-up is made up of Fatin (Sophia Taylor Ali), a spoiled party girl; angry runaway Toni (Erana James) and her best friend Martha (Jenna Clause) who is decidedly more gentle; God fearing pageant girl Shelby (Mia Healey); the sisters Rachel (Reign Edwards); a high achieving athlete and her quiet sister Nora (Helena Howard); the survival know it all Dot (Shannon Berry) and the way too over enthusiastic Jeanette (Chi Nguyen). The structure of the show allows for each character to react and grow authentically throughout their time on the island and this pays off. Their well roundedness is the driving force behind the show, with some beautiful performances from the actors themselves, this allows for the constant twists and turns to be grounded in their authentic portrayals. It’s hard to believe this is many of the actors’ first breakout roles, given the depth in which they portray these characters on screen.
Some of the mysteries of the show could, and perhaps should have remained mysteries for a little longer —especially with regards to the reasons behind the events of the series. However, the series ends with enough questions unanswered that will easily lead to a season 2, particularly the series cliffhanger. The balance of action on the island to flashbacks of the characters’ lives before feels like a natural structure for the show, and at no point does it feel gratuitous. At times, the island feels almost secondary, despite being the key plot because of the depth at which we get to know the characters. The interviews taking place in what we understand as the characters present allows the show to stay coherent, and shows whose perspective of events we are experiencing.
While aspects of the show are stereotypical to that of a teen drama (think Euphoria or Skins) it’s great to see an adventure show that revolves around different characters as those we’d expect of this genre, and that should be applauded. If you’re looking for a new teen drama to sink your teeth into, this is probably it.
The Wilds Season 1 is streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime now
by Libby Kirby
Libby (she/her) is a film graduate and screenwriter now based in London. She loves off-beat comedies . Her other favourite films include (but are not limited to) The Outsiders, Swiss Army Man and A Ghost Story. You can find Libby on twitter and letterboxd @lbbykrby where she often rates films by how much they made her cry.