TV Review: The Wilds Season 2

Season 2 of “The Wilds” gets deeper and darker on the island as we meet new characters and the girls endure more trauma. 

One of my most anticipated releases of 2022 was Season 2 of “The Wilds.” Although originally released on Amazon Prime in December of 2020, I stumbled upon the show in early 2021 and watched all 10 episodes in a week. The plot follows a group of eight girls who crash land on an island and must survive. I was quickly enamored by the writing as well as the acting. We discover that the plane crash was orchestrated and was actually a twisted science experiment conducted by a scientist by the name of Gretchen Klein (Rachel Griffiths). It left audiences with tons of questions and a burning desire for a continuation of the story. The show is delivered in a nonchronological order with scenes before the island, on the island, and after the island. This enticing plotline paired with strong women characters who were dynamic and complex made the show incredibly easy to enjoy.

With the confirmation of Season 2, the possibilities seemed endless. One of the biggest new plotlines within Season 2 was the addition of a “boys’ island.” This included the addition of eight new male cast members. This was controversial for a number of reasons. The first season of “The Wildswas a very women-centric show. The main cast members were women, the showrunner is a woman, and a lot of the writers are women. This resonated very deeply with audiences so there was discourse about whether the inclusion of the boys would take time away from the girls. I tried to keep an open mind to the addition of the boys to the show and was fairly intrigued by the prospect. It worked well with the concept of a scientific experiment: offering the boys as a control group. To an extent, the juxtaposition of boys versus girls is a logical next step for the storyline and is very interesting. One thing I would agree with is that the addition of the boys does take time away from the girls.

We enter Season 2 with a voiced-over montage, cycling through the events after Rachel’s (Reign Edwards) shark attack. The beginning of Season 2 felt rushed, skipping through multiple scenes that could have been fleshed out, like the reveal of Shelby (Mia Healy) and Toni’s (Erana James) relationship. I hope that if we get a Season 3, they continue to utilize flashbacks to show important moments we might have missed on the islands. However, I think that without the addition of new people to focus on, it’s possible seeing the same old stranded-on-an-island storyline could get stale.

One of my favorite things about “The Wilds” is that the characters are so complex. They feel like real people because they all have flaws and faults. They have imperfections that make them human. I think this trend continues with the boys as there isn’t a boy introduced that is perfect;  each one has his own quirk and arc. This is very refreshing. It feels as if male characters are often pushed into boxes and this season didn’t shy away from letting the boys make mistakes. Too often, male characters are reduced to stereotypes or tropes, like the dumb jock, the nerd, or the class clown. In “The Wilds,” the boys feel more like real human beings instead of two-dimensional plot devices. To be completely honest, the boys were a lot less relatable than the girls were. I can’t tell if it’s just because it’s harder to connect to boys, we got less of their backstories, or they just weren’t likable people. My favorite male character was Kirin (Charles Alexander). I liked that his character subverted the mean jock stereotype as he authentically did come to care for the other boys on the island. It feels really nice to know that complex characters like this can be shown and written in a way that doesn’t feel fake. I also appreciate that the writers didn’t shy away from the unpalatable aspects of life. Seth (Alex Fitzlan) was a character I thought I would like but the development — or better put, the regression — of his character through a distasteful invasion of privacy towards his girlfriend and another boy on the island was a hefty plot twist. The fact that “The Wilds” can address taboo topics like abusive relationships and sexual assault in a way that isn’t necessarily offensive is another brilliant writing aspect. 

The acting in this show is incredible. Leah Rilke (Sarah Pidgeon) is incredibly suspicious of the situation they are in. In Season 2, her paranoia and the internal battle of her sanity reach a peak. Sarah Pidgeon does a wonderful job at displaying the unhinged aspect of the character. Pidgeon doesn’t stray away from screaming or acting with her whole body, something that makes the emotion hit harder. I could probably write a paragraph for each of the girls and the brilliant life they bring to the characters. This season felt a lot darker. I think it comes with the territory as they expand into the after-effects of the first season. Rachel deals with a shark attack and the loss of her hand. Shelby is still dealing with her internalized homophobia. The girls do a wonderful job at depicting these heavy topics in a way that feels genuine. Continually, the bond that the girls have with each other remains strong. The found family trope has always been a trope I’ve loved to watch. The connection between Leah and Fatin (Sophia Ali) only strengthened this season, opening up exciting avenues. I think that the chemistry the main girls have with each other outshines the chemistry between the boys.

Plotwise, this season was average for me. It feels as if they are laying down the framework for an even bigger climax next season. We continue to learn more about the girls’ time on the island and simultaneously are introduced to the boys and their time on the island. Now that we’ve been introduced to all of the players, the opportunity for interaction with everyone as they fight for their lives is such a fascinating dynamic. I hope that we’ve gotten through most of the exposition and they start to focus on answering the questions that viewers have been left with.

My review feels a little biased because the authenticity of the characters overpowers any big grievances I have with the show. It feels special to watch this show about being stranded on a deserted island and have it feel incredibly real. To relate to the way these characters are feeling, to the struggle and difficulty of being a teenage girl, all of it. I think the way that all the girls have something they want to run away from allows them to bond with each other in a way that feels like home. I am both disappointed and eager about the addition of the boys. I think this season only opened up more questions for the audience and that the next season will only be bigger and better. The stakes are rising, which creates this tension-filled watching experience. I’m really excited to see where it goes because it feels like the show is just getting started.

Grade: B-
Directed by: Sarah Striecher
Starring: Sarah Pidgeon, Mia Healy, Erana James, Sophia Ali, Reign Edwards, Shannon Berry, Jenna Clause, Kirin Alexander, Alex Fitzlan
Release Date: May 6, 2022

Image courtesy of NBC News

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