The Wilds
This female-led survival drama explores the lives of teenagers from various backgrounds in an intense environment. (Illustration by Melchisedech Quagrainie, Columbia College Chicago)

‘The Wilds’ Reminds Us of the Hardships of Being a Teenager, but With a Disturbing Twist

Have you been missing ‘Lost’ lately? ‘The Wilds’ may have fooled you into believing they were similar, but are they really?

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The Wilds

Have you been missing ‘Lost’ lately? ‘The Wilds’ may have fooled you into believing they were similar, but are they really?

Amazon’s Prime Video premiered the highly anticipated show “The Wilds” in early December. The trailer was one of those where the viewer couldn’t help but want to tune in to satiate their curiosity. The first thing that draws you in is the characters; they’re all from different backgrounds and ethnicities. But more interesting is that they’re all women.

It’s true, women are being seen on screen now more than ever. Take some of this year’s shows, for instance: “Ratched,” “Selena,” “Emily in Paris” and “The Queen’s Gambit.” All of them women, but “The Wilds” takes it up a notch with a whole cast of female main characters. There may be a total of five male characters with speaking parts. The women take it away in this one.

After their parents are informed of a retreat in Hawaii — meant to teach young women important values and help them escape their realities — nine teenagers are put on a plane headed across the ocean. Unfortunately, their plane crashes, they lose one of the girls and get stranded on an island.

Interestingly enough, we get a second perspective from the girls themselves after they leave the island. Each episode focuses on one girl as they’re being interviewed by the FBI. This gives us a backstory of where they were prior to this trip gone wrong, what made them end up on the plane and what happened on the island. However, soon enough, the viewers discover that, much like the Feminist Hawaii Retreat, the interviews are part of the whole ruse.

That’s right, the parents are persuaded to send their children to a retreat when, in reality, they’ve been deceived into allowing them to be a part of an experiment. Gretchen Klein, played by Rachel Griffiths, is the radical patriarchy fighter leading this experiment. She thinks a group of women can handle extreme situations better than a group of men could. So, she decides to prove this by taking rich donors’ money and putting it into this island covered in secret cameras used to watch over the teenagers and record every single movement they make to survive.

This show has some very important themes and they’re reflected in each of the different characters. Rachel Reid, played by Reign Edwards, is an elite diver training to get into the Olympics. However, she’s informed by her coach that she’s too tall to make the team. Reid, though, is a strong character and decides not to give up. She continues to train twice as hard, but eats a lot less to make her body impossibly smaller. This, unfortunately, manifests in an inevitable eating disorder that ends up hospitalizing her, evoking extreme concern in her parents and sister. The sister in question is Nora Reid, played by Helena Howard. She’s a highly intelligent, quirky character that won’t cease to surprise you. She’s a great candidate for the experiment thanks to that intelligence and the random — but useful — facts that float around in her head. She also has some game-changing secrets of her own.

Toni Shalifoe, played by Erana James, has anger issues that affect her both in her life before the island, as well as during her time there. She goes on this “retreat” with her best friend, Martha Blackburn, played by Jenna Clause. Blackburn is a Native American dancer involved in a case where a doctor she was once a patient of took advantage of young girls.

Shelby Goodkind, played by Mia Healy, comes from a heavily Christian family in Texas where she competes in pageants. She’s struggling to understand her more-than-friendly feelings toward her best friend while still knowing those feelings will be reprimanded by her family’s community. Goodkind will continue to try to comprehend her feelings for women on the island with one of the other girls. She travels with the school’s outsider, Dot Campbell, played by Shannon Berry. Campbell has taken care of her terminally-ill father for years now and as a gift to her, right before he passes, he gives her the infamous trip to Hawaii.

Lastly, we have Leah Rilke, played by Sarah Pidgeon, who, after a breakup with a writer 30 years her senior, can’t seem to get over her broken heart. Her parents see her deteriorating and decide a retreat with other girls her age will help mend it. Rilke travels with Fatin Jadmani, a Pakistani American played by Sophia Ali. Jadmani is a prodigy cello player whose parents have high expectations for her, yet she doesn’t always feel like meeting them. She likes sex and parties, as well as playing. These all seem like normal teenage girl problems, but when she finds out her father is cheating on her mother and Jadmani outs him by sending his intimate pictures to all of his contacts, she’s sent away as punishment.

They’re all very different women who don’t always get along. But, because of the extreme circumstances, they still find a way to cohabitate with one another and face all of the hardships they are put through.

The time between leaving the island and the beginning of the interviews is not revealed. That is one of the mysteries viewers want solved in the next season. It should be interesting since the girls all look very different (to say the least) from the moment we see them last on the island.

All the things left in the air and the success “The Wilds” has had in just two weeks prove its renewal was just a matter of time. Luckily, they officially announced on Dec. 19 that a second season would be happening.

If you’re ready to dive into a world of survival, an eerie experiment and a shocking season finale, you might want to binge “The Wilds” this holiday season. No doubt it’ll be worth it.

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Eva McCarthy Mínguez

Stony Brook University
Creative Writing

Writer in training. Professional reader. In the process of sharing her voice while highlighting others.

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