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‘The Wilds’ grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go

PHOTO PROVIDED The poster for “The Wilds” is shown.

For the sake of mixing things up (and because I haven’t had the chance to watch any older movies/TV shows) my fellow columnist and I have decided to dip into some newer television this week.

I recently binge watched the second, and newest, season of Amazon Prime’s “The Wilds” and have been itching to talk about it.

“The Wilds” premeired in 2020 and centers around a group of teenage girls who are stranded on a deserted island following a plane crash. The group of survivors include: Fatin Jadmani (Sophia Ali) and Leah Rilke (Sarah Pidgeon) two teenagers from Berkley, Calif.; Dot Campbell (Shannon Berry) and Shelby Goodkind (Mia Healey) from Texas; twin sisters Rachel (Reign Edwards) and Nora (Helena Howard) Reid from New York; and Martha Blackburn (Jenna Clause) and Toni Shalifoe (Erana James) best friends from Minnesota.

The first season centers solely around the girls as they struggle to find a balance amongst each other. Each one has a past of their own, often riddled with trauma. And, as the season progresses, some of the girls begin to realize their situation isn’t exactly what it seems.

We slowly learn this between a split timeline — one on the island and the other at a National Guard Outpost following the girls’ rescue.

Although this is an ensemble cast, Pidgeon’s character Leah is somewhat the catalyst throughout. Leah is a love sick teenager who found herself seduced by a much older man who — when confronted with the truth that she’s not 18 — quickly abandons her. Leah is somewhat paranoid and a little bit off kilter before she arrives on the island. And as things begin to seem off, her paranoia only grows.

The other girls, who come with their own problems, are put off by Leah’s obsession. Her theories that the island is being watched and the plane crash wasn’t real. She even goes as far as to accuse more than one fellow survivor of being a spy.

For the casual viewer, we already know something is wrong. Within the first few episodes we’re introduced to Gretchen Klein (Rachel Griffiths), who hand picked each of the girls for her Dawn of Eve project. Klein’s goal is clear from the start, she wants to prove the superiority of women. And, obviously, the only way to do that is to purposefully strand a group of teens on an island for weeks. Science am I right?

Season one sucks you in pretty quickly as you watch the girls find their place amongst the group. It isn’t easy, and there’s more than one fight — both verbal and physical — throughout the first 10 episodes. And they do this while also battling the elements and attempting not to starve.

By season two, after facing a devastating loss, they truly become a family. The relationships formed and expanded on in that season are some of my favorite. The “unsinkable eight” as they dubbed themselves, become a family — becoming fiercly protective of each other.

Season two also sees the introduction of another part of Gretchen’s crazy experiment — the Twilight of Adam. Care to guess what that is? If you assumed she stranded a group of teen boys on an island, you’d be correct. Gretchen is nothing if not thorough in her quest to prove women are superior.

I could talk more in depth about the Twilight of Adam side of things, but it didn’t really have that much of an impact on me. Call me Gretchen Klein if you want, but the girls were far more intriguing.

I feel that, if its renewed for a third season, they may expand on them a little more and flesh out their development. But as it stands, they only served as a twist in the second season. That’s not to say the actors themselves were terrible. The chemistry between them was really good. It just wasn’t as impactful to me as the Unsinkable Eight.

Overall, “The Wilds” is an excellent series that I can’t recommend enough. It has over-the-top danger filled scenerios mixed with very real, sometimes relatable moments that make these characters three dimensional. The creator of the show, Sarah Streitcher, clearly has a gift for zeroing in on the humanity of the characters she created.

And, where the girls are concerned, the evolution of their characters was really interesting to watch. I didn’t find myself in season two questioning any of the directional choices for any of them. I particularly loved watching Fatin — who started off as a distant diva — become the true “mom friend” of the group, continually checking in on her fellow survivors. I can’t say enough about Ali’s ability to communicate emotions with a simple look — particularly when it comes to Leah.

Pidgeon’s portrayal of Leah was mind blowing too — especially in season two. I won’t go into detail beyond that, just trust me the end will shock you.

Honestly, I could go on and on forever about just how amazing each and every cast member is during both seasons. Even Griffiths does a killer job of playing Gretchen, who basically said “is anyone going to traumatize some teens in the name of science?” and just didn’t wait for a response.

I’m currently keeping my hopes up and fingers crossed that Amazon Prime takes pity on me and renews the show for a third season. They ended on quite the cliff hangar and I NEED to know what happens next.

“The Wilds” is rated TV-14 and can be watched on Amazon Prime.

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Laura Jameson is managing editor of The Express.

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