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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 22, 2024

On Demand: Not a lot of luggage but a lot to unpack in 'The Wilds'


Like most people, I’ve daydreamed about my likelihood of surviving in apocalyptic or suddenly traumatic situations like "The Hunger Games" (2008–10), zombie attacks or being marooned on an island. While I lack any evolutionary faith in myself to successfully perform DIY outdoors survival, as a member of Tufts Wilderness Orientation, I’m sure I could finagle my way around a tarp, if given the proper rope, stakes and moral support.  

It’s impossible to predict what my natural responses could be to life-changing externally motivated events, the improbability of which allows these situations to exist solely as fun conversation starters.  

However, that’s not the case for the characters in “The Wilds” (2020–), an Amazon Prime drama released last December. “The Wilds” centers on a diverse group of teen girls trying to survive on an island after their plane crashes on its way to a women’s retreat in Hawaii, forcing them to grapple both with the trauma of their past and of their new present.  

Critics have described “The Wilds” as some combination of “Survivor” (2000–), “Lost,” (2004–10), “Mean Girls” (2004) and other stories that represent a YA take on the deserted island trope. I’d reasonably offer up "Flight 29 Down” (2005–07) meets "Lord of the Flies" (1954) meets “Ocean’s Eight” (2018) — less for the heist than the all-female lineup.  

Each episode centers on a different character, shifting between three timelines: the girls’ struggle to survive, flashbacks to their life pre-crash and a present-day isolated interrogation room which becomes the plot device for storytelling. With little physical luggage remaining, the girls still have loads to unpack. Tough Dot (Shannon Berry) was her terminally ill father’s caretaker; Christian beauty-pageant princess Shelby (Mia Healey) struggles with her identity; the observant and broody Leah (Sarah Pidgeon) obsesses over her love affair with a 30-something author; elite diver Rachel (Reign Edwards)grapples against her body while pushing aside her sensitive, intelligent twin and so on.

“The Wilds” doesn’t lack its share of cheesiness. The first episode (and even a truncated version in the trailer) immediately tells us: “If we’re talking about what happened out there, then yeah, there was trauma. But being a teenage girl in normal-ass America, that was the real living hell.” Sure, it’s not so subtle, but coupled with an emotive soundtrack (including a recurring motif of Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” (2010)) and Leah’s raspy voice, I was pretty easily sold.   

By the premiere’s close the girls are revealed to be a part of a disgraced scientist’s attempt at a “Gynotopia” — a world without men and perhaps the tackiest and more CW-evoking element of the show. The ability of “The Wilds” to develop unique, emotionally packed storylines sucked me into its world, dropping me at cliffhangers and begging me to click “next.”  

The best shows are absorbed twice: the first time, binge-watched into the depths of the night while in your childhood bedroom, the second time, over planned sit-downs with your two besties (shoutout to “the wild ones” Kyle and Anna). While watching “The Wilds” still left me vastly unequipped for a girl vs. nature experience, I’m eager to see what emerges in Season 2 from the comfort of my couch. 

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