In the ever-expanding world of streaming television, it is a rarity when a show can surprise you. You feel like you have seen almost everything before, a product of the inundation of shows that all are imitations of other stories without adding anything new themselves. Yet this can often clear the space for a show to come along and prove itself to be a cut above, an experience that carves out its place as being something rather unique. The intriguing first season of the Prime Video thriller series The Wilds was one such show. It raised a whole host of interesting ideas, challenging our expectations and building complex characters that you cared for. By the time the story ended on a cliffhanger, audiences were left with many unanswered questions and the hope that another season would put forth some unique ones of its own. This makes it all the more unfortunate this second outing not only fails to live up to the bar it set for itself, but it also ends up feeling stuck in reverse. Despite some glimpses of its former self, it all ends up becoming directionless and stuck looking backward as opposed to forward.
The Wilds picks up right where we left off in the first season with the show’s characters at the height of a crisis. Rachel (Reigh Edwards) was attacked by a shark while floating out in the water, providing an explanation of how she lost her hand that we see her without in many of the jumps forward in time. This serious injury came right after Leah (Sarah Pidgeon) had been about to confront Rachel’s sister Nora (Helena Howard) about her role as a plant in the group. The surveillance of the island and the girls stranded on it being done by the controlling Gretchen (Rachel Griffiths) had been something the audience was abundantly aware of though it remained a mystery to the characters up until this point. However, Leah had begun to put the pieces together only to have everything be upended when catastrophe struck the group. The rest of the well-established character dynamics become central to the story as she will still try to convince Shelby (Mia Healey), Martha (Jenna Clause), Dot (Shannon Berry), Toni (Erana James), and Fatin (Sophia Ali) that something is seriously amiss on this island.
This is all well and good as it builds upon what was the strong foundation of what came before. The Wilds still remains at its best when we see the dynamic between these characters we have become acquainted with. They are all well-written and acted, bringing to life all the nuances of their lives as they try to survive. Where the problems begin is when we get introduced to the so-called control group that had been code-named “The Twilight of Adam.” If you didn’t already pick up on what this was rather bluntly referring to, there is now a group of teenage boys who have been placed in the exact same situation at a separate location to serve as a baseline for the experiment. Leah had discovered this in the final scene of the first season, so this isn’t a surprise revelation by any means. What is surprising is just how much of a focus this new group of boys turns out to be in this second season. The eight new characters are Seth (Alex Fitzalan), Scotty (Reed Shannon), Josh (Nicholas Coombe), Alex (Jarred Blakiston), Kirin (Charles Alexander), Rafael (Zack Calderon), Ivan (Miles Gutierrez-Riley), and Henry (Aidan Laprete). If you’re thinking, “huh, that certainly seems like a lot of new characters in a season that is only eight episodes,” then you already have a sense of the show’s biggest detriment that it is never able to get out from behind the all-encompassing shadow of.
There was the initial hope that these boys would serve as some sort of foil to the group we had known, creating an interesting juxtaposition that better fleshed out the characters by comparison. While there are hints that this was possibly what was intended, it ends up completely missing the mark. Instead, these new characters go through all the same motions as what we had already seen done before. They become stranded on an island, uncertain of what to do, and must come together to find a way to make do in tough circumstances. The issue is that their characters are just less interesting, both a product of how we’ve spent less time with them and how they feel much more superficial in what we do experience. The Wilds had already been interested in showing how our first impressions of people can be challenged when we get to know them, though it seems to have given up on approaching that with the same veracity here. Our new characters range from the oafish jock to the shy emo kid, walking clichés that left me wishing the show would show mercy by keeping them as a B-plot. Instead, we sit with them for such an excessive amount of time that it all just feels wasted.
When a horrible act is committed by one against another, the writing woefully lacks the tact to handle it as it instead becomes increasingly excessive for the purpose of shock. It is a way the story telegraphs that it is creating a new antagonist of sorts, though it does so with all the subtlety of a hammer that the show brings crashing down on your head. Shown through flashbacks with an awkward visual aesthetic that only ends up looking cheap, it never feels as dynamic or compelling as what we had come to experience in the first season. While there is some crossover between these two groups that we see in the future, it all becomes tepid and dull when the original story had an energy that was far sharper. Even the elements about what the bizarre experiment are even about start to feel less thought out, burdened down by an additional scenario that it seems to acknowledge as frequently being unnecessary though it plows ahead with anyway. The awe of the experience and the general tension felt on the island is lost because of this, undercutting itself at every turn until it is left with nothing to stand on.
All of this leaves one gasping for air as the banal sideshow of these boys becomes increasingly tiresome when it takes center stage. When one character speaks about how he is “spinning his wheels” in trying to get through to another, he might as well be describing the utter lack of progress in his own storyline. By starting from scratch with a whole new group of characters, The Wilds bifurcates its focus and renders everything more shallow as a result. It is ill-conceived from the jump, digging itself into a narrative hole that it spends far too long trying to get out of. The original cast of characters still does their very best, finding layers of emotion in the all-too-brief glimpses we get of them. Whether it is in an impromptu birthday party or an attempt at saving a loved one who is injured, they all shine through even when the story does not. It just leaves the impression that the show should have stayed focused on them without adding in a whole other aspect that ends up amounting to clutter. By the time the season reaches its conclusion, hinting at yet more to come, the only final feeling you are left with is a desire to return to what made the show such a standout and clear out everything else.
The Wilds Season 2 will be available to stream starting Friday, May 6 on Amazon Prime.
Every Wong Kar-wai Film Ranked From Least Best to Perfection
About The Author