We’re approaching that time of year again: you’re sitting downstairs with your family, someone else in control of the remote, watching the same endless reruns and quoting Christmas films word-for-word having memorised them since your childhood.
It’s fun in the beginning, but then it grows boring. What you really want is something that pulls you out of your Christmas rut – and this is where your streaming services truly shine.
I know we all hate Amazon, and rightfully so, but Prime Video doesn’t get the credit it deserves. If you’re utilising that student Prime discount, then you have a whole other world of shows to distract you from Nicola Sturgeon’s updates or your da talking about Kirsty MacColl again. While I’m not on Bezos’ payroll, I have to admit that even I was surprised by what was on offer – but even more surprised by their new original The Wilds.
The 10-episode series follows a group of girls as they board a private plane, promised what they think will be an empowering, all-girl retreat in Hawaii. Imagine their surprise when they wake up in the ocean, clinging to plane parts while their new reality sets in: their retreat has turned into hell on earth. They’re stranded, with no food or drink, just the clothes on their back and the endless slogan tees packed in their suitcases.
We watch as they scramble for survival in one of the most unpredictable and unplanned scenarios one can imagine. Or, at least that’s how it seems until we meet Gretchen Klein. Nothing is ever simple in the world of TV, not that a plane crash is ever simple, but from the outset of The Wilds, we get the feeling that something isn’t right. Perhaps our eight (yes, eight!) protagonists are not lucky survivors, but instead, guinea pigs in some warped social experiment controlled by Gretchen, residing in her ultra-sleek HQ watching the manipulated events unfold.
I’ll be honest: I went in with minimal background info and very, very low expectations. What I had expected was a group of girls all playing into some kind of stereotype, along with all the exaggerated trauma and forced dialogue that comes with it. And I won’t lie, it has its moments. Our characters do, in fact, follow some loose archetypes – Fatin is the popular girl; Shelby: the Christian do-gooder; Toni: the hothead; Martha: the innocent; Nora and Rachel: the opposing twins; Dot: the voice of reason; and Leah: the most exasperating character of all. Maybe that’s not a fair judgement – like all of the girls, she has depth and reason, though she’s often the catalyst for most problems within the group.
On the other hand, Gretchen and her team fall into a sort of void, where I’m not quite sure what to make of them. While the main plot and backstories are equally as gripping and diverse, the actual reasoning behind why the girls are there and what the island symbolises is a little more blurred. There is a subtle social commentary on feminism and gender roles, about living with expectation and the construction of identity – it’s Gretchen’s pseudo-feminism that’s inspired this experiment, the creation of freeing landscape where “societal pressures are eliminated, replaced only by the simple responsibilities of breathing, surviving, and becoming more truly yourself”.
There are moments where this subplot falls flat – the world building (outside of the island setting) is underdeveloped, as are the characters and aims, meaning nothing fully adds up. The show was just renewed for a second season, however, and considering the developments made within the last few episodes, I feel like this will be expanded upon later.
If this social commentary focus isn’t your bag, then not to worry! It’s easy enough to just watch and enjoy the show. It’s gripping and exciting, with equal measures of sad, funny and touching moments. I was surprised at the performances offered by the main cast, particularly Mia Healey (Shelby), Shannon Berry (Dot) and Sophia Taylor Ali (Fatin). I mentioned in my review of Little Fires Everywhere (another Prime show worth a watch) about how unfortunately rare it is to see teenagers in TV who actually feel real, rather than a 30-year-old forced into a school uniform. This isn’t true of The Wilds, where the girls look, sound and act like young adults and it’s refreshing to see young, and authentic, female talent being offered these main roles.
I have been so surprised by this show, and I’m disappointed I burned through it all in one night. Whether you want something other than Christmas movies, or a show with a little more substance, I’d really recommend checking it out. It’s sort of like an all-female version of Lost, but with humour, vitality and current pop-culture references. It strikes the perfect chord of depth and fun, darkness and light – and we could use a bit more of that right now. Plus, you may end up a little more grateful – we may be stuck inside, with our selection boxes, family squabbles and rubbish TV, but hey! At least we’re not stranded in a social experiment.
The first season of The Wilds is available on Amazon Prime Video now.
Featured image credit: Amazon Prime Video