What would you do if you were stuck on a deserted island?
It’s a tired ice breaker, as well as the guiding question of Robinson Crusoe, Lord of the Flies, and Lost (2004-2010), to name just a few. It’s also the premise of The Wilds, on Amazon Prime. References to Lost and Lord of the Flies would not be unwarranted. After all––nine teenage girls stranded on an uninhabited island sounds a lot like a gender-bent version of William Golding’s classic tale. But as the show goes on, we realize that perhaps The Wilds is better compared to HBO’s Euphoria in the way it treats adolescence, queerness, sisterhood, and friendship in such an open, authentic way.
I went into the show expecting a soapy teen drama but came out attached to the nine diverse, complex women who head the show. Each character has their own unique compelling arc, explored through each of the ten episodes. The show is at its best when it explores each of the girls’ complex pasts and how they intersect with the relationships they form, break, and strengthen with each other on the island. It’s difficult to have a large ensemble cast and still give each character appropriate character development, but The Wilds does it with a deftness that pleasantly surprised me.
Of course, some arcs felt more interesting than others––the show spends an inordinate amount of time on Leah (who gets two episodes of backstory and then some, when the other girls get one each), who struggles with a break-up. And the plot twist of the island not being an accident, though by in large compelling, leads to some pretty uncompelling screen time spent on the professor running the ‘experiment’ that the girls find themselves in. Despite these nitpicks, however, The Wilds is one-of-a-kind in the way that it subverts audience expectations by leaning into stereotypes, both about teenage girls and about the teen soap genre as a whole, and methodically and elaborately breaking them down.
Image Credit: ‘The Wilds’ on Amazon Prime Video