The Wilds Assessment: Finest Misplaced Knockoff comes 16 years later and is about teenage ladies
Amazon Prime Video’s new series The Wilds is new this weekend, but its trail began on September 22, 2004. This was the premiere of ABC’s Lost, the show that brought television and storytelling on television to … would at least change several years. On this show, a plane crashes over the Pacific, leaving its diverse group of passengers struggling for survival. Each episode typically deals with a specific character and their time on the seemingly deserted island to which they called home back then. Her life before fate led her to aboard this plane (to explain her actions on the island) and in later seasons the impact of her experiences on the island on her life after her return to civilization. All of that happens in The Wilds too.
This obvious mimicry is nothing new. Lost is one of the most fake television series of all time because it slapped pop culture in the face and became the series of events that revived television when movies kicked the ass. Everyone who made television immediately switched gears and sped up the development of a show they hoped would be the next Lost. And pretty much every one of them couldn’t capture the success of Lost. To name a few: FlashForward, Manifest, Alcatraz, and more recently and more spectacularly awful The I-Land. But of the many peering over Damon Lindelof’s shoulder to copy from Lost’s Bible, only one has shown the skill to get close to the masterpiece from Lost’s early seasons. It only took 16 years and it’s about teenage girls.
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The Wilds is so Lost-like I’m still surprised that every episode doesn’t end with a Bad Robot bumper. A private jet destined for a spiritual retreat to help scared teenage girls sort out their sh-out crashes. Nine of them are stuck in Whoknowswhere without adult supervision. It’s Lord of the Flies rewritten with a collage of scraps from a high school yearbook – the popular girl, the outsider, the glamorous girl, the athlete, the lesbian. But what The Wilds does right, what other Lost impersonators haven’t done, is that their stories matter.
The flashbacks to the lives of these girls show a glimpse behind the curtain of the youthful psyche. The hormones, the confusion, the surprisingly smart and excited view of the world that dictates almost every action. Leah’s (Sarah Pidgeon) paranoid obsession with an older man consumes her. Shelby’s (Mia Healey) refusal to dismiss her religious and beauty contest lifestyle and accept who she really is makes her go round in circles. Rachel’s (Reign Edwards) urge to be the best she can be leads her to sacrifice everything else. And these personalities even carry over while staring at death.
This all sounds like stories you’ve heard before, but as the 10 episodes unfold, creator Sarah Streicher (Marvel’s Daredevil) adds depth and shadow to each archetype to transform them into authentic, complex characters whose essence is different attracts and repels more complicated relationships between them. Yes, Mother Nature is actively trying to kill these girls, and there’s obviously a lot more to her situation than initially thought (it’s as much a mystery boxing show as Lost), but the real heart of The Wilds is the experience of a young one To be a girl portrayed honestly in all its mess.
The mental disorder extends to the physical as well. There is blood. There is puke. There is piss. By the end of season one, all of these young girls are covered in scabs, bruises, and wind-burned, sun-burned, cracked skin. The only thing that identifies her as a young girl and not as a savage are the garish sweaters from one of the surviving suitcases. that belonged to the rich celebrity they were in the rubble and in the P! nk song, they sing over the shallow grave of a person who did not survive the first night. It’s a young adult for mature adults, and everything credibly passes by the impressive young and mostly unknown cast who take turns turning out to be outstanding representatives of the series.
Strings aggressively smashes multiple genres in a way that rarely works as well as in The Wilds. Despite being teenage girls, the island survival story is raw like genre fiction. The survivors’ flashforwards, interrogated by the government, which includes a steel Rachel Griffiths as CEO of a blacksite-level secrecy firm, have all the makings of a conspiracy thriller. But it is the backstories of these young women and the issues they deal with – sexuality, romance, abuse, and more – that make the other aspects greater than the sum of their parts. That attention to character and experience is being taken straight from the Lost playbook, and The Wilds makes it one of the nicest surprises of 2020.
TV Guide rating: 4/5
The Wilds is now available on Amazon Prime.