DISCLAIMER: Mild spoilers abound in this review for Season 2 of Prime Video’s The Wilds.

The Wilds is Lost meets Degrassi: The Next Generation. However, the second season moves away from some of what made the show great: its puzzle-box narrative. 

If you’re an old fogey like me, comparing The Wilds to Lost and Degrassi is quite the compliment—and although it pulls many of its narrative elements from those two series, it probably won’t stay in the social consciousness as they have. But that doesn’t mean the series isn’t worth watching because it is 100 percent binge-worthy, and if it were an episodic series like Lost, it would keep people talking around the water cooler from week to week.

RELATED: Check out our Reservation Dogs recaps here! 

To Watch or Not to Watch Season 1, That Is the Question

The Wilds cast sitting around a campfire with a mannequin

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Full disclosure, I did not watch the first season of Prime Video’s The Wilds before viewing Season 2 and maybe fared better for it. Many reviewers were disappointed with the show’s decision to introduce the young men in the female-driven series.

Still, having never seen the first season, I was not disappointed with “the boys” in its sophomore season. Instead, it seemed like another aspect of the puzzle-box narrative and added to my enjoyment of screaming, “Like Lost!” every few minutes. 

Without a preamble introducing me to the characters and their Season 1 arcs, Season 2 threw me right into the series—and honestly, it wasn’t that confusing for the uninitiated. The Wilds Season 2 is about a group of teenage girls stranded on a deserted island after the explosive discovery that what’s happening to them is an elaborate social experiment.

How did the girls get there? You’d be correct if you guessed a Lost-style plane crash orchestrated by the Dawn of Eve Research organization with a symbol that reminds you of the Dharma Initiative. Throwing you right into the drama was only confusing once (I admit I had to look up a season finale recap to learn what everyone was so sad about).

The Wilds - Dawn of Eve Research station where two scientists converse

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

The first episode begins with Nora (Helena Howard) and Rachel (Reign Edwards) in the ocean following Rachel’s shark attack. Indeed, much of the second season deals with Rachel’s grief over Nora’s disappearance. As the depression swells over her, leaving her almost catatonic by the oceanside, she struggles to care for the wound she got from the attack, an event teased in Season 1’s many jumps forward in time.

Rachel lost her hand in the attack, and much of Season 2 deals with that loss—as Rachel overcomes the injury, she begins to deal with Nora’s loss and betrayal with the help of Dot (Shannon Berry).

We also learn that Rachel lost her hand soon after Leah (Sarah Pidgeon) was about to confront Nora about her role as the Dawn of Eve’s plant. Unlike like Lost, wherein the big bad remained as much a mystery to the audience as the plane crash victims, in The Wilds, the viewers are aware the girls were being studied even though it remained a mystery to the characters.

So Season 2 picks up with Leah’s discovery in the final episode of Season 1 of the so-called control group, code-named “The Twilight of Adam.”

RELATED: Queer Tested, Teacher Approved: 13 LGBTQ+ Sex-Positive YA Novels for Your TBR

What’s the Deal With the Twilight of Adam?

What is the purpose of the experiments for the Dawn of Eve/Twilight of Adam? Well, it’s probably pretty obvious from the code names, but for those not versed in Christian mythology (another Lost parallel), let me briefly explain. So far, the whole point of the unethical experiment helmed by lead scientist Gretchen Klein (Rachel Griffiths) is to prove that girls are better than boys. 

However, while I can buy that, people could send a few poor kids to a Survivor-like military school for troubled teens, and Americans wouldn’t bat an eye; I’m not sure about the rest of the setup.

I know television is all about the suspension of belief, but for some reason, throwing the scientific method out the window irked me. On the most basic level, starting an experiment to prove a particular viewpoint is no experiment. Then, there is the complete skirting of the Institutional Review Board’s ethical standards. I’m all for cheap, unexplained television science, but only if it doesn’t come across as half hazard.

The Wilds The Twilight of Adam team on the airplane

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Each episode reflects the show’s new split narrative, with the premiere titled “Day 30/1,” but the focus remains on the Twilight of Adam control group. Since I didn’t know any characters beforehand, this didn’t bother me, but fans of The Wilds seem disappointed by the cast additions. Since half of the world’s population is female, there is no need to introduce male characters to boost audience numbers (although story-wise, an all-male control group makes sense).

The less intriguing five control group members include Rafael Garcia (Zack Calderon), a quiet guy who lives in Tijuana but attends high school in San Diego and gravitates toward people with stronger, more charismatic personalities than his own. Then, Josh Herbert (Nicholas Coombe), a talkative, hypochondriacal teenager from a wealthy family in San Diego, doesn’t understand him.

Ivan Taylor (Miles Gutierrez-Riley) is an aspiring Black gay activist and playwright with razor-sharp wit that sometimes crosses the line. Bo Leonard (Tanner Rook) is a quiet teen from an abusive Christian background who’d gladly lie down in the street for his best friend, Scotty.

Lastly, we have Scotty Simms (Reed Shannon), a teenage entrepreneur who dreams of making the Forbes 400 list one day, and always by his side is his best friend, Bo.

RELATED: Big Nate Series Review

Not all of the boys’ storylines stood out for the right reasons. There was one scene I could have done without, especially as a survivor … and I have a high tolerance for onscreen violence. At least give a dude a proper trigger warning!

The particular trauma in the show has happened to me, and I could have braced myself or fast-forwarded the scene and saved myself some very uncomfortable moments. Besides, there are other ways the writers could have shown the cycle of abuse.

However, the three Twilight of Adam storylines that stood out for better or worse were Seth Novak (Alex Fitzalan), described in the promotional material as “naturally funny, Ivy-League smart, and full of charisma.” His half-brother Henry Tanaka (Aidan Laprete) is described as “a reclusive emo type who prefers to retreat into the safety of his noise-canceling headphones and dwell on the darkness in the world.”

Yes, I’m being vague here for a reason. And finally, Kirin O’Connor (Charles Alexander), the character I expected to hate but came to love as he protects weaker group members.

Kirin celebrates in front of a beach bonfire

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

The Wilds Shines Exploring Mental Health and LGBTQ+ Themes

I appreciated how The Wilds dealt with mental themes. Around 18 is when many major mental health disorders begin to manifest, and the onset of symptoms would be more likely in a high-stress situation like being stranded on an island.

Without mentioning a big spoiler, I will say that there was a nuanced exploration of severe depressive symptoms like catatonia (it can also happen in children and teens with PTSD, who are more likely than adults to freeze in response to traumatic experiences).

When I saw all the mental stuff onscreen, I thought, “Wow, cool! You hardly ever see catatonic depression in a television series!” A Native American teenager, Martha Blackburn, played by Jenna Clause, a Cayuga Nation Wolf Clan Member of the Haudenosaunee People from Six Nations Reserve located in Ontario, Canada. Martha goes through a particularly affecting mental health moment. 

RELATED: Top 10 Favorite LGBTQIA+ TV Couples

Another area where the Prime Video series shines is how it deals with LGBTQ+ relationships. When The Wilds starts to explore the relationships between the girls, it starts to feel like Degrassi‘s best moments as a forward-thinking show about teens discovering who they are, with A LOT of drama. 

When Season 2 focuses on the girls’ island, it spends a lot of time on the developing love story between Toni (Erana James) and Shelby (Mia Healey). The moments between the two girls are genuinely beautiful, and the writers even included a winking nod to fans when Fatin (Sophia Ali) refers to them as “Shoni.” 

Shoni sitting together in a forest

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Having not seen Season 1, I was unaware of Shelby’s background. However, I was able to pick up on clues from Healey’s nuanced performance that character was formerly a God-fearing pageant queen from the South. Although coming into the season blind dampened my appreciation for the character’s growth, it was still one of the primary reasons I was eager to review the series.

Teen dramas come in various sizes. Like Degrassi, the Prime Video series The Wilds was an honest depiction of teen romance and self-discovery for teens who grew up in homes where parents didn’t introduce them to terms and ideas like gay or trans.

When you grow up in a restrictive environment, it can be hard to genuinely accept yourself, so discovering that how you feel has a label and is a valid identity can be truly life-changing. If you’ve never heard of those terms, then how do you know what they are? How do you know you’re trans? How do you know you’re gay? You might have a clue about your feelings, but you’ve never heard the words.

You don’t have a definition to define yourself. You don’t know if you have an identity or where that fits into society. You know you’re what you’re not. It’s cool to see that explored in The Wilds, and rather than using the therapeutic model to remove that from these kids, the experiment shines a positive light on diversity of thought and identity.

The series also stars David Sullivan as Dr. Daniel Faber, an FBI trauma specialist that uses his training to extract information from vulnerable teens, and Troy Winbush as FBI Agent Dean Young, a seasoned investigator with a critical supporting role to play. 

The Wilds is created and executive produced by Sarah Streicher alongside showrunner and executive producer Amy Harris. The late Jamie Tarses of FanFare and Dylan Clark of Dylan Clark Productions also serve as executive producers. The series is co-produced by Amazon Studios and ABC Signature, part of Disney Television Studios. 

Prime Video’s The Wilds premieres May 6, 2022.

LIZZO’S WATCH OUT FOR THE BIG GRRRLS Series Review

 

 

Rebecca Kaplan