The Wilds aired in December 2020 as the first Prime Video teenage drama, a matriarchal utopia. It tells the story of a group of girls on their way to a female empowerment retreat in Hawaii. However, they end up crashing on a desert island instead. The show resembles the story and structure of another mainstream phenomenon: Lost. It advances through temporal jumps between the present, past traumas, and what happens outside the island. However, the viewer soon finds out that the girls’ plane wasn’t downed by accident.
Another (but different) desert island
The set-up of the story refers to a controversial anthropological experiment: the ‘Dawn of Eve’, architected by a bold American academic. Stirring away from Golding’s Lord of the Flies, her aim is to show that girls can cooperate in ‘the wilds’ better than boys. But in the end, the series posits an unanswered question. Is life on a desert island the real living hell? Or just the expectations of “being a perfect teenage girl in normal-ass America?”
Female empowerment and matriarchal utopia
The concept is not original (Lost, Lord of the Flies, Cast Away). What makes it new is the female-centredness of the project. A trend that started with remakes of the superheroes franchise (Brie Larson as Captain Marvel in the Avengers saga).
The series has an all-female ensemble, with the American producer Sarah Streicher running it. Moreover, the cast comprises all leading actresses. Outside the island, Australian Golden Globe winner (Six Feet Under) Rachel Griffiths dominates the scene. The utopian research will soon become dreary for the chosen girls. While they know nothing about it, it aims to convince the whole world that the current global, male-centered society has to die. And an island full of American teenage girls is just the initial proof of a more just and fair society.
All-round characters (and teenage) development
The set of flashbacks about the girls’ past, though, doesn’t leave clear what was so idyllic about their previous lives. Each episode mainly focuses on one of them, recalling the structure of Dear White People and Orange Is the New Black. This choice strengthens the audience’s engagement, and allows the viewer to unravel all the plot’s missing pieces. In particular, why they ended up on the island in the first place.
There is insecure Martha, who sees the good in everyone. Her best friend Toni, a fiery and passionate indigenous. The twin sisters Nora and Rachel: one struggling with social anxiety, the other with the pressure of being an elite sports athlete. Dot is overly responsible and Shelby overly optimistic – although coping with the guilt over her sexual identity. Fatin is humourous despite her demons, and Leah is the emotionally unstable one. Yet, thanks to her obsessive thinking, she will be the one putting light on the absurd situation on the island.
Living real life might have been the real living hell. But learning how to be the best imperfect versions of themselves, these eight teenagers will finally turn into young women.