It’s hard to believe that by the Season 1 finale of “The Wilds” two years ago, the eight teenage girls left to fend for themselves on a remote island after a plane crash had only been stranded for three weeks. The Amazon Prime Video series creator Sarah Streicher’s well-written script and excellent casting made this series one of the most talked-about in 2020, and its second season is has been hotly anticipated ever since. Although we’ve seen versions of this premise before, what makes “The Wilds” unique is that it’s clear from the start that what we’re witnessing is an experiment.
Social scientist Gretchen Klein (Rachel Griffiths) has one goal: to prove that a matriarchal-led society is more efficient and less violent than our current Western male-dominated one. So she sets out to prove her hypothesis with a ridiculously well-funded and carefully orchestrated social experiment disguised as an island getaway called “The Dawn of Eve.” After Season 1’s mind-bending mystery, one of the girls, Leah (Sara Pidgeon), not only finds out they are unwitting subjects of an experiment but that they are not the only ones trapped in it. We delve into the program’s control group in Season 2, dubbed “The Twilight of Adam,” made up entirely of teen boys.
If Season 1 felt like a cross between “Mean Girls” and “Lost,” then Season 2 is “Lord of the Flies” meets “Westworld” as the boys are placed in even more dangerous situations than the girls — to disastrous results.
Season 2 starts in the past right where Season 1 ended, after a horrific shark attack in which Nora (Helena Howard) disappears along with Rachel’s (Reign Edwards) right hand. This leaves Leah confused and frustrated as she was moments away from outing Nora as an operative working among them.
Before we can catch our breath, we see the “Adam” recruits sitting in the same seats on the same plane as the girls were before their plane went down, about to munch on the exact “roofied” chocolate cake the girls had before waking up on the island lost and confused.
From the first episode of Season 2, it’s clear something has gone terribly wrong with the boys’ team when Gretchen proclaims happily that the “Eve” team lasted 50 days on the island while the “Adam” team only lasted 34. With those results, she considers the experiment a success. All she needs is the data.
Similar to Season 1, the show uses stunning cinematography and clever editing to bounce back and forth between each team’s scenarios on the island and their present-day psych evals with “FBI Agents” Faber (David Sullivan) and Young (Troy Winbush) — with the addition of the boys’ backstories inserted in every episode as the audience gets to know them.
Like any good experiment, every female character in the program has a male counterpart in the control group. For instance, stepbrothers Henry (Aidan Laprete) and Seth (Alex Fitzalan) compare to Rachel and Nora. Henry appears to be a neurodivergent kid bullied by his sibling. However, Seth has a penchant for hurting others, while Rachel ends up on the trip by hurting herself.
Another example is Leah and her counterpart Rafael (Zac Calderon), a quiet and brooding Mexican boy who, like Leah, was despondent after an ex broke his heart. The trauma that Raf experienced before the trip is augmented on the island and changes him forever. Leah also transforms as her mental state deteriorates the longer she’s exposed to the elements. But Raf succumbs to his fear and rage while Leah weaponizes hers.
Pigeon’s performance is not the only standout work this season. Edwards also does an incredible job reshaping Rachel after the loss of her sister, emerging as one of the most thoughtful characters of the show. While fan favorites Shelby (Mia Healey) and Toni (Erana James) struggle to make it through the first real test of their relationship. The most tragic characters of The Wilds Season 2 are unnaturally cheerful newcomer Josh (Nicolas Coombe) and his counterpart Martha (Jenna Clause), who both have emotionally heart-wrenching arcs this season.
Although themes like sex, suicide, racism and homophobia are all abundant on the show, this season becomes decidedly more violent, with both sexual and physical assault depicted. The trauma is not glossed over, to the show’s credit, but those sensitive to the subject matter will want to pay attention to the warnings at the top of each episode.
Ultimately, “The Wilds” Season 2 is an intense but enjoyable watch that feels crowded at times with 8 new characters. However, aside from a few questionable musical numbers (yes, there is singing), the plot unravels well, but is clearly written to be binged. Be warned, Season 1 is a prerequisite, and the final episode lands on in such a way that fans will probably riot if this show doesn’t get a Season 3.
“The Wilds” Season 2 will be streaming on Prime Video on May 6.