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The Wilds - Season One - Roundtable Review: Dawn of Eve

31 Dec 2020

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This article was written by Aimee Hicks, Alison D., Cecile, and Laura W. The article was edited by Donna Cromeans (DJRiter). The open and close of the article were written by Aimee Hicks. Prepared for publishing by Aimee Hicks.

One statement was universal in 2020, it was a surreal year full of catastrophe, heartache, and isolation. There were glimmers of hope throughout these long twelve months that actually felt more like a full decade. Despite the entertainment industry being disrupted, new programming managed to be rolled out to eager consumers desperate for an escape from a reality that even the most eccentric of writers couldn’t have imagined. Many hidden gems emerged to entertain and captivate. As the year finally neared its end, new shows became scarce, but Amazon Prime came through to deliver The Wilds, a surprise and unexpected hit for the streamer. Renewed a week and a day from its release, an extremely fast renewal in the world of online streamers, proved how quickly it had made a place for itself in the crowded world of streaming programs.

Filled with a cast of mostly unknowns The Wilds managed to go mostly unnoticed until its release. After an early drop, the show rapidly gained a social media presence helping to catapult it out of obscurity into something that multitudes of consumers were suddenly clamoring to see. Given its intricate and engaging concept, it quickly became an addictive hit for the streamer. The cast includes Sophia Ali as Fatin Jadmani, Shannon Berry as Dot Campbell, Jenna Clause as Martha Blackburn, Reign Edwards as Rachel Reid, Mia Healey as Shelby Goodkind, Helena Howard as Nora Reid, Erana James as Toni Shalifoe, Sarah Pidgeon as Leah Rilke, David Sullivan as Daniel Faber, Troy Winbush as Dean Young, and Rachel Griffiths as Gretchen Klein. It is a cast filled with newcomers and established performers, but you’d be hard-pressed to determine which was which if you didn’t already know. They all delivered captivating performances that brought each character to life and gave them great dimension.

The Wilds is a show that tests the boundaries of morality and societal hierarchy. How far is someone willing to go to prove a point? How far is someone willing to push outside of their comfort zone to survive? How far will someone go for love? How far is someone willing to go to find the place they belong? These are all questions set forth for the audience to ponder and no clear answers are given. The answer to each question is left up for the individual to answer just as it is for the characters within the series. This show kept viewers guessing and engaged long after the final credits rolled on the cliffhanger season finale.

With so many things left hanging and so many possibilities for what lies ahead the only way to properly dissect this first season is from multiple points of view. Sit back and enjoy our thoughts on this first season and read what we think is ahead for Season 2. 

Continue below to find out our thoughts regarding the first season of this brilliant new series. After reading, please leave your thoughts in the comments. 

This series borrowed from many popular story concepts, but the writers put their own spin on them. How well do you think the show differentiated itself from a show like LOST or a movie like Lord of the Flies? What made the series seem unique to you?

Aimee: It is easy to see why this show was compared to LOST and Lord of the Flies, but I think it definitely carved out its own path. The concept of a group of people with polar opposite personalities stuck on a deserted island forced to work together to survive isn’t new, but the writers managed to use that as a strength. They took a concept where we all thought we knew what was going to happen and managed to deliver one surprise after another. There wasn’t anything really new or groundbreaking within the basic concept, but where they excelled was in world-building and character development. The unique spins they put on tried-and-true story plots ended up helping them to carve out their own little niche. With support from Amazon and continued viewership growth there is every possibility that a future addition to this overarching plot point will one day be compared to The Wilds.

Alison: LOST was never my jam, so I didn’t even consider it as I watched. I’ve only read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and I’m not familiar with any screen adaptations. Although, the book did come to mind because of the apparent circumstances - plane crash, the setting - deserted island, and the characters - not adults. The similarities end there for me. Golding explored the destruction of the civilized focusing singularly on boys, claiming to write what he knew, while Gretchen Klein allegedly is out to prove how that removal of the patriarchy leads to a better society, which is a fascinating although not new idea. Her flaw is, of course, that you can’t remove the emotional, physical, and psychological toll of the patriarchy, which Leah explains in Day One (1x1). We all carry pieces of the patriarchy with us no matter where we go. I think this could be the show’s unique twist. Although, I’m not entirely convinced there isn’t something else at work when it comes to Klein. Honestly, my first thought was Discovery Family’s Flight 29 Down (2005), which was very much my jam.

Cecile: While the show did indeed seem to find inspiration in past works, (I’d throw in The Maze Runner in there too, with the different experiments and groups), it still felt quite unique. LOST while very engaging, lost its way in wild myths that never truly came to fruition in most cases. The Maze Runner’s concept was interesting but felt a little wobbly from the start. The Wilds was more simply built, but its narrative felt tighter, and the twists kept me entertained. They mostly felt genuine and not just added for shock value. The fact that everything seemed random at first, but was in fact carefully manipulated, the evolving rapports between the girls as time passed and they faced more challenges, and the flashbacks showing how they came to be who they were, maybe weren’t particularly original compared to other, already established, concepts, but they all worked well, which made you want to see and know more.

Laura: This might be obvious, but the biggest difference between this and LOST that really surprised me was that there’s no supernatural element in The Wilds. Watching the trailers, I almost expected it, so when it was revealed to simply be a company controlling them, I was able to separate the LOST comparisons. Even with Lord of the Flies, which on the opposite side of the spectrum is about a real plane crash and survival based on that alone, and no interference, the comparisons pretty much stop (for me) at it being all girls alone on this island. The Wilds is unique because it takes these comparisons and elevates them. Yes, a plane crash caused all girls to end up alone on this island, but the writing and acting of the show make it much more interesting than any of its predecessors that tried to make the leap of being another LOST

Gretchen Klein found various ways to insert herself into the lives of the girls. We know for sure that Nora was the other operative within the group. However, there were hints, like with Dot at the end of her episode, that others might know more than they are letting on. Do you think there are any other operatives within the group? Do you think Nora fully understands what she is subjecting the rest of the group to? Or was she also duped by Gretchen? Given that Rachel mentioned something happening to Nora, what do you think happened? Is she still alive? Or did something sinister happen to her?

Aimee: The question of whether there was another operative besides the original two is interesting. They did set it up early on that Dot could be the operative, but that was likely just a clever ploy to make the audience think it was Dot versus Nora. I think if there is another operative in the group that Gretchen would have mentioned them by now. As for Nora, she’s a whole character study in and of herself. I don’t think that Nora is inherently bad. From what we heard her talking about to Gretchen in the diner in the season finale, she just wants to find a place within this big complex world that she can fit into. She was given the opportunity to be part of something bigger and be embedded in a group of her peers that she perhaps felt like she could make her own family unit where she would fit in and belong. With that said, Nora is a brilliant young woman and I think she was fully aware of what she was getting herself into. She is responsible for her own actions and should be held accountable for the trauma she put the group through. I also think there is every likelihood that Gretchen didn’t give her the entire bigger picture and while Nora is a loyal agent, she doesn’t have all the facts. As for Nora’s ultimate fate, I see two potential scenarios. After Rachel lost her hand in the shark attack I can see Nora getting mad at the project as a whole and trying to push back in anger. Despite their differences, Rachel is still her sister, and the general rule is that siblings can mess with each other, but nobody else is allowed to mess with them without consequences. The other potential scenario is that we saw Leah get free from Nora’s trap just as the shark attack happens. The attack on Rachel might have been an elaborate exit strategy by Gretchen’s team to remove Nora from the equation. The rest of the group would think Nora was dead, making it harder for them to perhaps believe Leah’s story, and setting up some tense times within the group. Even in this scenario, I still see Nora being upset over what the program allowed to happen to her sister. I think ultimately that Nora is still alive because she is an integral character to the series and because of how brilliant Helena Howard is in the role.

Alison: Dot’s episode did make clear that she was savvy enough to believe nothing in life is free, but we didn’t see Klein’s answer, so it’s hard to know how much or what exactly Dot knows. I don’t think she’s an operative, but her fear of going into foster care makes her especially susceptible to what Klein is selling. She had suspicious moments, obviously, we believe her versatility with medication, which comes from caring for her father, but the repairing of the Black Box was either a bit of lazy writing or Dot’s been trained to some degree. Even with those suspicions bubbling in my brain, Nora appears to be the last operative on the island. Until Jeanette (Chi Nguyen) died, it's likely Nora believed they were all safe. Even after Jeanette died, there are some moments where Nora still seems to believe the island is a safe space for them. It wasn’t, but Nora believed. She was duped by Gretchen Klein. We watched Gretchen manipulate Nora over pancakes. And strange as it may seem, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Klein was waiting for Nora at the prison. Certainly, it’s far-fetched to believe Klein would know Nora planned to visit her son, Devon, but I wouldn’t put it past her. This woman is very much a Svengali. As far as Nora being dead or alive. She better be alive. That’s all I have to say about that.

Cecile: I’m not sure what Dot’s deal with Gretchen was, since we don’t know what Gretchen asked of her in exchange for this trip. I don’t believe Nora has been warned of the extent of what the group would go through, lest she back out of Gretchen’s plans. She did it to “save” her sister, but the fact that she kept apologizing to Rachel for being the reason they ended up there, took on a whole other meaning once you realize she was in on the whole thing. The end of Rachel’s flashback episode was ambiguous, but it did feel like something might have happened to Nora. Was it the shark attack (that likely caused Rachel her amputation?), or the group turning on her if she survived the shark but not their ire in realizing that she was an operative? I don’t think there are any other operatives, but then again, I didn’t think Nora would be the other one.

Laura: I have a feeling that Dot denied Gretchen’s request, or “offering” and then Nora fell into Gretchen’s lap. I don’t think anyone else is involved. Nora is incredibly smart - it’s the one thing she’s never been shy to put on display about herself - but I think she’s in over her head. You could see it with how often she was reaching out asking for help about Leah. She wanted to help her sister, she wanted to escape the world they were both living in; I don’t think she knew it would be this extreme. We still don’t really know what Gretchen told these girls they’d be doing as operatives. I honestly have no clue whether Nora is alive. She could be alive, and we haven’t seen her because she was an operative, or she could have died in the shark attack we see happen to Rachel, or something else could’ve happened. We’ve no clue how her conflict with Leah ends. 

All of the girls that we saw being interviewed seemed changed, especially Shelby. Some of that likely has to do with the trauma they experienced while on the island, but some of it might also be an act. Shelby and Leah both seem hyper-aware of the situation they are in. Do you think the others also caught onto what was going on and were playing the interviewers? Or are Shelby and Leah really in this alone trying to figure out how to save themselves and their friends? Do you think Shelby planned her anaphylactic event to help Leah? What do you think Leah’s next move will be now that she knows about the Twilight of Adam group?

Aimee: We are missing a lot of the pieces of the overall puzzle. We left the group on the island only a mere twenty-three days into a months-long experiment. We have no idea what the last weeks held for the group or the trauma they were put through. What we do know with certainty is that Leah is aware that something sinister is going on. After all, she had a good idea of what Nora was up to even before Nora basically revealed herself after she trapped Leah in the pit. Reading between the lines, Leah clearly tries to open the eyes of the other girls, but perhaps her prior breakdowns, unfortunately, cost her some credibility with them. It does seem that after being held in the bunker, Shelby realized that what Leah had been telling them was ultimately the truth. There is every possibility that the other girls caught on as well and are playing their captors. We also know that Shelby was hyper-aware of her own allergies and actively avoided those substances. Even despite whatever struggles she is dealing with, she is at her core a survivor. I don’t believe she would intentionally subject herself to an anaphylactic event unless she felt certain it would benefit Leah and the group as a whole. The bigger thing is that it seemed organized in a way, so how would the two of them have collaborated unless their fellow castaways were involved? Too many potential scenarios and just not enough answers yet, but that is part of the joy in watching this show. These writers did a brilliant job of setting up the mystery with so many different angles that the best we can do is speculate and they will probably end up doing something so far out in left field that we’ll all be caught off guard right along with the girls. Then there is the new Twilight of Adam group that they slid into the equation at the very end of the season. I’m quite intrigued to see what Leah does ultimately do about that group. I think she’ll try to find a way to communicate with them or to escape and find them. Just knowing they exist is likely going to up the stakes.

Alison: Leah doesn’t seem like the keep it to herself type. If she were able, I imagine once the shark situation was dealt with, she would have blabbed what she knew to the rest of the girls. Although based on Shelby’s note, either Leah was denied the chance to tell the truth or the other girls didn’t believe her. The question I have is how and when Shelby realized that something sinister was happening. I have no doubt Shelby intentionally caused her anaphylactic event, but I’m not sure if it was tied to Leah’s escape or mere coincidence. If she was somehow helping Leah, that means they have an ally. How else would Leah have known when Shelby was going to cause a distraction? Whatever happens next, Leah and Shelby are going to need help to escape and expose Gretchen’s experiments. If Leah’s smart, and I think she is quite clever, she’ll find a way to communicate what she’s discovered to the remaining girls. They need to save themselves before they can save the Twilight of Adam boys. Although, the Twilight of Adam boys may have their own suspicious party and ultimately save themselves. There are so many directions for this story to go. We’ll just have to wait and see what’s next.

Cecile: We don’t know exactly how much time has lapsed between the last scene we see on the island, and the interviews. Rachel’s stump seems pretty much healed by the time we get a glimpse at it, there’s nothing fresh about that wound. The sun and elements damage from the girls’ faces also seem to be fading, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what happened after the shark attack. Did Leah have time to expose Nora? Or did whatever happen to Nora trump anything Leah could’ve said about what was really going on? Somehow, Shelby figures it out too, but we don’t know if she knew all along (another operative, then?) or if something linked to whatever caused her shaved head and hurt ankle angled her towards new answers, or even if she found something during the interviews. Did she eat shellfish? Surely that allergy was in her file, so did she hide another one and create a distraction for Leah? Maybe Leah managed to communicate back to Shelby after that message, but it seems unlikely since Leah seemed to believe the alarm went off because of her. With Leah on the loose but with no access to her peers, it seems unlikely that she’ll be able to let them know before she gets caught. Then again, they can’t keep the girls apart (from each other, and from their families) too much longer, so my bet is that she’ll talk to them then.

Laura: Past Leah, we have no idea what true order these interviews went in. I think it depends on whether Nora is okay after the shark incident. If Leah was able to tell everyone what she knows before they were rescued, maybe other girls caught on. I’m hoping at least Fatin knows something is up. We know Dot knows this is partially not real. I’m truly not sure about the other girls. I think Shelby’s event was planned - I’m assuming she asked for some kind of shellfish or something of the sort for dinner. I’m hoping we see that in Season 2. The problem with Leah finding out about the Twilight of Adam group is that she doesn’t really have a next move. We’ll be lucky if she doesn’t get caught right away assuming they’ll do rounds on all the rooms in the facility since the electricity went out. Hopefully, though, our friend Dean Young will be able to help us in that department. 

While all the girls became close and bonded in different ways, the main romantic relationship within the group was between Shelby and Toni, who after a contentious start found themselves falling for each other. However, when given the opportunity to see another of the girls, Shelby chose Leah instead of Toni. Do you think that implies trouble ahead for the fledgling couple? Or was Shelby just keen to get that message to Leah? Since we know both Toni and Shelby survive the island, what would you like to see happen between them next season?

Aimee: As I mentioned previously, we’re missing a lot of the pieces of the puzzle, but we can gather some things from the way the characters were portrayed. Shelby is more disheveled than we last saw her on the island, but Toni is every bit as calm as we last left her on the overlook all those weeks or months prior. Shelby changed Toni, tamed her to a degree. The Toni we saw at the end of the season on the island and the version of her we saw in the bunker were worlds removed from the Toni we initially met. Almost dying and falling for Shelby genuinely changed her. Of all the girls, the most drastic shifts we saw were with Toni and Shelby. Clearly, Shelby goes through some hell between that sweet moment with Toni on the overlook and the bunker. We only got to see the extremely early days of whatever Shelby and Toni may become and there were clearly feelings at play for both parties. Toni proved multiple times that she is willing to be patient with Shelby and go at her pace. I think if their relationship went sideways it was because Shelby is still struggling with reconciling what is in her heart with the world she was raised in. I think that if they aren’t a couple as of the timing of the bunker that when they get free we’ll see them fight their way back to being a couple. They both just had a lot of things they had to work through and I doubt they had time to do it in the weeks they had left on the island after we left them. Being separated and put through new traumatic experiences may be enough to bring them back together. There is also the scenario where they are still together, but each trying to downplay things to protect the other. I can see Shelby denying the opportunity to see Toni as a way to confuse their captors. She also knows that if she helps Leah then there is a better chance that they will all be able to be reunited. Just like every other aspect of this show, there are multiple possible scenarios. One thing is for sure, Mia Healey and Erana James have extraordinary chemistry. They each guided their characters on their Season 1 journeys in a way that made their evolution into a couple feel organic and real. It would be a darn shame if the show doesn’t keep capitalizing on the natural chemistry the actresses bring to their roles.

Alison: I don’t think it spells trouble for Toni and Shelby. I just think escape and survival are at the forefront of Shelby’s mind. Sweet kisses will have to wait. No doubt there is trouble ahead for the couple. They will have to deal with Shelby’s internalized homophobia, which hasn’t been properly addressed. Shelby learned to embrace her true self on the island, but we’ve yet to see if she’s willing to give up her family and possibly friends for Toni’s love. I’m sure the desire to crawl back into the closet will arise. Toni has her own history and her own trauma to confront. If they can weather the storms together then no doubt, they have a chance for happier times, but storms are coming. I hope whatever comes next for them is realistic. I want The Wilds to tackle the difficulties that await them next season. Let’s explore the internalized homophobia, the anger issues, the realities of being a queer girl in this world.

Cecile: We don’t know what, exactly, happened to Shelby but the change between our last glimpse at her on the island, and the person we see in the interviews, is quite stark. Since Leah was the most paranoid (and with good reason) one, Shelby seeking her out to communicate that she knew too, didn’t shock me. Toni would have been the expected, predictable, choice, but by the end of this ordeal, Shelby was anything but predictable. While the Shelby/Toni pairing felt a little rushed compared to how they were around each other for most of the first season (to the point where I wondered if Toni was in love with Martha and in denial about it), I’m still rooting for them to make it. I hope Season 2 brings us more of their relationship. That said, we do learn that Shelby has been diagnosed with dissociative personality disorder, so it’s hard to tell what is real for her, and what’s not. Was everything on that island an act for her?

Laura: I don’t think Shelby wanting to see Leah over Toni meant anything bad for them. I think Shelby just knew Leah was one of the first people to say their circumstances, and the island was off. She knew Leah would know where to go from here. Unfortunately, though Leah is clearly sick, I think Shelby is viewing Leah’s obsessive disorder as a plus for them because Leah will hopefully be able to, or at least try and be able to, get to the bottom of what’s going on. I would love to see Shelby and Toni happy together, with Shelby possibly moved out of her house or at least far away. 

The season finale introduced the existence of the Twilight of Adam group. Should the show dive more into that group? Or should they maintain focus on the Dawn of Eve group? Do you think that the Eve girls will try to rescue the Adam guys if they are able to escape the bunker?

Aimee: In theory, I like the idea of a counterpart group to the Eve group, but I think shifting focus to the Adam group would be a grave mistake for the show. I do think it’d be fun for the Eve ladies to meet the Adam guys, but the focus should not shift off of the Eve group. They brought us into this complex world and they should be the ones we follow throughout the run of the series. I would actually love it if the ladies escape the bunker and rescue the Adam guys for the simple fact that you rarely get to see the ladies rescue the guys in a story like this. I’d enjoy meeting the Adam guys in that capacity, but they should in no way become the main focus or take focus away from the Eve group. It would be interesting to see the two groups team up to regain their freedom and takedown Gretchen’s organization, but again, the focus should not shift away from the original Eve group.

Alison: A comparison between the Dawn of Eve group and the Twilight of Adam group would make for an interesting second season, weaving the stories together. Certainly, I hope the conversation about the traumatic nature of the patriarchy continues, but I’d love to see that conversation expand. An exploration of how it damages us all. Use the Twilight of Adam group to provide a view into how civilization has evolved its understanding of gender norms, expressions, and identities. A contrast to Golding’s singular portrayal of civilization as male. I want the show to tackle questions about: How do societies and civilizations develop? Is savagery the opposite of the civilized? Does the removal of the societal structure always mean boys will regress to something primal? There is plenty of ground to cover. Given all the possibilities, The Wilds could offer countless seasons. What I don’t want is for the show to lose sight of the story of these young women. I have so many questions and I don’t want the answers to be condensed for the sake of witnessing the Twilight of Adam.

Cecile: I’d rather see more of the Dawn of Eve group since we’ve followed them from the start and are just barely starting to understand how they came to be there. It would be interesting to see how the Twilight of Adam experience compared, and if the girls can still warn them about what’s really going on.

Laura: The Twilight of Adam twist is interesting, but I really, really want to stick with the girls. This show is about letting girls and women embrace every aspect of who they are, whether they’re happy, sad, angry, confused, or all the above. Adding boys or men into the mix, I think, would take away from what the show is: girls being girls. I do think the Eve girls will try to save the guys though -- we’ve seen that that’s who they are. They won’t just leave you for dead. It would be interesting if they didn’t though. It would be a fun flip on what brought everyone together: how the problems/trouble from men in the girls’ lives brought them together, to now seeing these boys and not having the energy or heart to want to help them.

We got to see small glimpses into the inner workings of Gretchen’s organization, but there is still a lot we don’t really know. What do you think Gretchen’s ultimate objective is with the Dawn of Eve girls and the Twilight of Adam guys? Is it one great big social experiment? Or are there more sinister motives at play? Why were this small select group of girls and their Adam counterparts selected? Was it by chance because their parents and guardians could be manipulated or was there more to their selection?

Aimee: I think that Gretchen and the writers want us to believe this is just a great big elaborate social experiment to see the evolution of a society from the female perspective. Decades of watching television has taught me that if something seems obvious, it likely isn’t what is actually going on. I think this all runs much deeper than a social experiment. I don’t know if Gretchen’s motives are necessarily sinister, she seems a bit unhinged, so this could really just be all about science to her in a twisted way, but the actions she has taken against the girls are cruel. I do believe is that there is no coincidence that these girls and their Adam counterparts were picked for a reason. Are they just a control group? Were the Adam guys eventually meant to incorporate into the Eve group to see how a matriarchal society would truly work? This is yet another topic with more questions than answers at this stage. What that real reason will end up being is still unknown and may not even get answered next season. I believe that the two groups were selected based on some still unknown criteria for unknown reasons and then Gretchen set to work manipulating their guardians. One thing is for sure, neither group are there by accident.

Alison: When this all started, I believe Gretchen wanted to do just as she proclaimed in her slightly unhinged speech. She wanted to prove that men lack the ability to construct sustainable civilizations. She wanted to prove that the patriarchy is a completely destructive and unchecked force that has broken faith with all women, but its day is done. Somewhere along the way, her motives became murky and the execution corrupt. She’s gone from a social experiment to holding and interrogating girls in a secret bunker with limited human contact. However, as her power grows, she’s come to see herself as a godlike figure. Her initial purpose and points have become corrupted. Perhaps the Twilight of Adam control group is comprised of boys damaged by the patriarchy but hiding in its embrace. Boys that have hurt people to keep from being hurt or discovered. Whomever they are, I’m sure their selection was just as intentional as the Dawn of Eve group.

Cecile: The official reason behind Gretchen’s plan never felt fully formed to me, and more like an excuse for something else. The fact that none of it was sanctioned, and that her previous job apparently didn’t end well, doesn’t bode well for the project being done correctly and with a result worth exploiting. Sometimes you must push for breakthroughs even though the world is against you, but this doesn’t feel like that. Each one of the girls seems to have a specific set of issues to exploit, and parents who are out of their depth, so who indeed feel like non-threatening to someone like Gretchen. The box containing Martha’s belongings and the resolution Gretchen’s team comes up with money to appease the family feels particularly bleak. Gretchen’s goal, that whatever happened on the island induce enough guilt in the girls that the families wouldn’t sue once they knew what was really going on, doesn’t feel like Gretchen is acting for the greater good.

Laura: I think Gretchen wants to prove that placing women and men in groups to fend for themselves sometimes won’t end up like a Lord of the Flies situation. She basically said earlier that she thinks women are superior in the group sense, so I think this is her trying to prove it. She placed the girls in a group to see how well they’d fare and placed the boys in another to compare and contrast them because she believes, she thinks, this will prove that women are smarter than men as a whole. I truly don’t know how Gretchen found these people other than Nora and Linh. I think she looked for vulnerable teenagers and even more unavailable parents and went for them because she knew they’d be the first to look for a way out for their child instead of getting them real help.

For a cast that is for the most part filled with newcomers, they delivered powerful compelling performances. What were some of the most standout performances from this first season? Which member of the cast do you think delivered a performance worthy of the title of a breakout performance?

Aimee: This is hard because every member of this cast delivered at such a high caliber. They all delivered many memorable performances. I greatly enjoyed watching both Healey and James bring to life the complex dynamic that eventually became a fledgling romance between Shelby and Toni. It was interesting to watch how each actress handled the path that their characters took to ultimately end up under that lychee tree making love. It was also interesting to see how James showed Toni gradually taming her temper as she found her place within the group especially after they all rallied around her in Day Twelve (1x6) to save her life. James did a good job of showing Toni start to change, especially towards Shelby after Shelby forcibly shoved the life-saving pill down her throat. I found Dot utterly compelling as she came to life under Berry’s skilled guardianship and the scene where Dot lost her father was heart-wrenching. Edwards and Howard were brilliant in how they portrayed the push and pull between the twins. Edwards did an amazing job showing Rachel’s strengths become her weaknesses and her weaknesses become her strengths. Martha was the one character I didn’t connect with quite as much but I think that was because she wasn’t given quite as much meaty material outside of her episode, but Clause was a powerhouse when she was given material to really dive into. Pidgeon was a force to be reckoned with from the start to the finish as Leah came to the forefront to try to solve the mystery of the island and the mystery surrounding their captors. The writers threw a lot of intense stuff her way and she dominated at it all. Griffiths was a surprise for me in how she made the unhinged and complex Gretchen actually feel like a flawed and compelling character. I really hope there ends up being more to Gretchen next season where Griffiths is allowed to dig even deeper into Gretchen’s wild complexities. In the end, despite the talents of this extraordinary cast, I have to give the title of breakout performance to Sophia Ali. I enjoyed every single second that Fatin was on the screen. Whether Fatin was being snobbish like she was early on or delivering heartfelt compassion like she gave to Leah on the beach after the Day Twenty-Two (1x9) rescue, Ali covered such a wide range and she did it flawlessly. This cast doesn’t have a single weak link in terms of skill level, but Ali, for this first season at least, delivered what I felt was the breakout performance of this cast.

Alison: Every cast member had a standout moment.

Seeing Dot with her father almost brought tears to my eyes. Watching her shoulder the burden of keeping him comfortable and fed out of love and not obligation was beautiful. The final scene between Dot and her father was so well done. The way Berry moved the character from a little girl that just wanted to keep her father around for as long as possible to a young woman that put someone else’s pain over her own was moving. Wordlessly her expressions signaled the shift.

Early on Leah became a central figure, but interestingly, I thought her character had the least compelling backstory. The story waited too long to reveal that her relationship may have applied enough pressure to break her, but her obsessive nature wasn’t something new. Truly, she didn’t become interesting until the dramatic irony took hold. Her island mates saw someone cracking at the seams, but the audience knew it was true. I could see the madness and conviction mingle in her eyes and posture. I’ve been there, especially as a kid, knowing something is true and desperately wanting to be believed. It’s a maddening experience.

I could write a paragraph about every other cast member because there wasn’t a bad performance in the bunch. The series was clever in the way it doled out the episode to singular characters. Once Fatin’s episode came up, her apparent shallowness melted away and we saw the layers of this incredibly talented, self-possessed, and unapologetically sexual young woman. Toni’s explosive anger was riveting as well as terrifying. James truly managed to make a character with such polarizing behaviors incredibly sympathetic.

Every performance was excellent. Even when there were story and plot mistakes the acting was brilliant. The breakout performance, for me, was Howard’s portrayal of Nora. It’s the one I’m still thinking about days after finishing the series. She was compelling, believable, heartbreaking, hysterical, and a mystery. The character’s almost crippling social anxiety was clear, but it never alienated her from the audience. It also never made us pity her. From the moment she watched life pass her by, sitting on that bench at school to the last time we saw her, running into the water to save Rachel, I was all in with her character. I need her to be alive.

Cecile: A lot of people find Leah annoying, but her reactions seemed the most realistic to me, and that was greatly due to Sarah Pidgeon’s performance. It’s easy to forget the trauma these girls have been through, both before and during their experience, but Leah’s intensity and despair never wavered. Realistically, I think most of us would react like she did when faced with this kind of situation, which is something that tends to be forgotten. Mia Healey was another standout, the way she brought Shelby’s entire arc to life was particularly well done.

Laura: This cast is absolutely fantastic. Erana James as Toni Shalifoe was one of the best, in my opinion. The background episode about Toni and seeing Toni’s anger in action was something we don’t see a lot of on television and I love seeing it when it happens: enraged women. I’m not saying I’m totally cool and comfortable with Toni’s clear anger issues. We so often must-see women and girls choking back their tears and breathing deeply and sighing, not being allowed to be angry. Then we have this character whose entire flaw is that she’s too hot-headed, too angry, too quick to jump down your throat. And she’s acted to a tee. The breakout performance, though, I think must go to Helena Howard, who plays Nora Reid. Howard only has six credits on IMDb, and yet she brought a level of emotion to this show that I would’ve expected from an extremely seasoned actress. Her acting made me feel so many things for this character I feel like we still don’t even really know yet, especially with these new revelations. Helena Howard was born for this role.

What are your final thoughts about this first season? What are you hoping to see happen in the already announced Season 2?

Aimee: I was completely caught off guard by the brilliance of this first season. I remember seeing the trailer and being cautiously excited about it, but I had low expectations. It was marketed largely as a YA adventure series, but it is so much more than that. Anyone of any age can sit back and enjoy the elaborate mystery that the writers have crafted. I just hope the writers can keep that magic moving forward into Season 2. There is every possibility we will end up seeing more of the present-day bunker story versus the island story. I suspect we’ll see the Adam guys involved a bit more in the story, but I hope not an overwhelming amount. They are part of the fabric of the series, but they should not be given the main focus. I don’t know if we’ll see as many pre-island flashbacks next season, but I expect they’ll still be sprinkled in a bit. I want to know what happened to Nora and Martha. I want to see the girls we know are in the bunker escape and band together to try to take down Gretchen, though I’m not so sure that we know the full picture about Gretchen just yet either. All I know for sure at this point is that I’m extremely excited for Season 2 and whatever the writers give us, I think next season has the potential to be as good as this first season if not better.

Alison: The first season of The Wilds wasn’t without its flaws, but it was an entertaining adventure that also proved to be an intellectual exercise. The incredible cast effortlessly brought all the drama, angst, humor, and heartbreak to life. The show managed an inclusive cast without making it feel like they were checking boxes on some list. A big kudos to the writers for a well-balanced story and dialogue that rang true. Nora’s fate is my number one priority. I’ve said it before, but I need her to survive the shark attack. Now that Leah’s grown on me, I’m looking forward to her assembling the gang and doing a deep dive into the Dawn of Eve and Twilight of Adam. We need some answers. I want to know what the parents think is going on with their children. I’m a little nervous about Martha’s fate. Especially after watching Agent Young search her things for a way to silence her parents. All I really want is more of the same. A good adventure with a tinge of conspiracy looking to take down the patriarchy.

Cecile: It would be easy to dismiss this show as nothing new, but it was really entertaining, much darker than I expected, and ended up among my favorites of 2020. The easy answer would be that I want some answers to those cliffhangers from the Season 1 finale, but mostly I just want to see the fall out of what happened and how this experience changed the girls’ lives for the foreseeable future. I wish we could’ve seen more of Linh, but alas… unless there are more flashbacks, that seems unlikely. In any case, I can’t wait and will tune into Season 2 as soon as it airs!

Laura: I absolutely loved this season. I loved this show. For me, it made me think a lot about the people in my life and how much I rely on them, and vice versa. It’s interesting to watch this and think about how when you’re a teenager, your life really does oftentimes grow up around whoever you’re closest to. The writing and acting were fantastic - there were twists I didn’t see coming and characters I had to grow into loving, but it still happened, and overall, I’m super interested to see all my questions answered in Season 2. As much as I want to see the girls breaking free and kicking ass, what I’m most excited to see is what happened in those last days on the island. And I want to see Martha and Nora alive! 

The Wilds isn’t what it seems at first. The writers spent all season building a multi-layered world for these characters to exist within. The performers did their jobs perfectly and made each character compelling and interesting in their own ways. This is the type of show that you have to watch from the very beginning and you can’t miss a single moment because every action and every encounter has a meaning and a purpose in the grander scheme of things. It might have slipped under the radar initially, but it won’t have that luxury going into Season 2. The writers set an exceedingly high bar for themselves with this first season and hopefully, they will be able to maintain that momentum as they craft the new season. After an immensely entertaining wild first season, the long wait begins to see how the story of our favorite Dawn of Eve ladies will continue.

Please use the comments to discuss all your favorite parts of the first season of Amazon Prime’s The Wilds.