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The Wilds - Season Two - Roundtable Review: Dawn Of Revolution

This article was written by Aimee Hicks, Alison D., and Milo. The open and close of the article were written by Aimee Hicks. Prepared for publishing by Aimee Hicks.

Amazon’s The Wilds finally returned this month after an extra-long pandemic-induced hiatus and it was a highly anticipated return. The general consensus about this season seems to be that it wasn’t quite as good as the first season, but that didn’t stop this show from still ranking near the top of this fledgling Lord of the Flies-inspired genre that has emerged over the last decade. For those wondering, the Lord of the Flies novel was originally published way back in 1954 and has since spawned several movie adaptations. Now in the 21st century, its impact is still being felt in the bones of shows like The Wilds, Yellowjackets, The 100, and the list continues to grow. Many of these shows carry it in their DNA, but few have captured its essence quite as eloquently as The Wilds has while still also being entirely original to its own unique plot points. This season saw the introduction of the boys’ side that was teased at the end of the first season. Their introduction, and struggles to thrive as well as the girls, in many ways brought the series closer to the concepts introduced in the novel. This show has set its own path and while it may carry that novel in its DNA, The Wilds is its own unique masterpiece that continues to be something truly special. Read below to see what we thought about the introduction of the new group and our overall feelings about this season.

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



THE BELOW ARTICLE IS FULL OF SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET WATCHED THE FULL SECOND SEASON, DO NOT CONTINUE READING UNLESS YOU WANT TO BE SPOILED!    


Early reactions to the show introducing a second ensemble were mixed, in part due to viewers feeling like they were just getting to know the girls. Did the show, for your viewing experience, succeed in creating compelling character dynamics and stories for the boys? How? And, if not, why?

Aimee: I want to say yes because I think the young men portraying the characters are talented. I also adored the way the story was told in the first season. Yet, the story surrounding the boys’ side seemed to fall flat. Maybe that’s because it wasn’t anything new this time around. We already went through this format last season with the girls and for them, their stories felt better defined and compelling. Don’t get me wrong, the boys had some great moments, but the writers didn’t really do enough to make their stories really stand out. I think it all comes down to the fact that the format wasn’t as fresh and exciting as it was for the girls. If they wanted to do this two sides of the same coin type of storytelling then they should have introduced both sides from the get-go or picked up with the boys’ story in progress instead of backtracking. I feel like the guys most certainly have stories to be told, but the way it was executed didn’t reach that full potential.

Alison: For the most part, the boys’ backstories didn’t produce the same emotional heft as the girls’ stories, which I blame on the season’s time constraints. Each episode was essentially split in fourths, it shortchanged characters and viewers. In fact, Josh (Nicholas Coombe) didn’t really have a backstory, which should give us pause. Did Henry (Aidan Laprete)? The biggest success was Bo (Tanner Ray Rook) and Scotty’s (Reed Shannon) friendship. Two boys physically and demonstratively opposite but with the same damaged core. Bo’s tenderness and Scotty’s wounds, hidden in bravado, was a perfect pairing. Watching them try so hard to escape their circumstances only to keep getting kicked was a gut punch, and I felt every one of their guttural screams as they destroyed the house.

Milo: I do think that it was a poor decision to introduce so many boys just as we were getting to know the girls so well a smaller new cast might have worked – it robbed the momentum for these characters to grow; and instead of switching the script on Lord of the Flies, the series simply became Lord of the Flies, especially with the Jaguar being an ever-present threat in the background. It gave a sense of familiarity in that we’d seen this story not only before in the first season – but tried and tested so many times elsewhere. I will admit that the characters did grow on me over time just like they did in the first season – remember, the pilot, and its flashbacks, in particular, was one of the weakest episodes of the whole show – but I do think The Wilds grew into it even if at the same time it spent much of its second season figuring out the why things were necessary – kind of like Lost, in that regard, to steal from another plane-crash show’s thunder. Now that it has a better sense of purpose and self-identity going into the end of the season – there’s hope for the third yet.


A boy had to be removed from the control group early in the experiment to replicate the girls' experiment experience. Knowing what we do about the boy removed and his history with Nora, was taking him off the board early a missed opportunity? Or a departure from Gretchen's motivations and established character?

Aimee: I get why they felt it had to be done for the terms of the experiment, but I do think it was a huge missed opportunity. They could have done so much by allowing us to really get into the trenches with him on the island to see how he could have disrupted things within the group. Though, I do think he will have a greater part to play as the story progresses through future seasons.

Alison: I thought there would be more for Devon to do once he was extracted from the island. Granted he may be responsible for the FBI investigating his mother, but it doesn’t seem enough to justify his inclusion this season, especially with so little Nora (Helena Howard). Why not have a confrontation between the two? And I wonder if Devon’s as conciliatory as he seems. And Gretchen (Rachel Griffiths) telling him, “We forgive, but we never forget,” was rather ominous. I fear for what his mother will make him do next. Gretchen’s true motivations remain hidden, but she uses people when and how she decides, so I think Devon’s served his purpose during Phase 2. I think his larger purpose and whether he’s playing a game of his own will be revealed during a potential Season 3.

Milo: It’s a great reminder of the constant stakes and danger that the boys face on the island, whilst at the same time a hint that further down the line nothing is predictable here.


Was the boys' devolution too predictable, particularly since the identity of Gretchen's spy was obvious from episode 1 to some viewers? Or, on the other hand, were there surprises in the trajectory of the boys' downfall? Did you have another prime suspect for the spy role? And why?

Aimee: Given the fact the experiment is obviously meant to sway in favor of the girls, their devolution was absolutely not a surprise. In fact, I think Gretchen intentionally selected a group of guys that had much slimmer odds of success than the girls. Maybe that’s part of what made this season less than it could have been because it was obvious going in that they were setting up the boys’ group to not be as successful. There were definitely some surprises and several truly shocking incidents that came out of their group, but they seemed to struggle with finding a good balance in telling the story of the two sides of the experiment.

As for the spy, this is another situation where we went in expecting a spy, which made it less surprising than last time, and they didn’t do as good a job of hiding that person this time around. I can’t express enough, that the big point of weakness for me is that they didn’t really do anything overly grand to separate how they told the boys’ side versus how we had already seen the girls’ side. Not changing things up made this season less surprising in many ways and the spy aspect was chief amongst the topics that just weren’t as exciting the second time around.

Alison: While the spy was unfortunately obvious, although perhaps that was the plan, the reason behind the boys’ devolution was not at all predictable. Seth’s (Alex Fitzalan) violation of Josh was visually violent even though mostly implied. Just completely shocking. I was surprised the show went there. Seth’s actions were the cause for every moment that followed. He contaminated Gretchen’s experiment or perhaps she intentionally contaminated her own experiment. She knew Seth was dangerous. He was no Nora.

Milo: It was – if only as we would have seen it before. But Gretchen’s spy was even more predictable than the first season – but I feel like The Wilds knew that we’d figure it out quickly and did their best not to prolong the revelation as long as Nora’s. It was a fun way to switch the script from Season 1. The Wilds did have to progress the pace rapidly to get the boys to where the girls were and I loved how fast it moved in this approach, even if it sacrificed the character bonding elements of the first season.



While this season introduced the boys it also saw the evolution of the girls as we watched them move further along in their journey. Which of them do you think has changed the most since the first season? Were there parts of the girls' storylines this season you wanted the show to spend more time with? What do you think their stories would have been like if the plot hadn’t been split between the two groups?

Aimee: I think between the seasons we have seen some of the best character evolution come from Fatin (Sophia Ali). That is in large part due to how absurdly gifted Ali is as a performer. She brilliantly knows how to lock into the nuances of the character which has made it a true treat to watch the character grow and evolve. All of the girls showcased a solid level of evolution from when we met them last season, but I think Fatin evolved the most, especially when it came to being compassionate to her fellow survivors. The way she was with both Leah (Sarah Pidgeon) and Shelby (Mia Healey) towards the latter half of episodes really showcased her evolution.

I wish, more than anything that we had seen more of Toni (Erana James) and Shelby’s story. We did get some beautiful moments with them, but overall, their story felt a bit rushed and not as well structured as the last season. It does, however, seem like based off of their reunion and what we saw in the flash-forwards, there may be more forward-moving trajectory for them in what comes next in their story. At least what they gave us was impactful material, especially for Shelby, so they made it all count.

The topic of the plot being split is something I struggle with a bit. I think the story revolving around the girls had enough potential to fill a whole other season easily without the involvement of the boys’ side of the story. On the flip side of that, I do see where continuing on down that path could have led them into LOST territory where to be original things got more confusing and convoluted than necessary. So, if it weren’t for the boys’ side of the story I think we would have spent more time with the girls that we came to adore in the first season. We would have gotten to know them better and seen their stories evolve in a more fluid way than occurred. But, I also do see the benefit of adding in the boys’ side. While they didn’t really do anything original with the guys in terms of the format, their introduction did, at the very least, keep the show from falling into the issues that plagued LOST. I was initially very hesitant in regards to their addition, but they do have a place in the story, even if the writers seemed to struggle with their incorporation at times.

Alison: Fatin and Rachel (Reign Edwards) had the best arcs between the two seasons. They’ve both come so far from who they were at the beginning of Season 1. I wanted more of the other girls’ post-island. Leah, in her unhinged, annoying, and loud way, always suspected there was more going on than a simple plane crash, but Fatin and Shelby were hot on her heels by the end of this season. Giving them more to do would have made sense for the story. Without a divided story, I’m sure the girls would have started to test the boundaries of their faux prison. Also, when is the Rachel-Nora reunion coming?

Milo: More of Helena Howard’s Nora would not have gone amiss – I was so happy when the show revealed that she was alive halfway through its second season – although that is in part due to the excellent performance that she gave in Josephine Decker’s Madeline’s Madeline, which I must shout out here as it’s one of my favorite movies of the year. I reckon we would have seen more of the boys’ storylines applied to the girls’ – like the jaguar, for example – and The Wilds would have invested more time in flashbacks to the past with the girls and different events for them – and the devolution of their characters in contrast to the evolution of some. Maybe it’s just because Yellowjackets – and incidentally, the first season of The Terror, which shared similar themes - is fresh on my mind, but a split of the girls into two groups couldn’t have hurt.



Season 1 established a backstory and background challenges for each of the girls, hurdles that shaped how they reacted or grew in relation to themselves or others on the island. Which arcs for the girls this season successfully built on that foundation?

Aimee: For me, I think three of them really fell into this category, Leah, Fatin, and Shelby. They all started out one way in the first season, but by the end of this season, they had metamorphosized into different women who still resembled whom they were at the start of the series, but who were stronger and more determined. Even Leah and Shelby who both arguably had the hardest time balancing the chaos of the island with their mental health, rallied to come through not only for their fellow survivors but for themselves as well. In Fatin, we saw a girl craving attention initially because of the circumstances she came up in with her family and by the end of the season, we saw a young woman having faith in others and standing by her friends. In these three we saw remarkable character growth despite them having less screen time this round of episodes. All of the characters are well written, but in a cast this big, each season is going to have time where certain characters get to shine and this season belonged to them.

Milo: Leah’s arc was probably the most compelling of the season for me as I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this review – I was in favor of how we peeled back the layers behind the conspiracy at play – but I did enjoy the brief development that characters like Dot (Shannon Berry) and Martha (Jenna Clause) got; with Martha’s taking a particularly dark and tragic turn. Most however can feel short-changed given the wider nature of the focus on the larger ensemble of characters – Fatin especially.



The cast essentially doubled in size from the first season. In such a large ensemble cast, it’s hard to standout. Which of the cast do you think stood out the most and delivered the best performances? What were some of their best moments?

Aimee: This goes back to my prior answer, I think this season Sophia Ali, Mia Healey, and Sarah Pidgeon really shined. But if I had to pick only one of them it’d be a really tight battle between Ali and Pidgeon for the top spot, but Pidgeon just ever so slightly has the edge. She has an unfaltering grasp on Leah’s fragile mental state while also conveying just how fierce this character is. She also isn’t afraid to show Leah’s vulnerability when the story called for it. She stood out in the first season and has continued to be a standout. Leah is the driving force behind the group becoming aware of the experiment and taking a stand and that has given Pidgeon a lot of great material to work with and she has delivered on every tough and intense situation the writers have thrown at her.

Alison: Alex Fitzalan’s performance was the kind of creepy and uncomfortable that made you want to armchair diagnose Seth. The way he pretended to be obsequious and understanding in order to manipulate the other characters made him the clear villain from Episode 1, but since it was a highly watchable performance, like a vulture mutilating a carcass, I didn’t mind. The look on his face as he attempted to drown Henry made you wonder if the Twilight of Adam group were going to be down a member. It was visceral and another moment where performance and camera work upped the tension. And the way he later gaslights Henry, when putting the group back together, made me want to be a believer even though I knew he was a monster.

Milo: I really enjoyed Leah and Raf’s (Zack Calderon) story this season – in part because it felt like it was moving the plot forward the most – but Leah playing games against Gretchen and outsmarting her. There are some real stars in the new camp too – Sarah Pidgeon was superb, and Reign Edwards is ace. I recently watched Snowfall 3x7 and her transformative performance as Melody is still fresh on my mind there – and in a limited role she made sure every scene stood out. I was – out of the new group, also impressed by Zack Calderon. All the cast were well chosen though – and there was no real bad link among them; quite an impressive feat given the doubling of the cast, even if The Wilds lagged a bit at times and could have almost benefited from maybe one more episode.


What was the best surprise in Season 2, whether it was a performance or a plot twist, or design detail?

Aimee: The ending surprised me because it is setting up a Season 3 where everything has changed and yet they are still stuck in this experiment. The two sides are united. The secret of the experiment has been made evident to all involved. Yet they are still being monitored and their knowledge of the situation still hasn’t, and seemingly won’t anytime soon, change their circumstance. Where Season 2 floundered in trying to tell the same story again, this ending sets up a Season 3 that could really upend everything. After a season that felt like a rehash at times of its predecessor, it was a welcome reveal to see that what comes next will seemingly have no chance of repeating the same mistakes.

Alison: Ben Folds. And this answer isn’t even cheeky just truth.

Milo: The biggest surprise after the first few episodes was how quickly the boys ended up growing on me. It was a rocky start – but the script was always kept lively, engaging and the more time I spent with these characters the more time I warmed up to them; showing that The Wilds should not be written off so easily. I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this review that the first few episodes of the first season took a while to find its groove; so, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the second one did too.

 
What are your final thoughts about this second season? What worked? What didn’t? What, if anything, would you have changed?

Aimee: This season wasn’t as good as the first, the show definitely suffered from the sophomore slump, but for a show that was already operating at such a high level, even while in a slump it still performed well above other shows in this genre. I liked how they worked in the boys’ flashbacks while doing some flashforwards for the girls. As I’ve already made clear, I don’t think they were original enough with the boys’ side of the story to make it feel anything special, and to me, that was a prime thing that pulled down this season. The guys they cast, on the other hand, were great performers, so they at least made the boys’ side an entraining experience to watch. If I could have them change one thing, it’d be in that department; instead of backtracking to show the boys’ early days on the island, I’d like them to have introduced the boys’ side of the story already in progress. I get that in the first season they wanted to reveal the boys’ side as the big surprise cliffhanger, but the series as a whole probably would have been better off had they introduced both sides originally so that the two groups could have juxtaposed from the start instead of this backtrack. Looking at the entire picture, this wasn’t as good as the first season but it was still an incredible round of episodes. It was fun, entertaining, engaging, and jam-packed with exceptional performances. So jam-packed it needed more episodes because they seemed to try to cram too much into an already shorter number of episodes. There were faults, and they did hinder the show from reaching Season 1 levels of perfection, but it is still a show I adore and would recommend everyone watch. I hope that the way this season ended means that the one big issue that hindered the show this season has been put to rest and we can move forward with both groups facing new challenges. I have extremely high expectations for what comes next, so I’m hopeful that the rumors of Amazon having already quietly renewed the show prove true with some official announcement coming soon.

Alison: Our original group is still great to watch. Fatin, a personal favorite, has continued to grow, and I wanted to see more of her post-island. The overall mystery still works. And works well. I’m not sure how many games are being played, but I do know Gretchen needs to watch her back. And even though I don’t really know the boys, some of them are compelling, but some of the others just feel hollow. The reason behind the experiment remains interesting but murky despite an entire Season 1 episode dedicated to Gretchen’s reasoning, the logic of it all just isn’t . . . logical. As for what didn’t work, it’s hard to say Leah, but it’s Leah. Her character is integral, but she is painfully annoying. I think it's the unearned smugness, overall unhinged nature, and drama for days. Since an unexplained coma befalling her character is unlikely, I need a broader character focus next season. What I would have changed is a wasted wish, but I’ll play. I wish the boys were given a parallel season to the girls. I know it’s an unrealistic wish because parting the viewers and the Dawn of Eve group for the length of a season would have slowed some of the show’s momentum. On the other hand, it would have created a stronger attachment between the viewers and the boys. Going into a potential Season 3, the writers need to find a way to level the playing field and make characterization the focus. I want to be surprised and even shocked, but I also need more awe.

Milo: I think The Wilds suffered the sophomore season fate of a show that had such a killer first season premise it didn’t really know where to go next – not helped by the sheer freshness of Yellowjackets–and the road bumps that it faced along the way did sap a bit of momentum from it. But given the binge format and the fast pace there was enough there to mean that I probably would’ve kept watching at the speed I did even if I didn’t have a deadline. I really liked the juxtaposition between the jaguar hunt and the birthday party in episode four, and the camaraderie between the group of both actors was impressive to watch – it’s rare that a cast that large can feel like they have natural chemistry with almost everyone the actors are paired up with – but The Wilds managed to pull it off. I also admire the impressive restraint that the show had in not actively showing the jaguar – borrowing from Jaws in the sense that keeping the monster hidden made it feel like ten times more of a threat – and such a greater accomplishment when they defeated it; even if it marked for the true start of their devolution in turn, it – as Raff said, provided a great excuse to learn more about these characters – I liked how telegraphed the character development was – such as little moments like the girls saying whether they liked their beds made or unmade – in helping you find out more about them as the series progressed.


This season of The Wild’s didn’t reach the same level as the first season, but it was still a wild ride. The cast delivered exceptional performances and reminded us of all the reasons this show become so popular all of its own volition. Even with Amazon investing more publicity dollars on promoting this season, it is still a show that the fans found and the fans propelled into popularity. Whatever comes next, this is a show that is special and we can count on whatever the next season delivers being worthy of our precious viewing time. 

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