Saturday, December 12, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Wilds' - Teen Girls Must Come Together Despite Their Secrets in Order to Survive on a Deserted Island in 'Day One'

Amazon's The Wilds - Episode 1.01 "Day One"

A group of teen girls from different backgrounds must fight for survival after a plane crash strands them on a deserted island. The castaways both clash and bond as they learn more about each other, the secrets they keep, and the traumas they've all endured. There's just one twist to this thrilling drama... these girls did not end up on this island by accident.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Amazon's The Wilds.

"Day One" was written by Sarah Streicher and directed by Susanna Fogel

A group of teenage girls endure a tragedy together. They are stranded on a deserted island after their plane crashes. However, Leah narrates that the trauma and dysfunction of her life started long before this traumatic event occurred. The narrative offers the reassurance right away that these girls will get rescued eventually. But it's vague about how many of them will survive this time on the island. One of them dies in this premiere. That establishes right away that the stakes will be heightened. It's a slightly fantastical premise as well because these girls are being watched and monitored. This is actually the program that they signed up for. It wasn't a retreat in Hawaii for troubled youth. It wasn't an opportunity to enjoy some luxury in order to cope with difficult circumstances at home. Those pressures are clear amongst all of the survivors. They each seem like they could be hitting their breaking points in their lives. This crash has the potential to change everything for them. However, Leah's story states that she is still fundamentally obsessed with Jeffrey. Even after her time on the island, she still wants to know if he reached out to see if she was still alive. She was completely paralyzed when given the opportunity to make a call off of the island. Of course, that adds even more to the mystery. Jeanette was apparently an operative for the Dawn of Eve. She was meant to serve as the eyes and ears on the ground to report back to her bosses who are already watching with cameras. She wasn't the only one either. Of course, Leah is the only one who notices that Jeanette has collapsed right away. Plus, that just highlights how sloppy this overall mission is. The transport team wanted the girls to be roughed up enough to make it believable. However, they always wanted the certainty that none of them would die. All of the girls know how to perform CPR which is apparently a prerequisite to even apply for this program. They all happen to be lucky. Or unlucky it would seem. Jeanette is in the most physical danger. Her succumbing to her vague injuries elevates the stakes. It means that things aren't going according to plan for the people behind the scenes. Their motivation has to be completely sinister and mischievous. They may propose this as a way for these girls to bond without the pressures of society. Leah notes how they were all weighed down by the worlds they lived in. That already had created plenty of trauma. This experiment just suggests that more trauma could potentially heal them and make them better as individuals. That seems like a flawed mission statement. And yet, the Dawn of Eve apparently has the resources to make it a reality without anyone truly questioning it. The girls are simply focused on survival. Sure, it's mostly about collecting the resources they have to see how long they can survive on the island. None of them are focused on trying to make shelter. Fresh water isn't found. When the girls break off, they seem to only bicker. They still carry a lot of themselves from their pasts to this present. That's understandable. They each should react to this tragedy in different ways. That makes the drama interesting and compelling. The show suggests there is another sleeper agent amongst their ranks. That should keep everyone guessing. Again, it may seem pointless. As such, it requires the personal drama to work in order to explain these individuals and the journeys they have gone on before this event happened to them. For Leah, she fell in love with an older man. They both romanticized this dynamic. That made it easy to believe in the fantasy of it all even though it is still statutory rape. She believes her connection with Jeffrey is stronger than anything else in the world. She even tells that to the federal agent and therapist trying to make sense of what happened out there. This bond is very private to her. It causes her a great deal of destruction and devastation. She doesn't want to be open about it to anyone. She is proud of the sex. She closes herself off when it comes to addressing the real emotions of heartbreak and despair. The island doesn't seem to have fixed any of that or ensured she had the tools to better connect with her peers. It mostly presents as dysfunction. And yet, that can cover up a lot of storytelling sins. A drama that can maintain its hooks into the audience in each hour is still a success. More depth is absolutely necessary here as the drama expands to focus on the other girls. It can't all be as melodramatic as Leah is in each particular timeline. But that too feels like a reasonable expectation and reaction for her to have given her age. And now, the drama can move forward to tell different stories that are destined to complicate all of this.