Wednesday, December 16, 2020

REVIEW: 'The Wilds' - Leah Pursues Answers and Sees Just How Expansive the Experiment Truly Is in 'Day Twenty-Three'

Amazon's The Wilds - Episode 1.10 "Day Twenty-Three"

On the island, Leah feels closer than ever to proving that someone's behind their predicament. Post-rescue, fed up with the tight-lipped authorities, Leah goes searching for her own answers.

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 season finale of Amazon's The Wilds.

"Day Twenty-Three" was written by Sarah Streicher and directed by John Polson

Nora wants to help her sister. She doesn't want to be afraid anymore. She wants to find her tribe of people. She wants to find her strength. These are the list of motivations she tells Gretchen when being recruited for the experiment. As she says them, the action moves around the island to show how each example applies to the various castaways. Rachel can relax and be comfortable just floating in the water. Shelby and Toni can kiss openly and be vulnerable with one another. Dot, Fatin and Martha can offer universal love and support. And Leah has to find the resolve to get out of a hole in the ground in order to confront Nora. All of this being laid out in this way basically confirms that this experiment has been a success. All of these individuals have grown as a result of their time on this island. However, Nora is absolutely terrified. She fears that Leah remembers what happened in the middle of the night. She keeps sending messages hoping for reassurance that she will remain safe. She has to trick Leah into falling into a trap just to buy herself more time. And then, a shark appears at the precise moment when the confrontation is meant to happen. That highlights how the dangers of the world don't simply vanish when it's convenient for people. It's freeing for Rachel to be in the ocean. But this also feels like the moment where she loses her hand. That was a tease from early in the season. It also implied that something tragic happened to Nora. That does not resolve itself at the end of the season. Reasonable people could guess that Nora rushes out to save Rachel from the shark and ends up dying herself. That would prevent Leah from gaining any reliable information about what has happened on this island. That would also move up the time frame of Gretchen needing to pull the castaways off the island and into the next stage of the program. That too implies that the island is not the end of their psychological journeys. Nora's statement to Gretchen before all of this happens would suggest that kind of peace and strength is the desired outcome. And yet, it also comes with the confirmation that Gretchen's son is in prison for murder. That's how Gretchen and Nora met. They both try to visit him. Nora does so because she learns her ex-boyfriend died while rushing a fraternity. That relationship meant everything to her. She also ended it because she didn't feel comfortable and confident. It was a decision she made in the moment as a way to ration everything Rachel had said about Quinn. After awhile, she realizes it was a mistake. At that point, it was too late. He was determined to pledge this fraternity though. It was a way for him to bond with his dad and gain a sense of community that he too desperately wanted. Nora was broken and vulnerable. She needed someone to offer some solutions. Gretchen serves as that individuals. She is confident that her methods will prove successful. She can reassure Nora every step of the way too. She also comes from a place of needing to tear the world down in order to rebuild it. Women have to be set free from the patriarchy in order to actually become their true and authentic selves who can then take over the world. The final twist suggests that Gretchen is also interested in breaking down the male psyche. She also needs to prove that reforming the toxic male culture is also necessary to ensure progress is made. The castaways aren't the only victims here. Leah is very lucky when she makes her big escape. It's completely coincidental though. It's not a coordinated effort by the girls to show just how resilient they have become as a group. Shelby has an allergic reaction while Leah pursues all of these mysteries. It's baffling to her. It's yet another shock to the audience to prove that we are still thinking too small in this situation. That need to constantly go bigger and bigger with the plot twists becomes less earned in the end though. It takes the characters themselves out of the situations. It's no longer about the progress they are making in their journeys. Instead, it's simply the high concept proving it has the story engine for even more shocking twists and turns. Once more though, it's much more comfortable in alluding to these philosophical concepts about control without also following through on the dark consequences. It's much too easy for Leah or someone else to spiral for a moment because their fears don't line up with what they can reasonably imagine for this place. Insanity forms because the outrageous has already happened. Reckoning with that and creating a nuanced reaction has been missing from the format. That's disappointing. If the show were to continue, it would need to spend more time on the twisted nature of these stories instead of trying to rationalize every single development. Gretchen may even feel that her experiment is proving successful if the castaways are able to rise up against her and expose every heinous thing that was done to them. And yet, it's suppose to be satisfying that the final reveal just shows this to be a systemic pattern of abuse where one group of individuals aren't the only ones being harmed. That particular scope didn't need to expand. As such, the show ends the season on a more frustrating note than is necessary. It leaves a lot of open endings for the narrative should it continue with another season.