Adapt-or-die: ‘The Wilds’ © Matt Klitscher/Amazon Studios

Sometimes you just have to go with a far-fetched premise. A diverse group of teenage girls is pitched together in a desperate adapt-or-die scenario, which doesn’t seem to have come about by accident. It's best not to ask too many questions of the “Why?” “How?” “Who the hell would even do that?” variety and simply enjoy the drama. 

Lovesick Leah (Sarah Pidgeon), mouth fixed in a circumflex of misery, has been dispatched by her parents on an empowerment course: “a long weekend of female-centric learning and growth” as the cheesy in-flight induction video has it. When their private jet plunges into a dive, the other passengers react in revealing ways: Shelby prays, Dot lights a cigarette, Jeanette blocks it out, Rachel gobbles up the piece of chocolate cake she’s just pushed aside. Leah just clutches a totemic hardback. 

After bobbing in the sea surrounded by floating suitcases, Leah and a badly wounded Jeanette manage to splash their way to a deserted island. Elegant Fatin, chalk-and-cheese twins Rachel and Nora, Native Americans Martha and Toni, and Texans Dot and Shelby, have also made it ashore. The oddly fauna-free island has few resources, and the girls survive on cans of diet cola that have drifted in from the wreck. (Swotty Nora explains that the sugar caused the other type to sink.) Suitcases periodically arrive like care packages, and a bag of snacks almost causes a riot. Be they leader or follower, jock or intellectual, all must co-operate to survive. Little do they know there are disembodied eyes watching them. 

In a framing device, the disheveled girls take turns each episode to relate their story to impassive Agent Young (Troy Winbush) and soft-spoken Dr Faber (David Sullivan), who are picking up the emotional pieces of the events, and also perhaps preparing for a prosecution. Gradually it’s revealed why Leah is so attached to the book, Toni is so angry and confused, and sporty Rachel so dismissive of her twin. The not-so-subtle subtext is that life on the island wasn’t all that traumatic compared with everyday life at a US high school. The glib homilies and trite moral conclusions they offer up don’t always sound like things battered survivors would say in such situations. 

Gentle peacekeeper Martha (Jenna Clause) stands out among all the strong personalities, while “ordained youth minister” Shelby (Mia Healey) has hidden depths under her bland, blonde facade. Practical Dot (Shannon Berry), eager to use all she’s learnt from watching Bear Grylls on TV, gets a devastating moment when the girls debate who should phone home with the last, dying cell phone: “Make sure they love you enough to be waiting by the phone right now.” Poor Dot’s face crumples. 


On Amazon Prime from December 11

Follow @FTLifeArts on Twitter to find out about our latest stories first

Listen to our podcast, Culture Call, where FT editors and special guests discuss life and art in the time of coronavirus. Subscribe on AppleSpotify, or wherever you listen

Get alerts on Television when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article