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A group of young women is on a chartered plane to Hawaii for a troubled girls retreat called The Dawn of Eve when the plane goes down, killing the crew and stranding the passengers on an island in the middle of nowhere. As each episode cuts back and forth between time after the island and time before it—usually cut up into learning back story about each girl one per episode—the “LOST” comparison is direct and obvious, especially as the teens discover that there’s more to where they are and how they ended up there than it first appears. And some of the girls brought secrets to the middle of nowhere.
As we learn more and more about the stranded teens, their personalities start to distinguish one from another. If there’s a lead, it’s probably Leah (an excellent Sarah Pidgeon), who gets the first flashback episode and drives the suspicion that things aren’t what they seem on the island, but the show is very balanced with its ensemble. Shelby (Mia Healey) is the pretty girl who seems to have a shallow belief system; Nora (Helena Howard of “Madeline’s Madeline”) is incredibly quiet, especially compared to her sister Rachel (Reign Edwards). Other girls like Fatin (Sophia Ali), Dot (Shannon Berry), Martha (Jenna Clause), and Toni (Erana James) take their own time to come into focus while David Sullivan and Troy Winbush play a couple of investigators interviewing the girls after the fact. And then there’s Rachel Griffiths (“Six Feet Under”), who, well, it’s hard to explain. Without spoilers, 'The Wilds' jumps around in time deftly and consistently. You never lose the narrative even as it's bouncing around, a testament to the editing and overall quality.
At its heart, “The Wilds” is really about the many different ways that young women are underestimated, abused, commodified, and lied to in the ‘20s. Creator Sarah Streicher (a writer on Netflix’s “Daredevil”) embraces that YA empowerment tone in the balance of “very serious subject matter” meets “crazy plotting” that the genre requires. It’s a tougher tonal high wire act than it may first appear. The increasingly cuckoo plot twists mean that this show can’t take itself too seriously, but it also needs to make its characters interesting and likable within the construct of its plotting. Making them feel three-dimensional while they navigate the twist-heavy plot is an accomplishment for both the writing and acting here. It’s fun to watch this very well-cast show produce actresses who could become stars like Pidgeon, Ali, and Healey, while also confirming that Howard is the real deal. Some of the back stories are more believable and entertaining than others, but there isn’t anyone who stands out as being an obvious weak link, which is a testament to the entire production.