The Wilds’ cancellation isn’t as sad as it should be

The Wilds. Pictured (L-R): Jenna Clause (Martha Blackburn), Sarah Pidgeon (Leah Rilke), Mia Healy (Shelby Goodkind). Credit: Matt Klitscher/Amazon Studios
The Wilds. Pictured (L-R): Jenna Clause (Martha Blackburn), Sarah Pidgeon (Leah Rilke), Mia Healy (Shelby Goodkind). Credit: Matt Klitscher/Amazon Studios /

With how much I loved Season 1 of Amazon Prime Video’s The Wilds after its 2020 premiere, yesterday’s late-night cancellation news should have been devastating. But, unfortunately, I’m not crushed.

Season 2 proved to viewers that it simply wasn’t the same show anymore, leaving die-hards disappointed and casual viewers simply uninterested. After successfully handling one of the rawest and honest portrayals of teenage girls in recent memory, Season 2’s insistence to bloat its cast from 8 leads to 16 was the first hole in the series’ sinking ship.

Even before it was confirmed that The Wilds would be adding 8 teenage boys to its already stuffed cast, the Season 1 cliffhanger (Leah stumbling upon security footage of a separate boys’ island, the control group for Gretchen’s experiment) left fans weary of what was to come. In a now-deleted tweet, creator Sarah Streicher eased fans’ worries about what that Twilight of Adam footage would mean for the coming season: “girls. still. very. much. front. and. center.”

Having seen the season, it’s clear that this tweet was, to put it bluntly, a lie. The girls are the B-plot in the second season of The Wilds, with significantly less screentime in each episode than the boys, and less importance to the central plot. While this may have been bearable had the boys’ island storyline been good, that unfortunately wasn’t the case either.

Where the first season of The Wilds dove into each girl’s psyche and tapped into the very essence of existing as a teenage girl with a diverse selection of experiences, Season 2’s attempt to do the same with the boys was extremely shallow and fell into tired cliches.

While some of the boys did have more fleshed-out flashbacks (Raf, in particular, had the most involved backstory of the group), others were simply put into little boxes with minimal flashbacks to back them up. Scotty and Bo, for example, had their backstories lumped together, with their deepest trauma coming from their foiled attempt to become eBay flippers.

The Wilds is the greatest example of an audience betrayal in recent years, one that clearly did not pay off in the end. For a show that built itself on the fact that it was a show about women by women to become so unrecognizable in its second outing, it’s no wonder the series was all but abandoned by those that once flocked to it. The ones that did stick around made their displeasure about the boys very clear, as the replies on The Wilds’ social media accounts on posts related to the boys all feature some form of negativity about their inclusion.

That’s not to say every moment of Season 2 was bad, as the very few scenes that featured The Wilds’ female leads were proof that those girls were the heart of the show. That’s the saddest part of this cancellation: I’m devastated that we will never see the Unsinkable Eight again and that the incredible actresses that led the series to so much success during Season 1 had to see their show crumble in this way.

After all, it has to sting to sign on for a self-proclaimed female-focused show, have a hugely popular and critically acclaimed first season that got renewed almost instantly, only to then be replaced by eight guys and sidelined on your own show. All of that for the show to end in an unceremonious cancellation.

Even though saying goodbye to Season 2’s version of The Wilds will be relatively easy, I mourn for the show we used to know, the one I fell in love with during its first outing. Mia Healey’s portrayal of Shelby Goodkind will stick with me forever, as her story of internalized homophobia and struggle with self-acceptance strikes a familiar chord. In fact, every member of the cast is worth mentioning, as Sarah Pidgeon, Sophia Ali, Jenna Clause, Reign Edwards, Shannon Berry, Erena James, Mia Healey, and Helena Howard each brought powerhouse performances to the first season, and made the best of the little they were given during Season 2.

It’s incredibly sad to see this show go, but with how much it betrayed its own premise and the very audience that supported it, it’s unsurprising that this bloated, unrecognizable show is meeting its quiet demise. With The Wilds leaving the Unsinkable Eight stuck on Gretchen’s island, I guess we’ll all just have to tune into Yellowjackets to scratch that female-focused survival itch from now on.

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