The more things change on The Wilds, the more things stay the same. I really should have remembered that before I went into the season-two finale hoping for some resolution or answers. I didn’t expect a big shiny wrap-up (I’d love a season three), but I was somehow surprised when the episode ended and the Adams and Eves were all the same, but different.
Perhaps I was tricked by the episode’s cold open, with a cool, Sharon Van Etten-style Shelby crooning Tom Waits’ “Martha” in a bar. Her hair’s grown back into a sexy shag, and Toni’s snuck into the audience. They make eye contact. All may be forgiven! And then Matrix Gretchen sneaks into the green room with a whole “red pill/blue pill” conundrum, and — boom! — Shelby’s back in the barracks, all bald and disturbed.
Snapping back even further to the island, Shelby and Fatin are off in search of the pit. They find a bunch of different dirt, and we learn that Shelby is “fucking incredible” at escape rooms, which honestly is pretty perfect. Shelby takes another look at Nora’s notebook and realizes that her butterflies and squiggles were actually a map and that they need to go where the lightning bolt is — whatever it is. Fatin prays on it, and while the two look to heaven, they spot what looks like a transponder in the sky. There are fresh batteries, so it’s recent, but as to what it actually is, that’s still pretty much anyone’s guess.
Fatin’s most excited to tell Leah about their discovery, but not now. She’s impressed that Leah’s carried this burden all alone, but Leah’s still off hallucinating in the ocean with faux Ben Folds. He calls her a child, and she screams, “I’m not a lovesick child” in response. He agrees that she’s not (he is her manifestation, after all) but suggests that “if others want to believe that, you allow them, and you use it.”
Everyone ambles back to hot-tub HQ, where Rachel, Toni, and Dot have given Martha another soak, had a nice scream, and gotten the barest of hand squeezes from their catatonic pal. Niceties are shared all around, then a cartoonishly stupid fart from Toni, and a miracle: A green military-style helicopter appears out of nowhere, and they’re all saved. Of course, we know that they’re far from their hometowns and childhood bedrooms, but they don’t. It feels a little “Charlie Brown and the football,” but so does most of The Wilds, so that’s okay.
Other shit is happening on Boy Island, where Raf is consoled by Henry, who tells him the story of his sad Volkswagen dad and explains that Raf isn’t “stupid for thinking [Seth] was great because a lot of him really is.” A lot of him also isn’t — especially given where the episode ends, but more on that later.
There’s a power vacuum on Boy Beach because Kirin has “learned to check his bro-dawg swagger.” (“Fuck if I don’t miss it,” says Ivan.) Scottie tries to goad him back into action, calling him “Jocko Malfoy” (sick burn), but ultimately the only thing that can get all these dudes back in the swing of things is a good old-fashioned game of ’bee. I only noticed during this scene that it seems like they actually have two Frisbees, meaning Josh must have brought two, which I suppose makes sense but is only a further reminder that he’s a huge dork.
Uh-oh! Seth is back, and he has to show the group something! It’s a boat, and there’s gas in the tank. It works, too, despite Scottie’s suggestion that Seth has the “reverse Midas touch.” As viewers, we know the boat’s backstory, but the group doesn’t, so there’s a bit of a push and pull over who’s going to take it out on a rescue mission. Ultimately, Seth, Raf, and Kirin get the nod, and they immediately head out, which seems pretty ill-advised. A little sunshade couldn’t have hurt. Maybe some more supplies? At least they brought oars, I guess.
On the boat, we quickly learn that Kirin still has no warm feelings for Seth and even suspects any passive goodwill that Raf has toward the traitor as some sort of indication that he’s about to get ganged up on. It’s a little “sea madness” type craziness, but he’s not wrong, really, because as shit on the raft starts to get extra tough, Seth and Kirin struggle, and Seth pushes Kirin overboard. He quickly tries to start the motor, telling Raf that they’re going to leave Kirin and that he should hit him with the oar. Raf turns that back around on Seth, hitting him with the oar and beating him to a pulp.
We leave the scene right as Kirin tells Raf, “There’s a boat,” which we then have to presume to be true. Did the boat also rescue Seth? Do the boys know that he’s somewhere in the bunker? I have questions, and only season three can quench my thirst for knowledge.
Back to that bunker: Gretchen — who smokes while she walks on the treadmill — delivers addressed invitations to every member of the Adams and Eves. She summons Leah, and they engage in a battle of wits. We leave thinking Leah got the upper hand and that the FBI is about to spring in right after Leah has enjoyed her strawberry daiquiri. (Mmmm.) Of course, literally nothing ever goes the teens’ way, and after they’re all let out of their rooms/cells, they quickly discover a few things.
- That the other group exists. (Except for Leah and Raf, who knew that already, of course.)
- That there’s a weirdly lit disco-ball prom set up for them, and it seems like Gretchen is going to show up, but then she never does.
- Everyone else has fled the barracks, taking all the electronic gear and documents, and they are once again stranded. Fuck.
There’s a knife twist at the end via Gretchen, because there always is. First of all, Seth is there as well, it seems, ruling the roost with a boom box and a microphone. It’s very Pump Up the Volume, but with a sort of “Christian Slater’s gnarled hand in Heathers” vibe to it as well. Shout out that excellent Depeche Mode placement because “Personal Jesus” is a jam.
There’s also an insinuation from Gretchen that, though she and the rest of the team will be forced to monitor the experiment remotely from here on out, she still has eyes on the inside, which we’re led to believe are Shelby’s. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen, but given the episode’s intro, it’s entirely possible. Really anything is, though, so we’ll just have to keep our minds open if/when there’s a third season.
For now, though, that’s it for The Wilds. Season two has indeed been a wild ride (pun definitely intended), but I do really like where it went. I’m as intrigued and titillated as ever, and the promise of a merged group makes me extra intrigued by the prospect of a third season. Hopefully, if that comes to pass, I’ll be back recapping the new season. Either way, it’s been a pleasure getting to walk through this season. I leave you all with the immortal words of the demon Gretchen Klein: May your bleak present become your bright future.
• The CG on the boat ride wasn’t what I would call great, but also shooting an extended “people stuck on a raft in the middle of the ocean” scene has to be mad expensive, so I’m going to choose to allow it.
• Is “teen boys playing Frisbee on the beach” the male cinematic equivalent of “teen girls having a slow-motion dance party”?
• Gretchen deserves to be in jail for many reasons, but one would certainly be how she has raised her son, Devin, who joins her on the private plane and is reminded that “we don’t forget, but we forgive.”