Major spoiler for the end of season one to follow: Last year ended with a series of revelations, including Leah (the excellent Sarah Pidgeon) discovering she wasn’t the survivor of a plane crash as much as the survivor of a wicked psychological experiment. The girls who survived the crash had been placed there and monitored by the kooky head of the Dawn of Eve program, Gretchen Klein (Rachel Griffiths). In the season’s finale, Leah discovered another layer: They weren’t the only rats in Gretchen’s maze. There was a companion program called Twilight of Adam, with eight young men in a similar situation, believing that had crashed on a desert island, forced to fight for survival.
Naturally, season two of “The Wilds” has to follow through on this discovery, essentially doubling the dual tracks of season one, wherein survivors of the Dawn of Eve program were interrogated in “present day” material, intercut with flashbacks both to the weeks after the “crash” and character-revealing chapters from their life before they took that fateful trip. The flashbacks to the women have been largely jettisoned, but the plotting still keeps up with both their present-day material and how they made it there while adding the basic structure of year one to the “Adam” island. That’s where we meet young men like the charismatic Raf (Zack Calderon), alpha male Kirin (Charles Alexander), and outgoing Josh (Nicholas Coombe).
Largely through no fault of the young cast, the male characters in season two just aren’t as richly drawn as the female ones in the first season. Part of it could because of the crowded plotting with two less episodes and twice the characters. Part of it could also be that we’ve seen Lord of the Flies alpha male posturing like this so many times before, although the writers do try to modernize some of the classic issues in this dynamic and introduce a shocking act midway through the season that really reshapes “Adam.” The first season worked because all of the characters felt distinct, well-performed with full, rich back stories. That’s not the case here, but there are a few stand-outs: Miles Gutierrez-Riley and Alex Fitzalan feel like future stars.