Wilderness: Season 1 REVIEW – A Wild Ride

"Look what you made her do."


Wilderness, a British miniseries on Amazon Prime, is adapted from a novel by B.E. Jones. Considering its source material, it’s no surprise then that it functions much like one of those thriller paperbacks that you can get off the rack at an airport. Some aspects of the show don’t make a whole lot of sense once you start really thinking about it, so Wilderness is best enjoyed as an off-the-rails TV show – something that entertains but never quite satiates.

Liv (Jenna Coleman) is crazy in love with her husband Will (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), so much so in fact that she’s left her home behind and happily relocated with him to New York. Despite everyone warning her that she will find things trying without a job, she keeps herself busy with the writing of her novel, and is more or less satisfied with the life they’ve built in New York — until she finds a text in Will’s phone that makes it apparent that he’s slept with someone else. Liv finds her world unravelling, especially when she can’t understand why he did it.

Will doesn’t offer her much clarity on the issue. Despite her better judgement, she decides to give him another chance. Guiding her decision making is her own mother’s split from her father. Even though her mom and dad have been divorced for years, her mom’s been unable to let the man go. She obsesses about him and his second wife, and is haunted by a man who couldn’t care less about her. Liv doesn’t want that to be her life, especially since she still loves Will. But the secrets don’t stop coming out of the woodwork, and Liv discovers that she doesn’t know her husband as well as she thought she did.

The first two episodes of Wilderness are highly entertaining. It’s easy to relate to Liv and empathesize with her, which keeps us invested since we are absolutely disgusted with Will and his behaviour. It also helps that Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” is the theme song of the show, as it helps get us into a “desire revenge” frame of mind. However, once we find out about Will’s misdeeds, the show kind of runs out of steam. All the scenes between Liv and Will start to feel repetitive, as it feels like the same song and dance over and over again. There are also a bunch of scenes with Liv boozing about, and while I understand the intention of these scenes – to reflect how much she’s spiraling and losing control – I don’t think we need to see it happening quite as frequently as depicted in the series.

Liv’s character also goes through a significant transformation, and I don’t think the series handled the shift well enough. How does Liv, who seemed lovely and sweet, suddenly become so cold and cutthroat? She goes from regular woman to Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne in the span of a few episodes. Coleman is a good actress, and she’s able to play both sides of Liv well, but it feels a bit much when she doing a whole spiel about being both the victim and the villain. There are two sides to Will as well, but his characterisation feels more authentic. After all, it’s believable that Will uses his charm as a mask to hide his narcissism and callous nature.

The last thing I saw Jackson-Cohen in is the movie Emily, and while that character and this character are mostly different, he’s no stranger to playing the charming douchebag. He does it extremely well, and you will find it easy to loathe him. With lesser actors, it would have probably been a chore to get through this series, so it’s a testament to both Coleman and Jackson-Cohen’s abilities that things remain fairly watchable.

The show’s focus is mainly on what infidelity can do to a relationship, and the difficulty faced in the aftermath, and if this had stayed as the focus, things would feel meatier and of substance. However, as it is a thriller, these are the elements that come to the forefront, so much so that it becomes a tad contrived when these ordinary individuals start behaving like criminal masterminds.

At the root of Liv and Will’s issues are their relationships with their parents. Will married Liv to please his father in some short-sighted way, and Liv turned a blind eye to Will’s obvious red flags because she was so determined to not become her mother. Like Philip Larkin famously said: “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.”

At the end, when you get the full measure of what Liv does to pay Will back, the adage “hell hath no fury like a woman” will come to mind. It feels a little far-fetched for real life, but absolutely suitable if you’re in the mood for total mayhem.

Review screener provided.

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While the series can't quite maintain the momentum forged by the first few episodes, it's still pretty entertaining in a 'switch off your brain' kind of way.