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Amazon Prime's Queer hit The Wilds returns for season 2

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Photo courtesy of Amazon
Photo courtesy of Amazon

On Wednesday, May 4, the highly anticipated second season of the hit teen drama The Wilds will return to Amazon Prime.

The series follows the story of "the Unsinkable Eight," a diverse group of teenage girls stranded on a remote island following an apparent plane crash. At first look, the show seems like an all-female Lost or another adaptation of Lord of the Flies. However, as the first season progresses, viewers soon learn there is more going on than meets the eye.

The girls have not ended up on the remote island by chance: everything was a setup. "The Unsinkable Eight" are unwitting participants in a radical feminist sociological experiment to determine whether or not women are more fit to run society. They were drugged and placed on the island by Gretchen Klein, the mastermind behind the experiment, who is keeping tabs on their every move.

Which is harder: Teenage coming-of-age or a deserted island?
The story comes from writer and creator Sarah Streicher, who said she came up with the plot after experiencing a devastating breakup.

"It began with a heartbreak. I got my heart trampled by a person who I shall not name, and the experience really made me feel like a teenager again," she said. "It was a reminder of how close that person is to your surface, always and continually, and I wanted to explore that... kind of see how it ticks and really celebrate it.

"I decided to marry the idea of the teenage coming-of-age experience and a deserted island and ask the question: Which is more difficult to weather

The series has a nonlinear progression. Each episode starts with narration by one of the girls "post-rescue" in an underground bunker. As the series progresses, audiences get a better look at the lives each girl left behind and the toll the island has taken on them. Every detail in the show is international, giving The Wilds the feel of a mystery thriller.

The Wilds grips audiences from the first scene, and each episode ends on a bigger cliff-hanger than the last. By the end of the first season, all but two of the girls have been seen alive in the bunker, leaving fans to wonder about the fate of certain characters.

Online, fans have come up with different theories as to what may be in store in the next season.

Photo courtesy of Amazon  

Authentic characters
While the plot sucks viewers in, many have found the incredibly developed main characters to be the heart and soul of the program. The charm of "the Unsinkable Eight" is twofold: As a writer, Streicher made sure to thoroughly develop the characters, pulling traits from real people she admires. To cast the perfect actors in the leading roles, the production team searched for girls all over the world until they found the perfect people to fill Streicher's high expectations.

"I had, in my mind, quite a pretty realized idea of who these characters were. I had spent a lot of time developing them, and part of my process is to mine the people that I've known or grown up with, and graft their personalities and shapes and quirks onto the characters. So, I came in with a pretty clear idea," Streicher said.

Part of her intention when writing the characters was to include girls with diverse looks. "We were all pretty deliberate and firm about making sure that the body type diversity and racial diversity that was on the page was also reflected in the people that we found," Streicher continued. "So, it was really lucky and fantastic and so rewarding to see it come together."

"Shoni" sets sail
It's 2022, and no hit teen show is complete without good "ships" — and The Wilds is no exception. Fan-favorite couple "Shoni" (Shelby + Toni) became canon toward the end of the first season after tension-filled episodes between the enemies-to-lovers.

In the show's depiction of the characters, fans can see two different sides to Queer coming-of-age. From the beginning, the audience knew Toni as a fierce, openly Queer self-advocate, an athlete, and loyal friend. Her backstory focuses on her last romantic relationship and the ways her fiery spirit led to its demise.

Through this, we see how self-actualization became vital to her survival. A foster kid bouncing around the system, she was already used to rejection and no longer sought approval from others. She did not see her sexuality as anything more than a part of herself and wasn't afraid to lash out at those who were not willing to accept her for it.

On the other side of the spectrum, fans meet Shelby. A Southern pageant princess and the pastor's eldest daughter, Shelby wears a mask of sorts for most of the first season, appearing optimistic despite the darkness she tries to hide within. When fans finally get to see her backstory, they find out that she grew up in an environment where people don't say "Gay." She covers up her homosexuality with Christian charm and subtle hatred.

When the two finally come together after giving up hope that they will be rescued,, it is only after they become more authentic versions of themselves, apart from the expectations of the societies they have left behind.

Telling BIPOC stories without racializing trauma
The show is a masterpiece in highlighting diverse characters. More than half of "the Unsinkable Eight" are strong women of color, and while their races and ethnicities certainly play a role in their backstories, they are never central to their trauma. Instead, the writers focus on issues like eating disorders, neurodivergence, divorce, breakups, and sexual assault.

"The plot and characters are so relatable. I love how it covers all the major problems that every teenager goes through," The Wilds fan P told the SGN. "I relate to Toni and Rachel the most. They have kept the plot of the show as raw as possible, and this is what makes the show so special. Writing about eight main characters with eight different personalities is a hard job, and the writers have done that successfully."

The show does something revolutionary in focusing on minority characters facing these specific struggles. While none of the issues are new to the coming-of-age genre, past depictions typically saw them as "white girl problems."

When other teen dramas, like Euphoria, provide on-screen representation, they often descend into the pitfalls of racialized tragedy. The Wilds avoids this trope and gives its characters plenty of depictions of joy and excellence, while also focusing on real teenage issues that impact kids of all races and ethnicities.

Found family
The Wilds has become a beacon for many Queer fans, not only for the romantic arc between characters Toni and Shelby but also for the overarching theme of "found family." Coming from different backgrounds, states, and traumatic experiences, the girls find refuge in each other. The family trope that develops among the characters gains strength in their darkest moments, when the girls fight but come back together.

For Queer people, "found family" is more than just a media cliché. The experience of leaving home and people behind and dealing with trauma is common for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Often Queer people find each other and form support networks, depending on the love, guidance, and acceptance of others in a rich and tight community.

Boys, boys, boys
Because of the mystery element to the show, creators have been pretty tight-lipped about what they reveal about the upcoming season. While teasers seem to show some big spoilers, fans are not convinced they are entirely accurate.

One thing the creators have been open to admitting is the addition of a "boy" island. Mirroring the Dawn of Eve experiment, this island has been dubbed "the Twilight of Adam" and will feature eight new male cast members. LGBTQ+ fans are excited to see more Queer representation with the introduction of Ivan, who is described as "unapologetically himself" and was shown in another trailer confronting another boy on the island over subtle homophobic comments.

The introduction of the new male characters had some fans initially disappointed; they worried that boys would distract from the overtly feminist message of the show. However, it seems the incorporation of strong male dynamics will only reinforce the ideas Streicher introduced audiences to.

"I am okay with the addition of the boys. Being an experiment, it was obvious there was going to be a boys' island to compare to the girls'. I trust Sarah's writing," P said.

Theory vs. lived experience
A theme of the show tends to be comparing Klein's liberal feminist theory with the modern lived experiences of the diverse group of teenage girls on the island. Klein, as a character, seems reminiscent of white, J.K Rowling—style feminists, as she believes the simple answer to gender inequality is to replace men in high positions of power with women.

In contrast, the girls on the island bring their own lived experiences and intersecting identities to the table to show that there are more complex layers to gender oppression than Klein is willing to account for. Fans are now hoping to see added layers to the debunking of her feminist theory by watching how the boys' island interacts and deals with the topics of race, sexuality, and toxic masculinity.

Fans of The Wilds are excitedly awaiting the second season, hoping for more romance, more friendship, and more answers to the cliffhangers from season 1. While no one can predict what will happen next on the show, audiences can't wait to see the new directions Streicher will be taking "the Unsinkable Eight" in.