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Review: Prime Video’s ‘Wilderness’ is One Wild Ride

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I think it’s pretty universal that at some point in our lives, we’ve been pushed to our breaking point and snapped in some way, shape, or form. The unbridled emotions that come with the snap are raw, and deep, and can cause us to feel like we’re going crazy. Perhaps in some way, we are, like a rubber band, we have no control of the direction and power of the snap, in an attempt to return to form. This universal experience is at the core of Prime Video’s newest series, Wilderness, which puts a wife in this exact position, after discovering some truths about her husband.

Based on the novel of the same name by B.E. Jones, Wilderness was adapted for streaming by Marnie Dickens (Gold Digger, Thirteen (2016)) and directed by So Yong Kim (Treeless Mountain, Lovesong). The six-part event series stars Jenna Coleman of Doctor Who as Liv, the wife of Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s Will. Joining the displaced husband and wife are Ashley Benson (Pretty Little Liars, Spring Breakers) as Cara and Eric Balfour (Charmed, Haven), the other couple embroiled in the drama of Liv’s and Will’s relationship. So should Prime Video’s Wilderness be on your radar? Absolutely it should. Continue on to see why.

[Warning: Spoilers from Wilderness are below!]

Liv (Jenna Coleman) discovers a dark secret

Being a newlywed is hard enough for a lot of couples. The stress of joining in holy matrimony is one thing, but combining lives into a single unit can be another monster altogether. However, for Liv and Will, this combination of stress is amplified by their decision to leave their homes in the U.K. and start over in The United States. When we meet the couple, they seem happy, or at least put on a good front for everyone around them. Liv gives up her career to follow Will for his job, but she doesn’t necessarily seem resentful of that decision.

Instead, she presents as incredibly supportive of his career choice and excited for her own prospects of a new life in the States. She wants to write a novel, something she has aspired to do for a long time. The move and loss of her job allow her the time and space to do so, but reality has a different plan for her.

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Jenna Coleman as Liv. Wilderness (Prime Video).

Not long after settling down in America, she discovers that her ever-doting husband has a dark secret that impacts the foundation of Liv’s marriage. He’s cheating on her, although at first, she isn’t sure with whom. This news fundamentally rocks Liv to her core. There’s a shift in her and she can no longer hide from the truth as much as she wants to. What is she supposed to do having she’s given up everything to follow her husband across the world? Take a trip of course.

A tense cross-country trip in Wilderness

Liv and her husband decide to take a trip across America, hoping to find each other once again. The trip itself is something that Liv has always wanted to do, a promise from her husband that he’ll do better. They can do better, but only if they work together to find their new happiness. At least that’s the empty promise that he sells her, attempting to placate her from leaving his ass as he deserves. And she buys it, at least temporarily, however, the blissful ignorance isn’t meant to last.

What should have been a trip full of joy quickly becomes tainted, as truth after truth becomes discovered, slapping Liv in the face. Her reality is rapidly changing and she has to adjust quickly. Just how far can she bend before she snaps? And just what exactly will she do when she reaches her breaking point? Get revenge of course. That’s the only plausible explanation, at least in Liv’s mind.

The journey from loving wife to woman on the edge is one of the most interesting and intoxicating pieces of television I have watched lately. It feels blasphemest to say when I’ve seen so many incredible shows lately, but there is so much that Wilderness has going for it.

The positives and negatives of Wilderness

When the trailer for this series was released, I was shocked that “Look What You Made Me Do (Taylor’s Version)” was the song playing along with the footage. The shock mostly pertained to the fact that Taylor Swift had already recorded that song when Reputation (Taylor’s Version) felt so far away. However, this song perfectly captures the essence of this series, which is made even better that the song also serves as the title song.

Wilderness- Liv and WIll
Will (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and Liv (Jenna Coleman). Wilderness (Prime Video).

The first heaping of praise has to go to Marnie Dickens and So Yong Kim for the writing and directing of this series. The story is enthralling to watch as the viewer, from the dialogue to the way the story is framed. There are pieces of the series’ mystery that are unraveled throughout the series that occur prior to the main storyline, however, they aren’t uncovered linearly. Instead, they are shared sporadically, which adds to the psychological thriller feel of the series.

Because of this decision, you never actually know who knows what, which made me question everyone’s motives and how each character plays into the story. I was on the edge of my seat for nearly every episode, not sure how it was going to play out over the course of the six episodes. I consumed four episodes in a single sitting, and it didn’t feel like four hours in the slightest. The shots were pleasing to the eye and the story enveloped my entire mind. I still catch myself thinking about this series and story days later.

On top of the scripts and direction, this series would not be what it is without Jenna Coleman and her excellent characterization of Liv. I have loved Coleman since her Doctor Who days, but Wilderness helped cement how expansive her acting talent is. She’s a powerhouse as the bombastic Liv, showcasing the two extremes of a person who has had their heart broken and eventually becomes broken herself. However, through the shattering of her life, Liv reassembles the pieces into something else, which is beautiful to witness. Although within the beauty is a darker side, which Coleman portrays perfectly.

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Will (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and Liv (Jenna Coleman). Wilderness (Prime Video).

I was also blown away by Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Will. When the series began, I was expecting a one-dimensional character, a cheating husband is his overarching archetype. Which is indeed one of the many sides Will exhibits. However, Dickens does a great job of developing a deeper character with Will, one that goes way darker than I thought it would. Jackson-Cohen eats up the role and provides a perfect foil for Liv. Together, the duo has insane chemistry, although not in a romantic way. More like two tornadoes competing for power.

For all that Wilderness has going for it, there are a few things that felt like a slight smear against it, the first being Ashley Benson’s role. I grew up watching Benson in Pretty Little Liars as one of the main cast members. And for all intents and purposes, she is a “main character” in this series. However, her role is relatively small compared to the rest, even if her presence is felt throughout all the episodes. I would have loved to see more of her throughout the series, however, I understand why Cara plays the role she does.

The only other gripe is that the ending felt a tad rushed in the final episode. I definitely think Wilderness could have benefited from an additional episode or two, to give the series a few more all-important beats. With those beats, the series would have been a masterclass of psychological thrillers. Even so, Wilderness is exceptional in what it presents and a series I’ll return to many times.

Wilderness arrives on Prime Video on September 15. Are you planning to check it out? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.

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Brian Kitson

Working hard to bring you the latest news and thoughtful analysis of all things nerdy!

Brian Kitson has 366 posts and counting. See all posts by Brian Kitson