'The Wilds' Stars & EPs on That Mole Twist, Gretchen's Plan & Who's in Danger
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for all of Season 1 of The Wilds.]
It was just supposed to be a girls' retreat when there was a horrible accident and the plane crashed...right? Wrong.
As the first season of The Wilds (which dropped on Amazon Prime Video on December 11) revealed, it was all part of Gretchen's (Rachel Griffiths) plan. And she had not one (Chi Nguyen's Jeanette, who died in the premiere) but two moles (Helena Howard's Nora) embedded in the group. Leah (Sarah Pidgeon) discovers the truth about Nora as we reach the end of the island timeline (more about that in a moment)...only for an imminent shark attack on Rachel (Reign Edwards) to take precedence. Presumably, that's why in the second timeline, after the girls have been "rescued," Rachel is missing a hand. Maybe. Anything is possible on this show.
That's because their rescuers — FBI Agent Young (Troy Winbush) and Dr. Daniel Faber (David Sullivan) — who are questioning the girls in an unknown facility, work for none other than Gretchen herself. And Leah's not the only one who is now suspicious of exactly what's going on. But she is the only one to make the discovery, after escaping from her room, that there's another island just like theirs being monitored, a group of guys, the Twilight of Adam.
While we wait for news of a second season, TV Insider caught up with the cast and executive producers to get some insight into some of the major moments of the first.
Nora's Shocking Secret
Howard reveals that she knew the truth about Nora before everyone. "She only agreed to do the social experiment for her sister because she wanted Rachel to really get away from destroying herself and really see her true potential," she says. "She didn't know that anyone was going to get hurt, that there was going to be exploitation, anything like that. The further Nora gets deeper into it, she realizes there's a lot to be sacrificed and she's not the type of person who would ever want to hurt anyone, but that's what she's realizing she's having to do."
That includes putting Leah into a pit when she gets too close to the truth on the island.
For creator Sarah Streicher and showrunner Amy B. Harris, Leah is the easy choice to be the person who not only uncovers Nora's secret but also that room and the monitors at the end.
"Leah has the most active imagination," Streicher explains, and while that may help her more literary and creative side, "the liability is that an overactive mind can generate a lot of paranoia. She's the one who has her antenna up the highest, her eye out for things that feel off."
"The feeling of being gaslit and nobody believes you is a little bit the way teenagers feel in general," Harris adds. "They're onto stuff and yet everyone keeps telling them that's not true or stop worrying so much or you're being dramatic. This is the bigger, more conspiracy version of what a lot of people feel as they're going through the tumultuous experience of teenage life and coming of age."
Leah is the only one onto Nora in the island timeline, but Edwards, who also finds out earlier than the others about the twist, thinks her character will have a better understanding after what she's been through.
"I can't say 100% she'll be like, 'cool, cool, cool,'" she says, but while "the island was s**t, I was destroying myself. Looking at the island in comparison for the whole show, yeah, island life is crazy, but our real lives were f**ked up."
And because of that, "Rachel would really have this understanding [that] 'I actually needed that,'" she continues. "'As crazy and absurd as this whole experiment was, I needed to learn to love myself. I needed to learn it's OK for me to not be perfect and to need my sister.'"
As we learn, Gretchen is the one in charge of the entire experiment, and despite everything that happens in the first season on the island, her feelings about it — and bringing Nora in — haven't changed.
"The good she sold [Nora], which is 'Imagine a world where women were resilient and were living in their own power' is still how she feels," Harris says. "In Gretchen's mind, she's helping these girls realize their worth and power."
Griffiths agrees: "She still believes that these girls can find that mettle, can find that resiliency, can come out of the traps and dark corners of female adolescence that society and social media and personal circumstances and gendered roles they've grown up with have left them in. I feel like I'm offering them freedom to 'become.' I'm not sure if she has the psychological insight to really understand whether some of these characters may be too fragile for that challenge."
And, Griffiths insists, she not the villain. "She's a complicated person who believes she has the answers to something," she explains, so it's more about her "narcissistic fear perhaps that she isn't right" than what we've seen happen to the girls. "She's extraordinarily powerful at realizing and manifesting things that she has set her mind to. The biggest challenges for her are when reality is not matching up to her perceived outcome trajectory and those moments are really frightening for her."
For her, the girls on the island are her little "more diverse and inclusive complex [Barbie dolls]. So it should be no surprise that Griffiths thinks that "Gretchen would've mutilated her Barbies" and "endowed them with much deeper egos and ids."
As for what it might take for Gretchen to choose to end the experiment — we don't know the fates of two of the girls, Nora and Jenna Clause's Martha in the post-rescue timeline, and the EPs aren't sharing. For Harris, "that's the scary question" and her "line keeps moving."
After all, in the beginning, she might have ended it when someone got hurt. Then Jeanette dies and she decides to continue with the experiment. "Each time something awful comes, she moves the line of what would it take to stop it because at the end of the day, she cares more about humanity than humans and so for the bigger cause, if there are losses, she's OK with that," Harris says. "From Season 1 to beyond even, that line will move."
The EPs also won't say much about that second group of people, the Twilight of Adam, even when it comes to who's moving the pieces on the board. "Gretchen, whatever you think of her, is a professional, who is overseeing her experiment in a very professional way with each group," Harris teases.
Girls in Danger
As the first season comes to an end, two girls — Leah and Mia Healey's Shelby — are in danger off the island. Leah has escaped her room and found those monitors, while Shelby is in anaphylactic shock. Who's in more trouble? For Healey, there's a better shot of her character surviving since she is receiving medical treatment.
"Leah's out in the facility so who knows what waits for her beyond that door," Pidgeon notes, adding that while her character was sedated before, "we haven't really seen them punish anyone; I wonder what would happen if she's found out of her room and breaking these rules."
As for her character's major discovery of that second group, even Leah couldn't have imagined what she sees. While she is suspicious throughout the season, in both timelines, seeing that makes her realize, "this is way bigger than I ever thought possible. I think it's very, very scary, connecting the thoughts of what happened to the girls on the island and then realizing this operation is so big that they have a whole other group of people in a very, very similar situation," Pidgeon says.
Let's hope there's a second season to see how all of this plays out.
The Wilds, Season 1, Streaming Now, Amazon Prime Video