The Wilds or Yellowjackets?
Survival of the LIT-test
There are a lot of TV shows these days and time is precious. The choices we make on what to watch are carefully considered, and starting a new show can sometimes seem daunting. I don’t know how many times I’ve avoided watching anything new in favor of tried and true favorites. Choosing to watch something new is a leap of faith—we hope it’s something we like, or better yet, love.
When the TV powers that be present us with two options of shows based on a group of teenagers getting stranded in the wilderness following a plane crash, it can be difficult to know which to start with. Prime Video’s The Wilds and Showtime’s Yellowjackets offer adventure dramas with thrilling twists and turns, mystery, and interesting characters flung into unimaginable circumstances. These series have the potential to be this generation’s Lost, but which one will come out on top?
Note: Some spoilers for The Wilds Season 1 & 2 and Yellowjackets Season 1 below.
Yellowjackets has the buzz. The Wilds is all about its wild plot twists. While The Wilds has the advantage of two seasons (consisting of 18 episodes) under its belt, Yellowjackets fits more story into its inaugural ten episodes. They share a basic premise but go in entirely different directions. Which one has more intriguing storylines is subjective, based on one’s individual taste (pun absolutely intended), however, Yellowjackets is the more streamlined of the two; the writing is more polished and complexly interwoven which lends itself to more nuanced visual storytelling.
It’s kind of a “basic” versus “extra” situation.
The Wilds is tame compared to Yellowjackets which goes all in on cannibalism and cults. It’s definitely edgier, but both have dark and disturbing elements. Story and viewing formats factor in as well. The Wilds drops all of its episodes at once and Yellowjackets is parceled out weekly, old-school style. Storywise, both shows play with timelines, but Yellowjackets has a much more comprehensive chronology. It covers the event of the plane crash in 1996 as well as the survivors (that we know of) living their lives in 2021.
This way, Yellowjackets has not only the diversity of age but 90s nostalgia and veteran actors portraying the grown-up characters. On The Wilds, Rachel Griffiths is the only one that can measure up to that specific criteria, but she does play a really fun villain as an evil scientist-type heading the unorthodox social experiment. Yellowjackets doesn’t have a Big Bad like that, unless you count the spirit of the land on which they are stranded. Yellowjackets boasts spooky and supernatural subject matter. Rituals and witchiness, possession and occult symbolism help cast a bigger air of mystery and horror overall.
In terms of broader themes, Yellowjackets covers more ground than The Wilds. Both deal with mental health, abuse, betrayal, religion, and gaslighting. Between the two shows, these topics are explored in interesting and diverse ways—which does make the case for watching both. Yellowjackets‘ far-reaching timeline, though, allows for things like the long-term effects of trauma and of keeping secrets, including addiction and survivor’s guilt, to be explored, too.
There’s just more meat (hehe) on the Yellowjackets’ story than The Wilds‘ which feels more akin to skin and bones in comparison.
From a cinematic standpoint, Yellowjackets visually tells a more compelling story with a bolder aesthetic. The Wilds might be duller dynamically but its story is consistent and well-told. Although, the stranded on the deserted island bit is more played out than the Alive approach of Yellowjackets which has a very cool “Winter is coming” vibe. When I finished Season 1 of The Wilds, I wanted to see what would happen next but I could easily wait. Since finishing the first season of Yellowjackets, I’ve been ravenous for more content.
Full disclosure, despite Yellowjackets being available week-to-week, I did binge it all within a few days. However, the hype I saw on social media each week only served to deepen my interest rather than turn me off—as hype tends to sometimes do.
As an adult who was of high school age in 1996, I am able to relate to both the young versions of the cast and their grown-up counterparts. It’s nostalgic for me, and it’s easier to try and imagine myself in their shoes, at least as much as one can. The young, present-day cast of The Wilds is going to resonate more with a younger demographic, not with the likes of me who are longer in the tooth. Maybe when it comes to choosing between watching these two series, age is more than just a number.
Which leads me to what drew me to watch The Wilds when it first came out. I’m a big fan of middle-aged actresses (yes, it’s a thing), Rachel Griffiths included, and she’s the reason I hit play on “Day One,” The Wilds‘ pilot episode. So, just imagine my utter delight when a show with a similarly intriguing premise, focusing on my age range, both as a teenager and an adult, casts such talent as Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cypress, Christina Ricci, and Juliette Lewis in complex and fascinating roles.
The Wilds Season 2 introduces the boys, the control group that was revealed on the Season 1 finale, and the series suffers for it. The group of girls from Season 1 is one of the things that made the show so great. It’s necessary in an experiment to have a control group, but The Wilds leans too much into this new narrative.
Sure, eating human flesh is a disturbing idea, but the sexual assault in Season 2 of The Wilds is downright bone-chilling. As a society, we are so far removed from cannibalism so it’s not going to hit nerves or trigger viewers, in the same way, a depiction of something that is sadly all too common will. However, this act on The Wilds brings a lot of complexity and tension to the group dynamic, which was somewhat lacking on Season 1.
Both Season 2 of The Wilds and Season 1 of Yellowjackets end on cliffhangers full of questions that need to be answered. That being said, I’d survive if there was no Season 3 (it has not been renewed as of yet), but I’d be mighty upset if this was the end of the Yellowjackets‘ story.
Thankfully, a second season of Yellowjackets has been confirmed, and I didn’t even have to offer up a blood sacrifice.