Growing up is hard. Anybody who has made it far enough to look back knows that's true.
Amazon's first Young Adult series comes from creator/executive producer Sarah Streicher, executive producer/showrunner Amy B. Harris, and executive producers Jamie Tarses and Dylan Clark.
Featuring a female-driven story and a winning ensemble cast of impressive young women with a stunning turn from Rachel Griffiths, The Wilds, at first, seems like a combination of a gender-switched Lord of the Flies and ABC's Lost.
But at its core, The Wilds is all about growing up female and how easily young women can be beaten down and turned around despite family and friends' best intentions to keep them grounded.
The Wilds introduces us to eight young women on their way to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend a retreat called "The Dawn of Eve," but before they ever get there, their plane crashes into the ocean, stranding them on a deserted island.
While Lord of the Flies strips away the civility of boys as they form a violent and self-centric microcosm of the world at large, The Wilds deconstructs the societal norms the stranded girls have survived in civilization, providing the opportunity for introspection and to grow close to girls far outside their regular social circles.
On the surface, the young women have very little in common. But experience suggests that they're about to find out what kept them apart in their normal lives would be the very things bringing them together on the island.
In fact, their very survival depends on it.
Viewers are treated to a kind of inner monologue that unfolds with each of the girls as they relay their time on the island after they're rescued, as well as what led them to be on the plane, heading to Dawn of Eve in the first place.
Although it's an ensemble cast, being introduced first to Leah (Sarah Pidgeon) makes it seem like she's a focal point, and that's right, for a time anyway.
Leah has a flair for the dramatic, having fallen in love with an older man only to have her heart crushed. In her mind, things happen to her, and the world isn't fair. Her plight acts as the launching point to introduce the others and their varying perspectives on their young lives.
Counter to Leah are sexually confident Fatin (Sophia Ali), popular Shelby (Mia Healey), and lauded dive champion, Rachel (Reign Edwards). They're used to being on top, which means something different for each.
Rachel's sister, Nora (Helena Howard), is a shy bookworm struggling in Rachel's shadow, Dot (Shannon Berry) is a provider, caring for her ailing father to the detriment of her youth, and Martha (Jenna Clause) protects her best friend, Toni (Erana James), as she becomes increasingly angry and ill at ease within their new dynamic on the island.
Streicher fully understands these young women and their stressors, including crushing parental expectations, eating disorders, sexual identity, and a desire to be seen for who they are even as they are still unsure of what that means.
There isn't a single character whose journey feels secondary or less important than the others, and each gets the writer's respect.
The diverse cast is more than up to the task of bringing these young women to life, with surprisingly touching performances from newcomers Clause and Pidgeon.
While any series about survivors crash landing on a deserted island is bound to draw comparisons to Lost, the mystery at the center of The Wilds is just as compelling as that in the ABC series, if grounded a little more in reality.
Streicher has an impressive grasp on how much of the central mystery to reveal.
Her deft handling of the story ensures that we feel deeply for the girls and their struggles on and off the island so that by the time the potentially sinister implications of the underlying truth about their crash and the Dawn of Eve are unveiled, we're rooting for them individually and as a group.
Being compared to Lord of the Flies and Lost sets the bar high for The Wilds.
It's unique enough to add more to the conversation than it borrows and is so grounded in the 21st-century reality young women face in all aspects of their lives that it could be used as a master class for surviving and thriving female adolescence.
Even better is that despite the material's heady nature and the girls' experiences, The Wilds never loses itself in the darkness.
The fast-moving plot is always enjoyable, just like adolescence itself is mired in dark and light, forming a well-balanced series that entertains as much as it uses its narrative to remind viewers that being a teenage woman is its own kind of hell.
If it sounds like the action never leaves the island's confines, that's far from the truth.
As the head of the Dawn of Eve program, Rachel Griffiths leads the adult performances that offer insight into the island and plans for the girls through the program.
In addition to that, the series plays with timeframes ranging from the time on the island to what events led to their participation in the program, as well as hints of how life goes on after their rescue, as investigators grill the girls for meaning behind their ordeal.
It's one of the best things on television this year, and if you're an Amazon Prime member, you should make plans to watch it when it's released on Friday, December 11.
To get your feet wet, you're also invited to a virtual slumber party from The Wilds!
The Wilds Virtual Slumber Party Premiere is a crash course in all things self-care - essentially what “Dawn of Eve” was supposed to be (the retreat the girls thought they were going to before the crash) and something we all could use!
Join in on the premiere as they Flex Up, Fuel Up, Glow Up, Gloss Up, and Get Hooked up with inspo and self-care tips to survive what a WILD year this has been.
The wildly stylish Nana Agyemang will host the premiere, which will feature appearances from the series executive producers and cast and tutorials from wellness experts/influencers Andrea Amez, Kirsty Godso, Dajana Radovanovic, Doniella Davy, and Christine Doan.
Amazon goes to great lengths to promote their programming and make it as immersive for the audience as possible. Join in on the fun by attending the slumber party, beginning at 8 p.m. ET on December 10, as well as tuning in when the full series drops on Amazon.
The Wilds is is a thrilling adventure bolstered by compelling storytelling and characters begging for your attention and friendship. Will you be watching?
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.