Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
Prime Video, from September 15
Weeks before its premiere, Amazon Prime Video’s new British thriller Wilderness was already stoking online headlines. The interest was less in the show itself, and more in its use of Taylor Swift’s re-recorded version of Look What You Made Me Do, her hit 2017 single, which serves as the show’s theme song.
After watching the whole series, nothing’s changed: the best part of Wilderness is its opening credits, an animated sequence paired to Swift’s Reputation-era smash, a spiky revenge track built on theatrical histrionics and aggrieved fury, where Swift reclaimed her victimised narrative from pop culture’s clutches. For a show about a jilted wife turning the tables on her cheating husband, Wilderness could’ve used a lot more of Reputation-era Taylor’s scorched earth spark.
The not-so-happy couple: Will (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and Liv (Jenna Coleman).Credit: Amazon Prime Video
Based on the novel by Welsh writer B.E. Jones and created by burgeoning British screenwriter Marnie Dickens, Wilderness deposits us in the internal confusion of Liv Taylor (Jenna Coleman), trophy wife to affluent Will (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). The seemingly perfect British newlyweds (he’s listed under “My Will” in her phone) have moved to New York after Will got headhunted to run the events team at a luxury hotel, which means Liv has had to put her journalism career on hold. She’s willing enough to sacrifice for her man and dives into her wifely duties at home, while also trying to write a novel in her spare time.
Until the day their fantasy life implodes after Liv finds explicit messages from a female co-worker on Will’s phone. The series does a fascinating job of painting a jilted lover’s obsession – Liv stalks Will’s devices, masochistically curious for ever more details (explicit photos, sex videos, etc) that will do nothing but drive her madder. She confronts him over the affair, he admits it, and she gives him the Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes treatment, throwing him out of the house and setting fire to his clothes.
Grovelling, Will returns with tickets to Liv’s “trip of a lifetime”, her dream road trip through the US desert, in a last-ditch bid to salvage their marriage. She agrees to go but, unbeknownst to Will, harbours plans of leaving him in a ditch somewhere, the US wilderness offering many opportunities for a “happy accident” along the way. On the trip, they meet an American couple (Ashley Benson and Eric Balfour) who get caught up in the pair’s nonsense.
Liv is a confounding character, less sociopathic mastermind like Amy Dunne in Gone Girl (Wilderness′ clear forebear) and more wet-rag blowing in the wind. One second she’s a ’50s femme fatale, plotting her vengeance with barely contained malice; the next she’s casually agreeing to Will’s idea they, like, have a baby. You’ll find yourself tapping on the TV screen halfway through each episode like, “Oi c’mon, kill the guy already!”
That Liv desires to both hurt and help Will might seem contradictory, but there’s a Freudian tilt to her indecisiveness. She’s scared of becoming her mother Caryl (Claire Rushbrook), who’s bitter and obsessed by the fact her husband left her for a younger woman when Liv was a child (it was Liv who spotted her father’s indiscretions, which Caryl still resents).
Amid the maelstrom, Liv’s also getting closer to her lesbian neighbour Ash (Morgana Van Peebles), who’s a feminine counterpoint – supportive, affectionate, passionate – to Will’s toxic masculinity. (Let’s just ignore that one of the show’s two minority characters seems to have no inner life apart from being a crutch for Liv’s self-involved development, shall we?)
But for all its spicy setups, Wilderness feels a slog. It’s not campy enough to be fun, not furious enough to be satisfying, and not probing enough to offer any sensitive insight into why someone would stay with such a duplicitous jerk as Will. The early episodes, told in frequent flashbacks, also foil the show’s forward momentum, which is annoying when its only strength is the twisty plot.
There’s something intriguing in the show’s use of music: Liv’s at her most confident and strongest when she’s wearing her headphones, a nod to pop’s power and to the original novel’s appendix, which includes a fun playlist titled “Music to Murder Your Husband By”.
It’s not till the series’ closing minute that it finally bares its teeth, with Liv delivering a monologue spitting with female frustration: of gross men and their entitlements, of patriarchal inequity and its double standards, of a feminine rage unsatiated.
It’s just too little, too late. If Taylor Swift can give you the feeling in a three-minute pop song, Wilderness′ five-odd hours should’ve been time enough.
To read more from Spectrum, visit our page here.
Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered every Thursday.
Most Viewed in Culture
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article