Wilderness on Prime Video review: revenge thriller packs in the twists

Revenge, as the saying goes, is a dish best served cold. For scorned wife Olivia, it’s more than that: for her, it’s a dish best stuck in the freezer for a year or so, left to gently marinate then served on top a heaping of ice.

As you might be able to tell, Prime Video’s new show Wilderness is not exactly your usual revenge thriller.

Based on the book by BE Jones, it tells the story of the aforementioned Olivia, played by British TV stalwart Jenna Coleman. She looks like she has it all. She’s just moved to America, has a swanky penthouse apartment in New York and her gorgeous, doting husband in Will (Oliver Jackson-Cohen).

Except, oh no: she’s also had to give up her career to do so, is chronically lonely, and she’s just discovered some rather sexy texts on Will’s phone that definitely weren’t sent to her. To make up for his indiscretions, Will promises to take her on the trip of a lifetime – an American road trip through some of the country’s most beautiful wilderness.

Swallowing her rage, Liv agrees – but unbeknownst to Will, she’s also plotting that sweet, sweet revenge. In what form? Well, murder actually. What better place to stage an unfortunate ‘accident’ and make it look like a tragic mistake?

Screenwriter Marnie Dickens has form investigating the complex way relationships and gender dynamics intertwine – her 2019 show Gold Digger was all about an older woman who embarks on a relationship with a much younger man – and she’s just as astute here.

Over the course of the two episodes I watched (and presumably the rest) she deftly unpicks the ways in which an affair can fracture a relationship, while also making her protagonists feel grounded and three-dimensional. Yes, Liv is the ‘perfect wife’, but she’s also homicidal. Meanwhile Cara, the mistress (played by Pretty Little Liars’ Ashley Benson), has her own issues and winds up being considerably more sympathetic than she first appears.

Ashley Benson as Cara (Kailey Schwerman)
Ashley Benson as Cara (Kailey Schwerman)

Of course, a great script means nothing without great actors, and on that front everybody here is acting their socks off.

Coleman’s Liv is beautifully enigmatic. The first episode doesn’t really do her many favours (her decision to flip immediately from scorned to ‘murder’ feels a tad jarring – as does her Welsh accent), plus the way she finds out about Oliver’s various wrongdoings feels almost unnecessarily masochistic; the old ‘secret sex tape’ trope rears its head once more.

However, as the series progresses, we start to understand more about who she really is and what drives her, including via a series of flashbacks. Opposite her is Jackson-Cohen, who clearly has form playing these roles (he also played a scummy husband in Apple TV+’s recent thriller Surface) but manages to give Will some likeability – enough to make it clearer why Liv doesn’t just dump him.

The other notable thing about this series is the sheer amount of twists it manages to pack in. In only two episodes, there are about four things that made my jaw shoot downwards, none of them expected. To say exactly what they are would be spoiling things, but if nothing else they’re guaranteed to make people keep watching.

Plus, a liberal application of Taylor Swift never did anybody any harm. Her brilliantly snarky Look What You Made Me Do (Taylor’s Version, of course) graces the title sequence of Wilderness. It could almost have been written for the show – “I got a list of names, and yours is in red, underlined”, indeed. Time to start looking over your shoulder.

Wilderness is out on Prime Video from September 15