Imagine having what you believe is a picture-perfect marriage, only to realize you’re basically living a lie.
Liv Taylor found this out the hard way on Wilderness Season 1 Episode 1 as she discovered the man she married wasn’t who she thought he was. Namely, he was a lying liar who lies and a cheater to boot.
And just leaving him and moving on with her life wasn’t going to do. She wanted to take matters into her own hands, and she had a lot of open road to do so.
The Wilderness pilot was all about introducing us to the Taylor’s and setting up what’s sure to be a twisted-filled season.
The plot isn’t groundbreaking, as we can all name several television series revolving around cheating spouses and revenge tours over the years. And for that reason, you have to buy into the leads to keep yourself interested and intrigued enough to stick around and see how this one will differ.
Jenna Coleman is perfectly cast as Liv, with her girl-next-door smile that bellies a rather dark and twisted imagination. She’s a doting wife who appears to be going almost overboard to cover for a rather maudlin childhood and suffocating mother.
She’s not terrible, at least not in the traditional sense. She loves her husband, seems happy to support him, and genuinely means it.
Moving away from home and everything you know to follow someone else’s dreams can be stifling, and it’s the perfect precursor to resentment, but that’s not what’s going on with Liv.
We don’t get enough information to truly understand if she’s feeling something more profound than what she says, but she’s happy with Will; that much is obvious.
Will is played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen, who’s making a name for himself playing husbands you can’t quite figure out. Here, he presents like one of the good ones until his back is against the wall, and all that charisma fades away to reveal an emotionally manipulative man afraid of losing his wife.
From the outside looking in, Liv and Will seem perfectly suited to each other, always touching, encouraging, and thrilled to be in one another’s orbits.
But the second Liv found that text message, everything evaporated.
When confronted with the truth, so often people lie because that’s the natural instinct. Or they tell some semblance of the truth, like Will admitting that he had an affair but sticking with the ‘it was only one-time’ defense.
Liv: So, what’s this then? A bribe?
Will: A bribe? Jesus, Livvy. Come on. I haven’t turned into a completely different person overnight.
Liv: Oh, but you have. That’s the thing.
The betrayal hit Liv hard, and the more you learn about her mother, the more you can see why.
Caryl doesn’t get much time here, but it’s obvious she’s been harboring anger towards Liv’s philandering father her whole adult life. Time has done nothing to dwell the pain she’s felt over having her heart broken.
Heartbreak comes in many shapes and sizes, and romantic pain can be just as debilitating as any other. You give yourself over to someone and offer them up the most vulnerable pieces of yourself, only for them to throw it back in your face by lying and deeming you not good enough.
Caryl has let that man’s betrayal shape her life and her relationship with her daughter. It’s pretty telling to hear Liv state that her biggest fear would be ending up like her mother.
Caryl’s very existence has been so off-putting it’s scared Liv to the point she’s actively living a life to avoid that same outcome.
And it’s that very reason that pushed Liv to her breaking point, as she reluctantly agreed to the trip of a lifetime to hopefully save her marriage. However, it didn’t take her long to realize her marriage probably wasn’t worth saving.
For a serial cheater, Will was damn sloppy. Or he was just so full himself that he never imagined Liv wouldn’t believe all the crap he was shoveling at her.
Liv didn’t even have to do crazy snooping to find that sex tape, as Will didn’t try to delete any of the various emails chronicling his deceit.
Coleman is excellent in those moments post-email-gate when she has to decide whether to confront Will again or keep this new information to herself. You can see her brain conjuring up every scenario based on the next few seconds of her life.
Putting Will on blast again would mean another session of his gaslighting because if she’d learned one thing to this point, he didn’t seem to be actively trying to leave her, no matter what he’d told his mistress.
If that were what he wanted he wanted, he most certainly wouldn’t have come crawling back with this vacation idea when he could have easily just told it was over.
No, Will seems like the kind of man who thinks he can do whatever he wants and everything will be on his terms. Liv appears to see him that way, too, so she chose to stay silent in that moment.
She chose to go forward with the trip and take back the control Will thought he was entitled to.
Once the timeline settled into the trip, the tension between the pair ramped up considerably, with Will none the wiser as Liv’s mood was one of almost constant indifference.
Sure, she smiled when appropriate and took pictures like she was an Instagram influencer, but her eyes were completely devoid of the happiness she had when she was cooking for Christmas and whispering sweet nothings during Will’s work party.
Wilderness does a lot of voiceovers, which is just a way to get Liv’s thoughts to the audience without her having to speak them to someone else. And it can be a little much at times, if only because less is more, and Coleman could convey her anger without us having to hear her say it.
But it’s clear that Liv was hurting, and she felt like the only way to alleviate her pain and stop herself from becoming a person whose entire life was defined by their failed marriage. So, how does one prevent that from happening?
By killing their husband, of course.
Except Liv doesn’t do it. She dreamed, planned, and even made moves but couldn’t follow through. Why?
Probably because she’s not actually a killer at heart.
But there’s only so much someone can take before they snap. And hearing your husband tell his mistress that he wished he was with her while on a romantic vacation with you could be the final strike.
Will didn’t fall off a cliff to his death here or get mauled by a mountain lion while Liv looked on with glee. But we do know that someone dies eventually.
And the series certainly makes a compelling case for you to keep tuning in to find out who that someone will be.
Odds and Ends
The episode flipping back and forth with the timeline can be a little confusing initially because it’s unclear how long Liv and Will have been together, but it’s not essential to the storyline right now. And the flashbacks certainly shade in Liv’s rage better.
It’s nice to see Ashley Benson. She’s the other woman, and with the flashbacks, you can assume we’ll see more of her.
So often you see someone destroy their home by breaking various things and littering the ground with glass, only never to see that room again or magically put back together the next you do. It was a nice touch to have Liv just living in her chaos when Will returned home.
Caryl is nothing if not committed to her brand. She couldn’t take one day off, not even on her daughter’s wedding day.
Great use of the “Look What You Made Me Do” song. It provides the perfect backdrop for this twisted tale and will be stuck in your head all day.
This was a pretty appealing pilot, but how will the rest of the season hold up?
Jump into the comments below, fanatics, and sound off about the premiere and where you think things may go next!
Whitney Evans is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.