Wilderness (2023), the new British Prime Video show, is like a strange cross between Gossip Girl and Gone Girl, not quite achieving the campy highs on either. It starts off as a typical man cheating on wife show but twists the psychological angle of cheating into a long and languid look at what drives us into toxic people. While it feels like the show is hitting all the right beats, it never truly achieves the tone that is needed for a drama like this to land.
Some of the main reasons here have to do with the casting. Jenna Coleman is a good actor, but she is unable to give any kind of strength to the transformation of Liv that we see through 6-long episodes. So Yong Kim, who has direct all the episodes is unable to create a balance between the drama and the more thrilling aspects, which only pushes the agenda of the show on back burner, eventually leading it to feel like a stamped on theme and nothing else.
In the following article, I have tried to take a detailed look at everything that happens in the limited series, with an added look at the show’s ending. Please be aware of spoilers.
Wilderness Episode 1 “Happily Ever After” Recap:
The first time we meet Olivia, aka Liv, she is driving down the highway with her husband, Will. Liv, who is also the narrator, establishes her rocky childhood where her mother was cheated upon by her father, scarring her for life and making her cocoon herself in personalities that she never truly embraced. That is until she met Will, who looked through her, and a relationship built on love and trust was formed. The voiceover also warns us that despite Liv expecting everything to be alright, things didn’t exactly pan out that way.
We then go back to when Liv and Will moved to New York because of his work. Will is a well-known, charming personality who works as an event manager for a big firm. Liv, who was a journalist, left everything to shift with her husband to the city in a fairy-tale-like apartment that she made her own. However, after Will returns from one of his work trips, this perfect facade comes crumbling down when Liv learns about her husband’s one-night stand with a woman named Emily. This revelation shatters her, and she asks him to leave. However, before she can completely process everything, Will comes knocking at the doorstep, apologizing for his behavior, saying that it was an ‘idiotic moment’ and would never happen again. He also lures her with tickets to ‘a trip of a lifetime’ that Liv always wanted to take but couldn’t because of Will’s hectic professional life.
A brief moment with Liv’s mother, Caryl, makes us understand that Liv has had a strange relationship with her after her father’s series of affairs. She has turned into a complaining machine who only unloads her trauma onto Liv, not allowing her to have a life of her own.
A few weeks before the trip that Liv and Will plan to take, Liv stumbles into more dirt on Will when she uses her laptop to make her itinerary. She realizes that Emily is not the only one Will has had a relationship with, but someone named ‘C. Parker’ has been constantly communicating with him in secrecy. To further disturb her, she finds a video of them having sex where Will mentions leaving Liv for her. This becomes like a nail in the coffin, leading Liv to go down the path of the ultimate revenge.
We come back to the present, where the supposedly ‘happy trip’ is all about Liv trying to figure out the best and ‘not messy’ way to kill Will. When she fails at the Grand Canyon tour and is saved by Will during a river rafting mishap that she planned, Liv connects yet again with Will on an emotional level, almost feeling like she has forgiven him again. However, when Will receives a call that she overhears, we realize that the forgiveness is short-lived, but a back-and-forth because of Liv’s inclination towards toxic behavior is about to take place.
Wilderness Episode 2 “The Other Woman” Recap:
When Will and Liv reach their next destination, Cara, Will’s coworker, is also there with her partner, Garth. We are able to understand that this Cara is obviously ‘C. Parker,’ the woman that Will is having an affair with. While Will is surprised to see her there, Liv, who has developed some affinity for twisted revenge, seems amused. She even tells Will that he should ask them to accompany them for the hike they have planned. Will, who seems uninterested in tagging along with them, agrees because Liv has a sort of upper hand in the power dynamics right now.
Anyway, the quadruple starts on their hike, and we can see that Cara has developed a great liking for Will that she is unable to hide. She is young and hot, and Liv has kept tabs on her ever since she discovered the mail she saw on Will’s laptop. A flashback sequence from two weeks earlier shows her in full prowler mode as she stalks Cara, trying to understand what made Will cling to her, except for the obvious physicality. In one of the sequences, we see Liv cock-blocking one of Cara and Will’s escapades.
Back at the hike, we see Liv trying to hoax Cara by making her understand that needs and wants are different. When they get to where the trek leads, we see Cara undressing to jump into the lake. This distracts Will, who falls and gets his leg injured. Garth stays to look after him as a storm is coming anytime soon. This forces Cara to accompany Liv to get help. On their way back, the women discuss certain things, and it comes up that Cara thinks that Liv is nice. It is evident that both of them have a likeness for Will, but on discussing their sides, we learn that neither of them is enough for him. Liv doesn’t disclose anything about what she knows, but it is evident that Cara is aware of the truth.
The two of them can get some help, and all of them return to the parking spot. Garth and Cara bid goodbye but are forced to return when Will and Liv realize their car is stolen because he left the keys inside. The four of them check in to a nearby hotel when the storm approaches, and Garth and Cara are kind enough to share their clothes with them. Cara and Liv bond with each other when they realize that both of them have mommy issues that they can’t escape from.
The show is also interested in establishing the overbearing nature of Liv’s mother, who constantly tries to control her life just because she couldn’t control hers.
Back at the hotel, at dinner, Will acts smugly when Garth offers to have dinner together. He acts rudely with Liv, leading to a verbal altercation in their room. Will is unhappy that Liv is acting from a place of power ever since she discovered that he cheated on her. He also doesn’t like being on his guard around female colleagues just to avoid Liv’s intrusive questions. Until this point, we only saw Liv’s perspective, but in a great sequence, we saw the other side of their relationship. Even though it does not normalize Will’s cheating, the creators made it important to establish Liv not to be some saint.
Both of them get extremely angry with one another, and in a bout of rage, Will asks Liv to seek professional help. Will leaves the room to go to the bar while Liv gets drunk and passes out. When a gay couple makes Will aware of the complexities of fighting in a marriage, he tries to head back to his room but meets Cara in the lobby. The episode’s ending shows a drunk Liv waking up and calling Will on his phone, only to realize that he has left it in the room. Upon checking his notifications, she sees a message from Cara, who says she will meet him at the waterfall past midnight, and they will leave for good. In a drunken state and anxiousness, Liv rushes towards the fall; while it’s raining heavily when she reaches the cliff, she sees a figure wearing a raincoat, and assuming it is Will, she pushes the person off the cliff.
Wilderness Episode 3 “Repent at Leisure” Recap:
Liv wakes up to the realization that she has killed Will by throwing him off the cliff and now has to face questions from the police. We see her rehearsing how she will react to these questions when her doorbell rings. It is Will on the door, and she is surprised and shocked that he is okay. She is also confused about who she might have thrown off the cliff. Will apologizes for his behavior the previous night, and she forgives him yet again. As they are about to check out from the hotel, they notice a worried Garth unable to reach Cara. It strikes Liv that it must’ve been Cara who she had pushed. However, she can’t tell it to anyone.
The three try to find Cara’s whereabouts but finally have to call for help. When the police arrive, a search is organized, and they all go out to see Cara. Liv sneakily reaches the cliff and erases any possibility of her presence there. The authorities find Cara’s barely alive body below the cliff, and they take her to the hospital. Worried that she might get into trouble, Liv and Will drive with Garth to the hospital. Cara is injured and has a severe brain injury but is alive. Liv offers sympathy to Cara, who tells her it was not her fault.
Unexpectedly, Cara dies the next day, and everyone at the hotel is questioned. On hearing the news, Liv breaks down due to the guilt of killing the wrong person because of being consumed by rage and an idea of revenge. Unable to breathe, she calls her mother, who calms her down.
Consequently, and for the first time, Will confesses about his relationship with Cara as not just a one-night stand but more. He tells this to Liv only because he feels that the authorities might question where he was, and since Cara was wearing his jacket, suspicion might lead to him as the suspect. Liv, who has now been used to Will’s lies, laughs at his scared face but eventually lies for him to the police in charge of the investigation.
Wilderness Episode 4 “Home Sweet Home” Recap:
Will and Liv head to Las Vegas, the next destination of their trip, but Cara’s death is hung upon both of them. They are unable to process it all, especially Liv, who feels guilty for pushing her down the cliff and killing her, instead of Will, who is still alive and kicking. She gets really drunk and tries to convince herself out of her trauma by making sure that what she did was a mistake, which also somehow makes her pity Will, yet again, forgiving him for all that he has done.
The two of them then decide to head back home, but Liv is still acting from the point of control, which is putting Will in unease. Next, we see the two of them head to the condolence ceremony that Will’s boss, Bonnie, has organized for Cara. In spite of Liv saying that she won’t come to the event, she eventually does to pay her respects to Cara, whom she respected in spite of the short time she had with her. Plus, the guilt of killing her engulfs Liv.
At the event, Will gets word that the Police, which had previously ruled out Cara’s death as an accident, is now investigating it as a possible murder where someone had pushed her from the edge while she was standing there.
The two of them head back home and discuss how they now need to make sure that nothing of Will’s relationship with Cara can be traced back to him. They promise not to lie to each other from here on out and cover Will’s tracks in order to not round him off as the prime suspect. The first step in their plan includes Will swiping Cara’s office desktop and Liv making sure her Gym locker doesn’t have any clue. The two manage to get both instances clean from any traces, but Will reads one of Cara’s sent messages that had her true feelings for him stated, making him emotional. However, the tricky part would be getting a key to their apartment that Will gave to Cara. So, to get that, they head to Cara’s place by making meeting Garth in a time of grief as an excuse. Liv goes upstairs to use Garth’s washroom and almost gets caught looking into Cara’s closet. She is, however, able to find the key, which she then hands to Will.
While they are returning home, they meet Detective Rawlings and Detective Wiseman on their doorsteps, who call them in for some basic questioning. The two of them have their stories intact, so they tell them the same things. However, when Will gets cornered by the coincidence of Cara vacationing at the same place as him, he tells them that she fancied him and was possibly stalking him around.
Will and Liv get into another argument over Cara being shamed even after her death by him. So, to get some comfort, Liv goes to her best friend Ash’s apartment. Ash, who is a lesbian and fancies Liv, kisses her finally after comforting her all this while. However, she is confused and disturbed, so she leaves.
The next day, the detectives contact Bonnie, who tells them that Cara would often hit the gym after work. So, they head to security footage of the gym and see that Liv had been there, sneaking about. Back at home, Liv is disturbed and drinking again. However, the episode ends with her mom, whom she has been avoiding thus far, at her doorstep; meanwhile, the detective takes Garth into custody.
Wilderness Episode 5 “Like Mother, Like Daughter” Recap:
We’ve only heard from Caryl (Liv’s mum) so far, but when she arrives at Liv’s house, we get a first-hand look at her intrusive nature. Liv is as amazed at her sudden appearance as we are, but that’s what mothers are like, right? Anyhow, when Will returns home, we get to know that Liv has already introduced her mother to Cara. However, she has edited out the killing-her bit, and that Will is having an affair with her bit.
Will is disturbed because she knows of Caryl’s nature and asks Liv to get rid of her. However, Liv, who is still soaking in everything that has happened in her life, is still pretty damn angry at him. She, instead, agrees to put on a happy face in front of her, making sure that both Will and her are living their marriage as the best time in their lives and that nothing of the sort that happened to Caryl would happen to her.
Meanwhile, the detectives are on their way to pin the entire thing on Garth after they’ve discovered money and other prospective things in Cara’s gym locker. We know that this was part of Liv and Will’s plan – trying to frame Garth for Cara’s death, portraying that she was unhappy with the marriage and was trying to escape. It feels like this is the first time Garth has heard of this.
The next morning, Liv tries to convince her mother not to worry about her. Just then, Det. Rawlins shows up at her doorstep. So, to avoid suspicion, she goes to a nearby coffee shop to answer her questions. She portrays Garth as someone who seems obsessed with Cara. She also lies through her teeth when asked about her presence at the gym by saying that it’s just a coincidence that they go to the same gym. Now, this is one of the first major loopholes that the show never addresses. The detectives would definitely have a background check about Liv’s gym membership instead of just taking her word for it. It’s sad that the show never addresses it.
Anyhow, Liv and Will discuss about the detective’s visit. Will tells her that Garth had proposed to Liv that night, but Cara had asked him not to tell it to anyone. Liv proposes that they disclose it to the police, but Will says that they need to stay away.
Next, we see Liv and Will checking Caryl into the hotel Will works for in order to avoid her constant questioning. Since Liv has requested her mother to give Will a chance, she accepts going to dinner with them that night.
Meanwhile, Detective Rawlins feels like Liv has something to do with Cara’s death, seeing how she did know of her, even though she claimed she didn’t. However, the other detective comes up with the confession of the gay couple we saw in on of the earlier episodes with the claim that Cara was really upset when she left the bar that night. Added to that, Garth had broken ten years of sobriety that night by order from the bar. Since he feels that the investigation is closing in on him, he asks them to get his attorney.
At the hotel, we briefly see Caryl trying to get things out of Bonnie about Will, but she is not able to gain any major insight or flaw into his personality. On the other hand, Garth calls Liv from police custody, but Liv doesn’t respond to him and also blows off Ash after their little moment together. The detective keeps a check on the call, and her doubt on Liv deepens.
As Liv is about to go out to have dinner with Will and her mother, who arrives at their apartment, she realizes that her mother doesn’t want to go out anymore. She plans to stay at their place and let Will and Liv have some time to themselves. Obviously, she is out there for blood and turns the apartment upside down to find some dirt on this supposedly perfect life that her daughter is portraying. On looking closely, she finds polaroids of provocative photos that have a woman that’s not Liv in Will’s closet.
At the dinner, Will proposes that the two of them have a baby together so that they can put the past behind them and start afresh. He tries to manipulate her again with all his sweet talk, and even though Liv has grown out of it, she thinks that there’s no harm in doing this, too, since they have nothing more to lose anymore. They go back home and have sex, but later, Liv sneaks out of the house and goes to a cafe nearby.
The next morning, Caryl comes to meet Liv and reveals about Will’s unfaithfulness. Liv is really pissed at her mother, who is now making this about the fact that Liv should leave Will and get a good divorce settlement. Her main point, however, is to bring her daughter back home to the UK so that she is not alone anymore. Liv, however, confronts her mother for trying to get back to her because she was the one who made a wedge in Caryl’s life because she revealed her father’s cheating. The conversation soon gets heated, and she tells her mother how her behavior her turned Liv into the sort of person who always assumes there is an innate badness in her and that she deserves every bad thing in life. When the argument doesn’t get anywhere, Caryl leaves, only to round out and call her by saying that she would take those photos to the police because she thinks that Liv is not safe because Will has killed Cara, the girl she presumes to be the one in the photo.
At the station, Garth accepts that he has lied about an argument and that he did propose to Cara with a ring. But he also claims that he did not kill her. Since their is no confession in place, the detective lets go of Garth.
Liv then goes to see her mother with a packed suitcase, posing as if she is coming with her. The two of them have a drink together, and Liv again listens to her mother like she always has throughout her life. However, when it is time to go, she puts her in a cab and tells her that it wasn’t Will who killed Cara but her. Her mother, upset and worried, leaves for good.
After bidding goodbye to her mother, Liv looks at the photos, only to realize that it’s not Cara in the photo but someone else entirely. When she returns home, she is sort of surprised by Will, who has planned a homemade and special dinner for her. However, she is paranoid, angry, and just sitting just so she can see Will pull off more of his lying behavior on her. When she shows him the photo and asks who it is, Will again gets defensive and starts fumbling back to his sorry lies of allowing him to explain. However, Liv is not having any of it and asks him to just let her know. Will tells her that it is Marissa, Bonnie’s secretly, and Cara’s friend, who he had been fucking before he got to Cara. The couple has another argument, and things get heated up again.
Liv is about to leave when Garth arrives and corners them both in their own apartment. Liv, sensing that there’s something wrong that could happen, tries to reach out to her phone, but Garth gets to her and takes her gun out. He threatens them both about how they have been trying to frame him and that they need to tell him the truth. When they get scared of the gun, Will confesses that he has been sleeping with Cara, and she wants to leave Garth to be with him. When Garth points the gun at Will, a fight breaks out, and Garth pins Live down, choking her. In self-defence Cara takes her mother’s gift that’s on the floor due to the fight and hits him over the head again and again, killer him.
Wilderness Episode 6 “Where White Knights Go to Die” Recap:
The finale episode of Wilderness opens with Cara being questioned by the detectives. When they ask her why he hit Garth constantly, in spite of him being hit by the first smash, she says that she did not realize she was doing it because she thought she was going to die. Since they can’t bring her to a point of guilt, they release her.
When Will and Liv return home, she insists on cleaning the apartment on her own and then completely shuts him off because she is disturbed by everything that has happened over the course of the past few weeks. The next morning, Will is the same smug person that we have come to see till now. He is still trying to mend and control what and how Liv feels and just drops the big life decision of moving back to the UK on her. Liv, who has had enough of his shit, tells him that she wants a divorce. She then heads to hang out with her friend Ash and then sleeps with her.
When she returns back home, she finds a really drunk Will sitting in the living room. She insists on talking to their lawyers, but Will is adamant that he wants them to stay together. So, just to spit on him, she tells him about having slept with Ash. This makes him angry because his male ego is hurt. He again tells her that he will change, but when he realizes that Liv is not interested in forgiving him, he tells her the real reason for not making his father feel like he has failed. When he is not able to convince her, he tries to turn the power tide his way but blackmailing her that he will tell the police that it wasn’t self-defense with Garth and that Liv did it deliberately.
However, the power shuffles happen yet again when Marrisa calls Liv to Will’s farewell party, and she literally unclogs him being an asshole in front of everyone. Will is embarrassed and frowned upon by his colleagues, and she is able to at least bring his fake-charming character down a notch. Liv visits Cara’s grave, pays her respect, and then returns home.
Wilderness (2023) ‘Prime Video’ Limited Series Ending Explained:
How does Liv outwit Will’s blackmail?
In order to get herself out of this blackmail that Will has brought into the equation, Liv first uses a secret line to send the video of Will having Sex with Cara over to the police, which may turn their main suspect into him. Secondly, she cleverly records Will saying that Liv killed Garth in self-defense.
So, when she and Will are at the airport, about to leave America, the airport security brings them in. The detectives then play the video out to the couple, and Liv acts as if she is surprised to see it for the first time.
They bring them both in and while Will doesn’t accept killing Cara, Liv hints at the jacket that Will did not find, obviously clueing the police towards checking the DNA on the jacket that Cara was wearing when she died. She also steps back on being Will’s alibi and changes her statement to save herself, essentially making him the convict.
Someday later, Will requests Liv to come to prison. By this time, Will has realized that it was Liv who killed Cara, but he wants to hear it from her. She tells him that she knew about the video long back, and the only reason he did not go away with him, in spite of everything settling into place, is because he did not learn and think from all of what happened. She basically wanted him to become a better person, anticipating that he would stop lying at some point, but he never did. In the heated back and forth, Liv confesses to be the mother of Will’s to-be-child, and while this might come as a surprise, I think that Liv is just lying here to spite Will on his face.
Before she can leave, Will, who is worried that they will frame him and put him behind bars forever, asks why Liv killed Cara, and she confesses for the first time that she did it because she thought it was him.
The ending of Wilderness shows Liv driving all alone on the same trip that the two of them took. She even checks into the same hotel and ends up using her journalistic skills to pin down everything that happened into a novel that she later dedicates and sends to her mother.
The very end sequence shows us Liv standing near the cliff that Cara died on. A random person tells her to be careful, and in a sort of empowering giveaway, she shouts at that man for trying to be so very typical of assuming that a woman needs saving. She pulls down on her anger and basically summarizes the entire show of how she ended up exhibiting psychopathic behavior – attributing it to the nature of all the men of the world.