Incorporated within the scripts of Amazon Prime Video’s latest limited series, “Wilderness,” are the foundations for an expansive revenge narrative set amidst the backdrop of America’s National Parks. However, amidst these intricate details, writer and creator Marnie Dickens has skillfully woven the songs that she envisions accompanying the unfolding drama, creating a curated playlist that mirrors themes of retribution.
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Adapted from B.E. Jones’ book, “Wilderness” revolves around the life of Liv (played by Jenna Coleman), a British expatriate residing in New York City. Liv’s world shatters when she discovers that her charming husband, Will (portrayed by Oliver Jackson-Cohen), has been involved in an affair since their arrival in the United States. Haunted by her father’s past infidelity, Liv concocts a sinister plan to eliminate her husband during their belated honeymoon road trip, which takes them through awe-inspiring natural wonders such as Yosemite and the Grand Canyon.
While Will hopes that sightseeing will salvage their marriage, Liv is convinced that the wilderness is a place where tragic accidents frequently occur.
As Liv and Will delve deeper into her deadly agenda, Liv retreats into the music in her headphones as complications arise, including the unexpected appearance of Will’s mistress, Cara (played by Ashley Benson). To score Liv’s introspective moments, Dickens chose songs by Britney Spears, St. Vincent, and Tkay Maidza –– all female artists whose music serves to illuminate the complexity of Liv’s psyche. However, one musical selection remained undecided.
Executive producer Elizabeth Kilgarriff revealed to Variety that she and Dickens grappled with the choice of a theme song for the series. They aimed high and suggested Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do,” a song from her 2017 “Reputation” album that embodies the idea of karma, a central theme in Liv’s quest for revenge. Though initially hesitant, they decided to make the request, ultimately leading to a surprising turn of events.
Kilgarriff recounts, “Marnie messaged me one day and said, ‘Obviously, the perfect song would be Taylor Swift’s ‘Look What You Made Me Do.’ That would be incredible, but it’s probably never going to happen.'” However, Swift not only considered the request but also expressed her interest in being involved in the project. A letter penned by Dickens was sent to Swift’s label along with the first two scripts, initiating a chain of events that led to Swift’s participation.
This collaboration with Taylor Swift is not the first time Prime Video has courted the artist and her “Taylor’s Version” tracks as she re-records her earlier albums. Unlike previous instances, where Swift’s songs were featured sporadically, “Look What You Made Me Do (Taylor’s Version)” is deeply integrated into the fabric of “Wilderness.” Prime Video released a teaser set to the song, and it also plays a significant role in the series’ opening titles and Episode 2, influencing the tagline, “Look what he made her do.”
Narratively, the song aligns perfectly with Liv’s journey. Its lyrics resonate with Liv’s character, particularly the opening lines: “I don’t like your little games / Don’t like your tilted stage / The role you made me play of the fool / No, I don’t like you.”
Despite securing their dream anthem, Kilgarriff emphasized that they aimed to make “Wilderness” more than just another revenge story. Episode 2 sees Liv’s initial plans to eliminate Will foiled, and instead, they find themselves on a hike with Cara and her boyfriend, Gareth (played by Eric Balfour). Liv’s actions take a dark turn when, in a fit of drunken rage, she pushes a person she believes to be Will off a cliff, only to realize it was Cara wearing his coat. This twist serves to challenge the conventional portrayal of the “other woman” character.
Kilgarriff explains, “The whole of Episode 2 was about leaning into the tropes of the ‘other woman,’ but every step of the way, we try to undercut that and take the layers off. Hence why, at the end of the episode, Liv has realized that Cara isn’t the enemy and has been just as let down by Will. She is another victim in this triangle. Then, for her to be the character who dies, we had to really carefully think about that and how Liv will carry that weight forward from that point. But if anything, it supercharges the need and the feeling for revenge – because it is almost like she is getting revenge for the two of them.”
As the series progresses, Liv and Will become increasingly entangled in each other’s deceit. By Episode 6, their marriage is beyond repair, and Liv’s discovery of a second woman in Will’s life intensifies her hatred for him. In a climactic standoff, Liv confronts Will, who has been arrested for Cara’s murder, marking the pinnacle of their betrayal-laden journey.
Kilgarriff reflects, “We had always talked about the journey for Liv across the season as a journey from mouse Liv to wolf Liv. We wanted to get to the moment where the gloves were off. There was no saving this marriage. It is over, and it was sort of them being able to really enjoy that fact.”
In this electrifying conclusion, Liv and Will lay bare their true selves, revealing the depths of their deceit and vindictiveness. Liv’s laughter in response to Will’s request for her to wait for him upon his release underscores the transformation she has undergone. The confrontation in the prison is the culmination of a story driven by betrayal and revenge, and it is a moment that fans of “Wilderness” have been eagerly anticipating.