Trigger Warning: This piece contains descriptions and fictional accounts of sexual assault. Going into The Wilds Season 2, viewers had some idea of what to expect for the new set of castaways. Like Season 1’s Dawn of Eve girls, the Twilight of Adam boys had some survival skills already. Some were troubled kids who Gretchen convinced to go on the trip; some discovered inner strengths they didn’t previously tap into. Two were operatives, one of whom quickly died. But even so, no one was prepared for Seth’s The Wilds backstory, or how damaging his presence was.
Warning: Spoilers for The Wilds Season 2 follow. One of the operatives, DJ, was disposed of, not unlike Jeanette in Season 1. But unlike the first season, where the experiment was part of the season-long mystery, the show didn’t leave fans guessing for that long. There were more obvious clues since viewers knew what to look for, and by the end of Episode 4, the candidates for Gretchen’s operative had boiled down to two. There was Josh, who was ill-equipped for the experiment but seemed to keep landing lucky breaks. Like Nora, the other was Seth, a sibling to one of the other survivors, the obviously-not-an-operative Henry.
That made the events of Day 15 a genuine shocker. Seth already had shown some emotional instability, attacking Henry and nearly drowning him early on (an argument against him being Gretchen’s watchdog). But even so, Seth sexually assaulting Josh was stomach-churning. Seth did it after the nebbish (and beta male) kid tried to reach out and be BFFs by suggesting he and the good-looking and charismatic Seth were more alike than people realized. It was an ugly, horrific power move.
Those back at HQ who were interrogating the boys to find out what happened on Day 15 made it clear who the operative was. If it were Josh, everyone would already know. That they didn’t could only mean one person was the operative: Seth.
But Seth’s actions were only the tip of the iceberg. Raised by an emotionally unstable single mother who abandoned him, he ingratiated his way into Henry's family. Though Seth claimed they were close, Henry’s flashbacks showed a guy subtly manipulating Henry’s mother, poisoning her against her kid, and favoring the handsome new teen who flattered her while appealing to her mothering instincts.
Josh’s reveal to Kirin of Seth’s assault meant the boys spent most of their castaway days shifting allegiances between Team Kirin and Team Seth in a horrid “he said-he said” situation, while Seth tried to cover things up to Gretchen in HQ. But Henry’s unwillingness to believe Seth over Josh, despite Josh’s increasingly over-the-top macho behavior, was a sign the other boys should have heeded.
Seth’s monstrous and manipulative behavior wasn’t limited to his time on the island. He had also sexually assaulted his friend Julia, who he’d had a crush on. When she came to him drunk after a bad breakup, he took advantage of her and became possessive after convincing himself she was his girlfriend. When she withdrew, he kidnapped her cat, punishing her for leaving.
One night, he drunkenly joked about it to Kirin, who assumed Seth wasn’t serious. But when Seth tried to force Josh to be his friend again, trying to charm him in front of everyone, Kirin realized Seth’s confession was genuine. Henry, who knew Seth had claimed to be cat-sitting Julia's pet, realized his gut feelings about Seth being a monster weren’t due to jealousy but were genuinely correct.
The irony, of course, is that Seth’s poisoning of the control group, which upended the Twilight of Adam experiment, played right into Gretchen’s biases. The boys had been on track to prove her wrong, outpacing the girls by every measure in building a society and working together. But instead of admitting her experiment was wrecked by her own poor operative choice, Gretchen merely moved the goalposts. After all, she said toxic male behavior would prevent the boys from winning, and Seth had done just that.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.