Warning: The following contains spoilers for The Wilds Season 2. Proceed at your own risk!
The Wilds took a trippy musical turn in Season 2 when Leah’s battle with her own mind led to recurring hallucinations featuring a surprising guest star: singer-songwriter Ben Folds!
Over the course of the last three episodes, Folds appeared to Leah — who described him as her first crush obsession — in the woods, where he performed The Psychedelic Furs’ “The Ghost In You” at a piano. The musician later surfaced on the beach, with a rendition of his own song “Brick,” before confronting Leah in the middle of the ocean. In the end, he guided her to a breakthrough of sorts as she exclaimed, “I am not a lovesick child!”
“But if others want to believe that, you let them and you use it,” Folds responded, setting the stage for Leah’s plan to fool Gretchen.
“We definitely wanted to take Leah into this mental health odyssey, this journey into the mind and wrestling with her absolutely beautiful, complex brain,” executive producer Sarah Streicher tells TVLine. “We always talk about the double-edged sword of Leah’s mind. It is so powerful, but sometimes it gets to be a liability. The natural extension of that felt like she’s had this love sickness that she’s done battle with for so long, and she finally feels like she’s sloughed it off, she burned her ex [Jeff’s] book. She has been trying to emerge from that. It is her pivotal coming-of age-battle.”
In trying to figure out how to visually present Leah’s struggle, “we thought, ‘On her mental journey, is she going to be encountering a hallucination of Jeff, her crush?'” Streicher continues. “It felt a little, I don’t know, tired or unimaginative, expected. And then we just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if she encountered her first crush?’ The line from the show was like, ‘The patient zero of her obsessional intentions.’ And what would that look like if you encountered a phantasm of your first crush? And then for her to kind of do battle with him,” while actually confronting “a splinter of herself.”
While crafting the storyline, Streicher and EP Amy B. Harris discussed whether the object of Leah’s infatuation should be an actor from a movie, but ultimately settled on a different medium. “Music, boy, does that bring back memories. It just hits so deep and so fast,” Harris says. “The music of your teenage years, for me, certain songs just like smash you back to a moment. And then to have Ben, who built out arrangements of the music that was slightly different and a little bit more dissonant, just the love that he brought to it, it was so thrilling for us.”
Folds, who rose to fame as the frontman of the alternative rock band Ben Folds Five from 1993 to 2000, might not seem like an obvious choice of crush for someone as young as Leah, but that was by intention. “We just wanted to pick someone who is a little more boutique since Leah’s tastes are quite boutique,” Streicher explains.
Adds Harris: “She’s probably not somebody who likes the same kind of music that her cohorts and friends do. So the idea that she would pick someone a little older, it does play into the Jeff of it all, that she was attracted to more mature people who had a better sense of themselves.”
As for Folds, he was “so game” to take on the role, even though it presented him with some big challenges, Harris says.
“He said, ‘I’m not going to have to do like anything physical, right, because that’s, like, not my jam?’ and I’m like, ‘Uhh, we’re going to put him in a tank of water for like three days and put him in the forest in the freezing cold,'” Harris shares with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Oh, boy. Well, we’ll take very good care of you.’ He was like, ‘Because I don’t really swim,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, gosh.’ But he was game right from the beginning.”
The Wilds fans, what did you think of Ben Folds’ surprise appearance? Grade the season below, then hit the comments!