TL;DR – This is a fascinating twist on the competition show format because it has real stakes that ground everything.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
I’ve watched a lot of competition shows in my time, everything from trapping people on an island and watching them pick each other off, to sitting and loving people building Lego constructions. However, it has been a long time since I have watched something new, well today we have just that with the joint Netflix/BBC show Win the Wilderness.
So to set the scene, in the deep in the Alaskan wilderness is a house on Ose Mountain, it is far from the nearest town and can only be accessed by plane. Living on Ose Mountain are Duane and Rena who built the house with their bare hands. However, Duane and Rena are getting too old to be able to have the energy to maintain the property and it is time to give their legacy to someone else. So, six couples from the United Kingdom Matt and Rachel, Mark and Emily, Chris and Tina, Theo and Bee, Laura and Jerome, and Pete and Jane have flown into central Alaska with one thing on their minds, to prove that they can continue that legacy.
The first thing about this show that sets it apart from a lot of other shows like this is that every single person on this show are nice people. Duane and Rena are people that have a real connection to the house and its place, because they have put their blood, sweat, and tears into the construction, and I have a feeling that is a literal statement. There is so much heart, and you feel that in every word and their conversations. All of the teams are made up with people that you end up like, and given one of the teams are introduced as Instagram influences, that surprised me. Though I did get a chuckle when I saw a university lecturer because in my experience they are not the more practical people. You feel like everyone really cares about winning and also supporting everyone else so you feel it is genuine sadness when teams leave. It is only six short episodes, but I bonded with everyone on this show. Could it all have been faked, I mean sure, but if it was then there needs to be some acting awards handed out.
On the format side of things, I liked the way they constructed the competition. There are six teams and in each episode, they are given a challenge and one winner gets to fly to the cabin to meet the Ose’s and get to see what they are possibly taking on board. There are only four opportunities to do this, so right away you know some teams are just not going to make it. But even for the team that makes it to Ose Mountain, it all about convincing they are the right team because if they don’t they could be sent packing. This gives every aspect of the show a little danger from the competition side of things, also the real danger of Bears, Wolves, and the cold oh my. This gives it aspects of a team competition show, but also of a relationship show and it is that combination that sets it apart.
The other thing that sets it apart is the real stakes, this is a real house, a real legacy, and it is full of a past and a potential future. Many aspects ground the show in ways that I did not expect. Part of this is from the home videos that are added throughout the series that brings the mountain to life. That tangibility brings with it all the emotional weight that brings you into the show. To add to this, none of the challenges felt unnecessary, what do you do if you fall in ice water or can you survive a night in the woods, or can you shoot a gun are all things that you feel like you would need in a place like this. It also does not shy away from some side of things like how you skin and prepare a bison you have just shot. Yes, there was the sort of funny ‘Rule 1 Don’t Die’ but also you have to prepare the house to protect it from bears so there is always that moment of grounding. There were times when I thought I knew quite early who was going to win, only to be found out that I was completely wrong because I was looking at different criteria than the Ose’s and that was great to see.
In the end, do we recommend Win the Wilderness? Yes, yes we would. This is one of the best competition shows I have seen in a long while. It is grounded in a way I have not seen in this genre before, with a really big prize at the end. You go through a rollercoaster from start to finish and I just hope it was a genuine as it was presented.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you seen Win the Wilderness yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Win the Wilderness
Directed by – Ben Archard & Greg Lander-Williams
Production/Distribution Companies – Twofour, BBC & Netflix
Narrated by – Nicholas Tennant