‘Wreck’ Season Two Said It’s Hot Queer Slasher Summer

This Wreck season two review contains some spoilers.


Wreck season two picks up in the aftermath of the uprising on the Sacramentum, Vivian and Jamie so desperate to show the world just how depraved Velorum is that they’re willing to go onto two white dudes’ conspiracy theories podcast to try to make their case. It doesn’t work. Velorum is simply too good at covering up the fact that their luxury cruises feature a pricey add-on for the richest of rich so they can hunt and kill members of the ship’s crew for entertainment. I genuinely love how over-the-top and on-the-nose Wreck is about the evils of capitalism and how the pursuit of wealth always entails senseless violence. Velorum’s up to a new scheme in season two, centered on a new age wellness festival called Exodum. And while the eventual full reveal of exactly what’s happening at Exodum isn’t quite as entertaining as the season one reveal, it’s still supremely fucked up. Wreck takes a lot of what works well in season one and dials it up to extreme levels. Season two is packed with creative kills, wicked humor, and shifting alliances that push the story forward, albeit sometimes into slightly convoluted territory. Twists abound, starting right away in the premiere with the destabilizing reveal that Jamie’s dead sister Pippa isn’t actually dead.

Despite its often simple plotting and straightforward rendering of its Big Bads, Wreck is quite nuanced and smart in its portrayals of survival and in how its characters each deal with the violence and trauma they’ve experienced in their own specific ways. Fighting to survive looks different for each. Cormac and Rosie have been hiding out, and Cormac in general prefers to run away from danger rather than toward it. The mean crew who worked as the entertainment on the cruise ship have all taken payouts from the company in exchange for silence, and while they’re hardly the heroes we’re meant to root for, Wreck also doesn’t completely demonize this choice. Jamie, Vivian, and Lauren meanwhile represent the power and meaning of fighting collectively. There’s something especially resonant about Wreck‘s positioning of a chosen family of young queer and marginalized people doing whatever it takes not only to survive but to take up arms for the survival of others, too. Jamie and Vivian’s status as slasher heroes feels informed by their queerness and lack of traditional family support.

But when Pippa resurfaces, she pokes holes in their plans to free the prisoners of Exodum, working as part of a group trying to get to the root of Velorum’s villainy and pursuing more long-term justice. But within her group, there’s further fractures. Beating Velorum requires numbers, but alliances on Wreck are tenuous, even if they’re all working against a common enemy. These breakdowns between characters provide more convincing stakes than some of the tedious plot maneuvering the script does to explain away why things are happening the way they do. (It never really makes sense, for example, why it takes so long for Velorum to start cleaning up the Sacramentum mess or why they wouldn’t immediately be recognized upon arrival at Exodum.)

Best friends Vivian and Jamie eventually also diverge in how they view the fight against Velorum, and this is backed by strong character work. Vivian and Jamie were both harmed by Velorum, but once it’s revealed Jamie didn’t actually lose his sister after all, there’s a shift. Having Pippa back doesn’t weaken his desire to fight Velorum; if anything, it only makes that fight even more complicated, because he’s faced with a new hurt, realizing Pippa chose the fight over him. In a way, he’s getting a taste of his own medicine: He keeps choosing the fight over Olly, and at the season’s start, it’s clearly the reason they’re no longer together. Vivian, meanwhile, experienced such horrific trauma onboard the ship at the hands of her bloodthirsty, betraying girlfriend. Season two reveals the extent to which she’s still impacted by this. When she wants to meet Velorum’s violence with violence, it makes perfect sense. And, frankly, she’s actually the more interesting character to root for than Jamie, who sometimes veers into sanctimonious territory. But it’s the friendship and intracommunity love between these two that provides the strongest emotional scaffolding for the series, and I do wish we got a little bit more of that relationship in season two.

Now, while I wish Rosie’s transness hadn’t been so ignored in season one, what we get in season two isn’t exactly what I’d wanted instead. The only mention of her transness comes in the form of a transphobic insult by bitchy Sophia, whose apology afterward seemingly functions to humanize her before her death. It’s all a misfire on multiple levels. Acknowledging Rosie’s transness merely in the context of transphobia isn’t compelling trans storytelling. It’s reductive and suggests the writers think the only way to acknowledge transness is to other it. Using this moment in service of Sophia’s arc also falls flat, not merely because it feels like using Rosie’s transness as a device to develop a cis character but because that humanization isn’t even needed! Sophia is already shown to be more complicated than meets the eye more poignantly much earlier in the season when she suggests cover names for the group that pay homage to all their dead friends.

In its second season especially, Wreck displays a lot of similar strengths to Sense8, though considerably less sexy. But it’s similarly earnest in its depictions of a collective fight between a chosen and mostly queer family and a sprawling shadow-company hellbent on amassing power by whatever means necessary. It similarly injects goofy humor into its disturbing premise. But also like Sense8, its plot contrivances can become distracting at best, exhausting at worst. But if you’re a Horror Gay™ looking for a queer summer bloodfest, the six episodes are easy to blow through. Past characters return with new stakes, and new characters enter the fray, Wreck‘s greatest strengths remaining its relationships — and frankly, its kills. Not merely because they’re creative but because the ensemble approach to storytelling means they all have genuine stakes to them. The final one of the season absolutely guts. But its Wreck‘s willingness to kill off so many characters that ultimately makes its premise work. An institution like Velorum thrives on mass violence. While it sometimes gets lost in its own machinations, Wreck never pulls punches about that, and its commentary on class and the ultra-wealthy is both brutal and absurd, two tones that are very fitting when looking at the failures and violences of capitalism.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 870 articles for us.

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