As we were watching Wilderness, we couldn’t help but wonder how Will Taylor was so perfectly written. The fact is that men like Will are perfectly understood by women, as long as they don’t fall in love with him. This is the reason Liv’s mother, Carly, never liked him, because she knew what he was like. But Liv and Cara did not share the same clarity since their minds were clouded by everything he said and did.
Looking at Will’s profile, he was a tall, good-looking guy who had done well for himself and always knew the right thing to say at the right time. Before Liv found out about the affair, Will had always been a very attentive husband, and even with Cara, we have to remember that he treated her as if he loved her. He said she was different from his wife and even gave her the keys to his house.
Basically, Will loved being the good guy, no matter what he had to do to achieve that badge. It is something to question whether he ever loved anyone sincerely or whether he treated them just as building blocks for his idea of a perfect life. There is a particular conversation he has with Liv that stands out to us. When they are on their road trip and in the hotel, Will talks about how he is tired of Liv’s expectations and the love she gives him after placing him at the center of her world. That particular moment showed us just how limited Will was as a person. He had wanted to marry Liv and have her move countries for him.
Even at their wedding toast, this is what he spoke about. These two had not even been married for a whole year, yet he couldn’t handle the love that was essential to a marriage. He wanted an attentive wife, but he hated playing the attentive husband. Pop culture has given us the exact words that describe what Will wanted, which is “a devoted wife with the attitude of a long-distance situationship.” Will reeked of entitlement, and that is why he hated the burden of doing his share of the work. He wanted Liv to be with him but treated her recklessly with his lies. He did not even want to put up with her anger, which is why he constantly blamed her for not letting things go instead of taking proper accountability himself.
We also know that Will was a bit of a coward. He was never able to draw clear boundaries with either Cara or his other affair because he did not like having difficult conversations. He could never tell Cara that Liv would always be in his life and Cara would just be the woman he was having an affair with, which is why he gave her hope at such a critical time, when she had just rejected Garth’s proposal, and at a different time, gave her the keys to his house. To be brutally honest, if it was about the thrill of having an affair, Will could have chosen someone who would keep feelings out of the matter. But Will wanted to be with Cara not because he loved her but because she loved him. He liked being the center of a woman’s world, even though he wouldn’t make them the center of his own.
We can wonder whether his upbringing, filled with a constant lack of validation from his parents, made him chase that very thing from the women around him. He needed that to feel like he was enough, and he sought that through the women in his life. It is interesting to see how differently feelings of inadequacy manifest in Liv and Will. When Liv was told that she made a mistake in childhood, she tried to be the most perfect person possible, and that is part of why she was so reluctant to let go of her marriage with Will, because ‘forgiveness’ and ‘understanding’ were coded into her as a part of perfectionism. As for Will, he sought to soothe the criticisms of his childhood through women who would tell him that he was a demigod incarnate and that he had been his whole life. However, when it came to pulling his weight in this situation, it reminded him of his inadequacies, so he chose to stay away from all that. This hypocrisy is another look at how different our parameters of judgment are for what makes a good man and a good woman.
Towards the end of Wilderness, when we see just how much Will doesn’t want to let Liv go, we understand that he never really loved her. He wants her to stay his wife, not because he loves her but because he doesn’t want to let go of the value she brings to his life. Like Will would be considered an ideal husband on the surface, Liv was actually the ‘ideal wife.’ She was beautiful, smart, stood by him no matter what, was well educated, but had dropped it all for him—very sexist criteria, but Liv had met all of them, and Will could not let her go because that would once again bring him the derision of his parents. Liv was someone they approved of and liked, which ended up extending to Will himself, as he was seen as having made a good choice. If Liv divorced him, he would lose this one shred of their approval that had finally come his way. That is why he did not want to divorce Liv; it wasn’t about her or the marriage, but about him.
It is a given that a person like Will has to be an expert manipulator. He had long since understood that the sympathy card worked with Liv, which is what he pulled out when she called him out for blackmailing her in relation to Garth’s death. Will tried to say that he regretted not being the one to protect Liv. Our first instinct was to wonder at this man’s toxic masculinity getting in the way of being there for his wife, but again, he never cared about that. He just wanted to manipulate Liv to keep her with him. At the end of the day, Will’s punishment was not because he had an affair with Cara or the other woman, but because he was a man who could only think of himself, no matter how it harmed others.