by Sherry Lipp
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS
Wayward Pines is a kind of Twilight Zone meets Twin Peaks mind-bender based on a series of novels by Blake Crouch. I have not read those novels, so I have no idea how closely the show follows them. I can say that after two episodes I have mixed feelings. The pilot, directed by executive producer M. Night Shyamalan, introduced the basic concept of a remote Idaho town called Wayward Pines where time doesn’t make sense, nothing is what it seems, and is surrounded by a giant wall. What is Wayward Pines? A prison of some sort? Some kind of government or corporate experiment?
That’s what secret service agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) is trying to find out after he finds himself stranded in the town following a car accident. He was already headed to the town in search of two missing secret service agents, both of which he finds in Wayward Pines. One is dead and the other, a female agent with whom he had had an affair, is several years older than when he had last seen her. Burke doesn’t know what to think, and his attempts at investigation are thwarted at every step.
What I like most about Wayward Pines is the atmosphere. The town is picaresque. There are perfect neighborhoods with immaculate lawns and spotless sidewalks, but it’s all phony. Small speakers hidden in bushes produce cricket sounds giving a false air of serenity. Even the money in the town is fake, and so is the people’s happiness. They are all controlled by a list of rules that include not talking about the past and answering the phone whenever it rings. Violation of these rules leads to severe punishment as we see at the end of episode two.
Wayward Pines appears to be run almost entirely by the rum-raisin ice cream loving Sheriff Pope (Terrence Howard). The hospital Burke finds himself in after his accident seems to only have two employees, sadistic Nurse Pam (Melissa Leo) and mysterious Dr. Jenkins (Toby Jones). The best scenes involve Burke’s dealings with these people. Whenever they appear tension undercuts the façade of friendliness they try to project.
What doesn’t work so far is anything to do with Burke’s wife Theresa (Shannyn Sossamon) and son Ben (Charlie Tahan). The scenes involving them fretting about where Burke is seem cheesy, out of place, and so far haven’t added anything to the story that the audience doesn’t know. Hopefully they will be integrated a little better in upcoming episodes.
I’m also finding the story to be a little meandering. I know we are supposed to be in the dark, but the little tidbits are unraveling so slowly that nothing significant happens for long periods of time. Episode two did manage to ramp things up in the second half of the episode when the true nature of things began to come to light.
While Burke has pretty much only run into opposition, even from his former lover Kate (Carla Gugino), as he conducts his investigation. But he did find one friend in the local bartender Beverly (Juliette Lewis). Unfortunately Burke is incredibly, and improbably, slow in catching on to things and selfishly risks Beverly’s life. It’s a risk he loses because Beverly’s throat is slashed by Sheriff Pope in front of the whole town as punishment for talking about her daughter.
It’s a shocking moment for sure, but I’m just going to say right now that I’m not buying it. I think it was some sort of show for Burke’s benefit because he has been so unwilling to accept how extreme his situation is. He blatantly breaks the rules out in the open and doesn’t seem to understand he is not in control of his situation. I’ve been on the fence as to whether Beverly is really sympathetic to him or if she is somehow in on everything.
Wayward Pines is a ten episode special event which means the whole thing should be wrapped up by the end of the series. At this point it remains to be seen whether I will stick it out until the end.