Wayward Pines, season 1, created by Chad Hodge and produced by M. Night Shyamalan (2015).
Score: Pretty good.
This came to my attention thanks to darumaphoto, which recommended it on my last trip to the tattoist’s studio, and boy am I grateful for the advice. Wayward Pines tells the story of Ethan Burke, an FBI agent sent to the blood-curdingly chill town of Wayward Pines to find another missing agent. Wayward Pines cannot be left no matter how hard you try and its inhabitants are encouraged to keep a normal façade or very bad things happen when they disobey and discuss the past.
Wayward Pines was intentionally marketed as a spiritual successor to Twin Peaks, as well as having an aesthetic and atmosphere similar to Alan Wake, Silent Hill and several of Stephen King’s novels. While in the end Wayward Pines is very different business, if you’re a fan of any or some of those, you’re going to like it. While the first two episodes are kind of slow and repetitive, make sure to watch at least up to episode five to find out whether you like it or not.
The cast is lead by Matt Dillon, who looks like he bit off more than he could chew most of the time. Thankfully, the weight of the storytelling is alleviated from his shoulders later on. Juliette Lewis is also there. I’m sure she’s a lovely person but I just dislike her acting, so I’m glad she has little screentime. The rest of the cast do just fine but this is not a show that’s going to be remembered for its brilliant acting, while it clearly has many other virtues.
While, as I said, the first two episodes are a bit slow-paced, the writing in general is well-paced and economical. I’m glad they chose to wrap it up in a single season, even though there might be material to make a second one, because that means they developed just the ideas they wanted, not having to overdevelop the plot in order to generate more runtime. I’ll be happy if they make a second season, but I’m also very satisfied if this is a single-season work, since it’s perfectly finished.
All in all, you’re going to like this if you enjoy speculative fiction. And now, I need the ***SPOILER TAG***
The tension is up there up to episode five. The way they were presenting it, it could be everyone is Jesus in purgatory (my least favourite because I find it cheap and lame unless it’s exceptionally well executed), weird time travel or a conspiracy, either governmental or private. It was a pleasant surprise to find out it was the last one. The second half dwells on themes of well-intentioned extremism, and as llevounatoalla pointed out, shares some themes with Das experiment, am I my brother’s keeper and all that. The development in the last five episodes is probably the best, explaining but not overdoing the ramifications of the situation. It’s handled quite well, except for: why don’t they integrate the dissidents as keepers, like they do with Ethan? Saves a lot of trouble. And: why do they insist in having adults, when they know damn well they won’t adapt? Probably because only with teenagers the genetic pool is not big enough, but that doesn’t stop them from trying in the third iteration.
When you get to the finale, there’s basically three ways you can end it: you can either extend the conflict so you end with a cliffhanger and set up a second season. You can kill them all and have a downer ending (not enough writers choose this, I’m afraid… okay, that can be cheap and lame as well). And then you could have a book ends ending, which is what they did, and goes very well with the spirit of the show because it portrays that there is no easy way out of the situation, because it is flawed from the beginning, and people are bastards anyway. I was very happy with the way they chose to conduct the whole thing.