Wayward Pines (T.V. series, 2015)
Being isolated in one location, be it a small town or a mysterious island, is a terrifying concept in horror and sci-fi since as humans, most of us have an insatiable lust for freedom. Classic representations of this theme in The Stepford Wives, Twin Peaks, and Lost makes us uneasy as secrets, the supernatural and suppression take control, while (in my opinion) the excruciating Under the Dome puts us (or at least me) asleep with unseen threats and captors. The latest contribution to this roster, Wayward Pines, is a weird take on the isolated, sleepy town that is not what it seems.
Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) is a secret service agent searching for two of his colleagues. On his way to their last destination of Wayward Pines, Idaho, he is involved in a car crash, and disoriented, staggers into the small idyllic town hidden in the mountains. He ends up in a deserted hospital under the care of Nurse Pam (Melissa Leo) and soon discharges himself when he realizes he has no wallet, no phone and no contact with the outside world, frantically searching for answers and trying to keep his grip on reality.
Wayward Pines’ tightly wound Sheriff Pope (Terrence Howard) and the townspeople are a strange bunch, and not forthcoming with any information due to the town’s restrictive code of conduct, save for a bartender named Beverly (Juliette Lewis) who becomes Ethan’s guide in this surreal hamlet. He soon learns he cannot leave, and the agents he is looking for come to different, and sinister, fates. Ethan’s wife Theresa (Shannyn Sossamon) clings to the hope that his disappearance can be explained, and her determination to find him matches his to leave the locked-down town. What makes this story all the more interesting is Ethan’s previous breakdown from a case gone wrong. He felt he could have prevented the disastrous outcome and his hallucinatory symptoms from the past makes the viewer wonder whether his experience in the town is real. There is also a strange difference in timelines that has him, and some inhabitants, confused.
Wayward Pines is based on a trilogy of books by Blake Crouch, who was so influenced by Twin Peaks in the 90’s that he basically wrote an homage to the series. Produced by M. Night Shyamalan, who also directed the pilot, this series is bubbling with secrets and nuances. I have to say I was a little concerned when I heard Shyamalan was involved, as I had visions of The Village and the train wreck that movie was; but having read the first part of this trilogy, the writing for the show is smart and illustrates the suspense and atmosphere of dread that is so prevalent in the book. Along with Crouch, series creator Chad Hodge also streamlines the action in the novel, which was at times overly descriptive, to create intrigue that slowly reveals what will hopefully be a first class ticket to bizarro-land (in a good way).
Oscar and Emmy nominees grace the cast with the likes of Terrence Howard and the acclaimed Toby Jones as Dr. Jenkins; and I love Matt Dillon who is one of the most underrated actors around, as well as the always fabulous Juliette Lewis and Oscar winner Melissa Leo as the nasty, ball-breaking nurse Pam. It is great to see mainly big-screen actors take the leap to television, which may draw a larger audience.
While not for everyone, I really hope this show goes the distance. It took me a few episodes to warm up to Wayward Pines, but after reading the first book for a better understanding of the story and this past 4th episode of a 10-part season that may or may not be a one-off, things are starting to get really interesting. It is similar to Twin Peaks, and perhaps to some degree Lost, but it also stands alone with a uniquely weird twist that, if show stay true to the books and doesn’t go off the rails, will blow some minds out there.
Wayward Pines airs Thursday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET on Citytv in Canada and Fox in the U.S.
*Looking for the books? I searched high and low, visiting several book stores in my hometown with no luck unless I wanted to place a specific order, but your best bet is to download the free Kindle app and get a digital copy from Amazon here. Please note that the first book is entitled “Pines” and it is a decently written, easy read.