Wayward Pines: Cycle

The first season of Wayward Pines came to a close this week, with ‘Cycle’, and that title’s actually a bit of a spoiler. David Pilcher, the once sympathetic inventor who transformed into a mad genius during its 10 week run, cut the power last week, inviting the hungry ‘Abbies’ in.

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Skepticism
Wayward Pines has been a steady performer, although a real hit it never really became – despite the positive buzz it created on a weekly basis. Summer may have had a hand in that, as well as the fact that it was advertised as ‘the first television series by M. Night Shyamalan’. The director has gone from Hollywood Genius and Boy Wonder of Movie Magic, to Overrated Has-Been. Every time his name appears, enthusiasm vanishes as skepticism moves in.
Whether Pines was a fluke or not, the show about a mysterious small town, where anyone’s past is a life threatening taboo, proved to be one of the most entertaining series of 2015.

Chain Reaction
Contrary to what’s considered the common TV drama rule – which is to stretch out a secret as long as possible – Pines started out with a lot of questions, but answered them one by one, in rapid fashion. Surprisingly, this tactic didn’t pull out the rug from under it. Every secret that got exposed immediately caused another interesting chain reaction. The show never ran out of steam; then you know you’ve got a keeper – but a second season’s still up in the air at this point.

Grey Sand Incubators
‘Cycle’ could serve perfectly as a series finale, but it leaves lots of opportunities to continue the story. After Pilcher sentenced everybody to death, because, well, they wanted to know who was pulling the strings, and defied his orders, the Abbies cried havoc on the streets of Wayward Pines – where paradise is home. They really were insatiable, using the town as an all you can eat buffet.
Ethan Burke brings a lot of people to safety – the bunker Theresa discovered, a few weeks ago. From there, they take an elevator up to the top of the mountain, where Pilcher is putting everybody who looks at him funny back in their grey sand incubators, including his own sister, Nurse Pam.

Blaze of Glory
The Abbies break (eat?) their way into the elevator shaft and come climbing up. Ethan knows what he has to do: send everybody to the nearest floor and stay behind himself – with a bomb. Matt Dillon only signed on for one season, it seems like. Once Abbie arms break through the floor – what material is this elevator made of? – Ethan sets it off, killing the Abbies in a blaze of glory.

New Management
Thankfully, there are people loyal to Pam and she’s woken up again. Pilcher’s in the middle of one of his Blofeld-esque speeches, still refusing to turn the power back on – Kate’s pointing the gun at him, but that doesn’t seem to have any effect – when Pam comes in and shoots her brother.
With the power restored, the Abbies gone – for the time being – and new management, it looks like Wayward Pines is back in business, but no more surveillance, no more reckonings, no more ‘always answer the phone’.

First Generation
Ethan’s son, Ben, gets hit unconscious by a projectile flying around because of the elevator shaft explosion. When he wakes up, it’s three years later. Wayward Pines has been ‘reCycled’. It looks like the so-called ‘first generation’ has taken over. The town’s back in full surveillance mode, and people are being crucified if they try to leave. It’s like Michael Scofield gave his life getting his brother out of Fox River, but his actions put Lincoln right into Sona.
Shyamalan has expressed his interest in a season 2, ‘if it feels right, creatively’. Let’s hope it does. Maybe found a second town like Wayward Pines, somewhere else? On a side note: the Abbies apparently are the next phase of human evolution, so wouldn’t the survivors eventually evolve into them as well? In other words: human beings will cease to exist, no matter what. Maybe that’s an interesting angle to explore.

The Wayward Maze

Wayward Pines’ 5th episode is called The Truth, and although it seemed a bit early in the season to reveal the big secret behind the small town, the show gives us almost all the answers we’ve been waiting for.

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Stuffed
Wayward Pines has officially distanced itself from arguably the biggest science fiction mysterie show that came before: LOST. It took the likes of Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hugo 6 seasons to get to the truth, Ethan, Theresa and Benjamin only needed 5 episodes. It’s blown the show wide open. Megan Fisher (Hope Davis) explains everything in a single hour with a nice powerpoint presentation; it’s almost too much to take in. This isn’t what anyone expected or what we’re used to, nowadays. We’ve been preparing ourselves to take a splinter of evidence at a time, a snippet of the bigger picture on a weekly basis, so when Megan lays it all out before us, it’s almost like eating too much of a good thing. We’re stuffed, after devouring not a candy bar but the entire candy shop.

4028
We already knew there were other creatures knocking about, and the reasonable thing to assume was they’re aliens. Close, but no cigar. They’re a better version of human beings, an evolved kind, called Abbies. You’d think they must be capable of rock climbing, but apparently that skill hasn’t survived in their genetic code. They’re fast, that’s for sure, but other than that, they look like naked savages. No, they are naked savages, much like the ones in the movie I Am Legend. Just when we thought we’d all be X-Men in the future, this happens.
Yes, that’s right. Wayward Pines and everyone in it, lies in the year 4028. But it’s not like the people are transported there by time machine. They’re put in so-called hibernation chambers, for over 2000 years, to wake up beside a scary nurse – and no clue.

Hibernation Chamber
There must be a time machine somewhere, though. Dr. Jenkins (Toby Jones), who’s not really Dr. Jenkins but the inventor of it all, Mr. Pilcher, is able to travel back and forth in time. It’s possible he uses an hibernation chamber to go back to the future, but going forward into the past is another thing. So if there is indeed a time travel vehicle, why not transport the people he recruits – the chosen ones, like Ethan and his family – by that same machine? Why go through the trouble of a 2000 year morgue, and all the risks that come with it?

First Cousin
So Wayward Pines basically has gone from being a close relative of LOST to first cousin of The Maze Runner. And completely on a par with that movie, the series has slowly been refocusing on a different main character: Benjamin Burke, Ethan’s son. Since the children of Pines are the only ones privileged to know the truth – and are obliged to keep it secret – the show falls right into the lap of the latest young adult dystopian trend.
That said, the series has so far been a very unpredictable ride, with multiple rabbits out of multiple hats, so there’s no saying what will happen next. If I had to name one of the show’s strengths, it’s that. Despite the many contrived twists and turns in the story, the entertainment value is enormous.

Wayward Pines and the Telemarketer

Wayward Pines’ 4th entry, ‘One of our Senior Realtors has Chosen to Retire’, keeps the viewer in the dark. After last week’s shocking final moments, the episode focuses on school, graffiti and the installation of Ethan Burke as the new sheriff.

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Cliffhanger Redux
It wasn’t a wolf, no matter what Ethan wants his son to believe. It may be ‘wolf country’, but something snatched the body of Sheriff Pope, something that doesn’t belong in the animal kingdom. At least, that’s what we all think, because it’s a TV show, of course. It definitely could’ve been a wolf, why not? All we got was a vague image, much too vague to properly identify it. But since we developed trained eyes for these kind of things, we know it has to be an alien. Although, anyone who’s seen The Village knows one has to be very careful making assessments like that.
Anyway, the smart thing to do is to completely ignore what’s happened and move on with the Burkes trying to fit in, and then end the episode on the exact same cliffhanger – which it did.

Alien
Ethan could’ve gone back to the underground parking lot to find a way out, I mean, he’s the new sheriff now so he must have the keys, but he’s got another idea – a far more dangerous one. He climbs up the mountain side, next to the electric fence. When he reaches the top – or the first place where he’s able to stand – he’s being watched by a creature. Remember the alien in the cave in the first X-Files movie (Fight the Future)? Apparently, he’s also been tricked and transported to Wayward Pines, the town with the mountains, the pine trees, the look of fear in everyone’s eyes.

Hope
You know you’ve got a good show, when aside from the stuff that matters (see everything above), there are a lot of other things to enjoy. Like the principal of the school, played by the great Hope Davis (Allegiance, The Newsroom). When it comes to scary women, I don’t know who I’d want to run away from faster. Davis, or Melissa Leo (Treme, Oblivion, Mildred Pierce), who plays Nurse Pam.
Pam, who made a citizen’s arrest and brings in Justin Kirk (Tyrant, Weeds, Modern Family). He’d put some graffiti on a building, actually to get arrested, because he lost hope of ever getting out of Wayward Pines. His ‘third strike’ would mean punishment by death, but tough luck; the new sheriff’s not going to let that happen. Ethan gets a call to organise one of the infamous ‘reckonings’, but he doesn’t budge. He hangs up the phone and tells Kirk, with a straight face: ‘Telemarketer’. That joke made my day. Eventually, there’s nothing Ethan can do to change Kirk’s mind, however.

Ethan’s Women
One more scene worth mentioning is the encounter between Ethan’s wife Theresa and Kate – the woman Ethan used to have an affair with. Kate’s figured out a lot of tricks to talk without being picked up by the microphones, but why didn’t she use the musical box when Ethan first came into her toy store? I guess we’ll never know.
Because Justin Kirk was arrested, there’s room for a new realtor. Theresa finds a letter in her mailbox, which she reads out loud – like one would. I wonder how much work there is for a realtor in Wayward Pines, but she’s got a job, that’s the important thing.

Wayward Pines: Our Town, Our Law

The script of the third episode takes a lot of liberties, but it’s immediately forgiven when Wayward Pines goes full LOST in its final moments.

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Theresa Burke
As predicted, Ethan’s wife and son end up in the small Big Brother town as well. Theresa (Shannyn Sossamon, the princess in A Knight’s Tale) and Ben Burke (Charlie Tahan, Gotham) conveniently move from place to place, lead to lead, to suddenly being pulled over by the sheriff (Terence Howard). The writers don’t waste any time getting people exactly where they want them to be, but more on that later on.

Underground Parking Lot
In the meantime, Ethan is still trying to escape. If he can’t go over or through the massive electric fence, maybe there’s a way out underneath. He was right. Somewhere between Wayward Pines and the outside world, there’s an underground parking lot slash futuristic metro station, like one of those villain lairs in the old James Bond movies. There are a lot of parked cars, most banged up and dirty, but he stumbles upon his wife’s car. Quite a coincidence.
It would actually have been better if he’d decided to go back, because his wife and son are most likely caught. Instead, the sheriff finds him and drags him back – to his ‘new home’.

Time is a Funny Thing
Theresa and Ben have been sent to Beverly’s house, where they’re waiting on Ethan (Matt Dillon, but you knew that). Their reunion is a weird one. Ethan doesn’t tell them anything except stay in the house, while he meets up with Kate (Carla Gugino), his old flame. They had an affair, 5 weeks ago, but time is a funny thing in Wayward Pines. For Kate, it’s ancient history.
This makes me wonder about Ethan’s disappearance. If 5 weeks equals 12 years, if you’re inside the perimeter, how long has he been missing in the real world? Let’s say he’s been gone for 3 days. That means Theresa’s been looking for him for over a year, doesn’t it?

At the Right Place, at the Right Time
Kate and Ethan meet at a spot where you can talk freely. It’s not as free as they think, though, because Ben has followed his father and sees him with the woman he cheated on his mother with. Theresa and Ben don’t think twice and leave right away. The sheriff catches up to them and hey, Ethan’s practically in the neighborhood, so why not make it a family thing? With a little help from Ben and his driving skills, Ethan finally manages to take the ice cream obsessed sheriff out. But that’s not all; we get a convenient script location bonus track.

The Perimeter
In the pilot episode, Ethan had to walk miles and miles and miles before reaching the electric fence, but for some reason, there it is, just off the main road. And there’s the door. And wait a minute, the sheriff’s got the remote control.
But then, the sheriff’s body gets snatched away, by some creature. Wayward Pines suddenly upped the ante, and crossed over in serious science fiction territory. It’s no longer about a crazy small town with a fence around it – with some time issues -, no, it’s gone full LOST. And I love it.

Wayward Pines: Do Not Discuss Your Life Before

The second episode of Pines (directed by Charlotte Sieling) takes a dark turn, when Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) tries to escape with Beverly (Juliette Lewis). At the end of the hour it’s game over, thanks for playing, better luck next week; he’s back to square one.

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The Rules
Wayward Pines looks like a friendly little town, but they have rules:
Do not try to leave
Do not discuss the past
Do not discuss your life before (this one seems a bit redundant after the second one, but okay)
Always answer the phone if it rings
Work hard, be happy and enjoy your life in Wayward Pines!
They’re simple rules, but break them and you’ve got a death sentence on your hands, carried out by the sheriff himself.

Reviews
I’m not sure for how long we’ll continue reviewing the series, because it’s clear Ethan is not going to escape any time soon. ‘Did he make it out this week? Nope. Too bad. Maybe next time. Keep watching, folks!’
Everything about it feels a lot like a show from the nineties. In Sliders, they tried to get back home but never did, for example. Nowhere Man had a similar concept, as well as the Australian science fiction series This Is Not My Life. Pines is a welcome addition, albeit maybe 20 years too late.

Counterfeit
The theory that the town Wayward Pines is a computer program, can be taken out with the trash. The money going around is counterfeit; not really something you’d need in a virtual reality environment. There’s one odd thing, though, if everything’s indeed real: nobody ages. Beverly’s supposedly 54 years old. Even botox can’t hide your wrinkles that well.

The Piners
Ethan’s wife and son are still worried sick, but they’re getting in on the action. They’ve decided to go look for him. The only way to make their story interesting enough, is if they eventually find him. And once they’re there, it’ll be even harder to leave.
Meanwhile, Ethan’s back where he started from. Beverly’s been discussing her past and gets caught. Ratted out by Kate (Carla Gugino). Sheriff Pope (Terrence Howard) slits her throat, basically to scare all the other Piners into cooperating, like he’d done before, with Evans, one of the missing special agents. You’d think Ethan would come to her rescue, you’d think her death would be prevented, but Wayward Pines – the series – wanted to let us know it can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. The stakes are high and only getting higher.

Wayward Pines: Where Paradise Is Home

M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable) has got a new movie in the works, called The Visit, that no one really expects much of. It’s a different story with Wayward Pines, his first steps into the world of television.

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Nowhere Man
Based on the book trilogy – Pines, Wayward and The Last Town – by Blake Crouch, Wayward Pines falls perfectly into the category of Twin Peaks, LOST, The X-Files, Nowhere Man, The Truman Show and The Prisoner. Someone wakes up in a strange place, not knowing how he got there, but not only that; everybody’s acting mighty strange. This time it’s special agent Matt Dillon who steps into the trap that is the village Wayward Pines and it doesn’t seem likely he’ll be able to leave any time soon.

Closeup
Other shows have done it, but LOST has made it its trademark: the closeup opening shot of an eye. Not only does Shyamalan borrow it, he also lets Dillon wake up in the woods. The only thing missing is Vincent the dog to come greet him.
What happens then is as predictable as it is entertaining. He finds out soon enough the small town ain’t what it appears to be, but where a show like Eureka moved slowly, Wayward Pines puts the hammer down. Dillon immediately finds his guardian angel Beverly (Juliette Lewis), who helps him escape from a sadistic nurse (Melissa Leo) and a psychiatrist (the great Toby Jones). The writers don’t have time to waste, because when he leaves Beverly’s house, he stumbles upon Kate Hewson (Carla Gugino) – the woman he’s been trying to track down. She gives him the lay of the land: time stands still in Wayward Pines, there are cameras and microphones everywhere, but hey, he could be happy here.

Hallucination
Like LOST, there will be a lot of speculation whether or not Wayward Pines is an actual town. Could it all be in Dillon’s head? He has suffered from hallucinations; that’s not in the script by accident. The show’s flirting with the idea it could all be a dream, or a computer program. That would explain everything, including the fact no one in Wayward Pines ages. I fear, given there’s a trilogy of books, we’re not going to get that answer – maybe ever.

Rushed
Shyamalan keeps it pretty basic in terms of directing. There’s a lot you can say about his movies, but usually his camera work is very creative. It might be due to the fast pace of the pilot that he couldn’t find the time or opportunity to make it look more cinematic.
Film makers get more time to shoot the pilot than the following episodes, however, the pilot often feels rushed. There’s a lot of information that has to be given, while there’s also a story that needs to be told. The second episode will probably kick back and relax a little more. It’s actually interesting what’s going to happen next. Dillon’s found out much of the town is fake, he’s tried to escape which is impossible, so where to go from here? Biding his time in a police cell for the next 9 weeks eating rum raisin ice cream?