TV Review: Wayward Pines (Season 1, 2015)

waywardpines

Wayward Pines is a 10-episode miniseries adaption of the novel of the same name by Blake Crouch. Directed by the infamous M. Night Shyamalan, Wayward Pines tells the story of Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) who gets into a car accident whilst searching for missing fellow FBI Agents, including former lover Kate Hewson (Carla Gugino) and awakens in the titular town. Under the watchful gaze of Sheriff Pope (Terrance Howard), and constantly running into seemingly the only nurse in town, Pam Pilcher (Melissa Leo), Ethan must try to find out just what the hell is going on.

The series can be divided near perfectly into two halves, due to a completely game changing twist in the middle episodes, and as such it is very difficult to give a proper indication of the series as a whole. There will be no spoilers in this review (unless the fact that there is a twist of some kind is a spoiler?), and I’ll most definitely be doing a follow up column sometime soon, because this sort of show really needs to be discussed.

+ Matt Dillon as Ethan Burke is suitably squinty eyed and gruff voice, and his confusion as to the town and its’ inhabitants is a great stand in for the same questions you’ll have as the viewer.
+ Carla Gugino as Kate Hewson is also on point, with enough subtle facial work to let you know that the things she says are different from what she means. As she shifts between who she is talking to, it almost feels as if Gugino is playing two different characters, which works well in the circumstances
+ Terrance Howard as the town sheriff, Arnold Pope was mysterious and soft spoken, but had a very underlying scariness about him. Every time he would just pop up, obviously overhearing someone say something they shouldn’t with his signature love for ice-cream you just knew things could implode any minute
+ Toby Jones (Arnim Zola from the Captain America films) is fantastic as town psychiatrist Dr Jenkins. He peculiar appearance and big glasses (a trademark of the actor, or does he need them in real life?) do wonders to set the scene as not being quite as it seems. Jones’ character was joyful to watch evolve, as more and more of the town’s secrets become revealed
+ similarly to the above, Melissa Leo as the nurse, Pam Pilcher, whom keeps popping up at inopportune times was a joy to watch. She just plays this absolute bitch of a character, but she has something about her that makes her a pleasure to hate whenever she appears
+ the entire atmosphere of the first few episode had me glued to the screen. I was constantly talking with friends and family, trying to work out just what was going on, and every episode answered some questions, but brought up even more. The first half of the season reminded me much of the early episodes of Lost, which is a very good thing

– Shannyn Sossamon and Charlie Tahan are Ethan’s wife and son, Theresa and Ben, respectively, and are in many ways similar to Skyler and Walt Jr on Breaking Bad – they are not necessarily bad actors, at all, but very often feel quite unnecessary. Ben does eventually get some proper storylines, but it seems that Theresa’s main role is to be the friction between her husband and his old flame Kate
– a large handful of minor characters come and go, but never get any real characterisation, which becomes slightly jarring when they do something important and we as the audience have no context for this
– as mentioned, the series does peak right in the middle, and though the last few episodes are tense enough, the show does fail to reach its earlier heights. As the plot rolls on, there is less and less room for discussion, until an interesting but out of place final twist and turn
– even after the final episode is done and dusted, there are still lots of unresolved questions. Whether this was due to the potential of a second season (which there will not be) is debatable, as maybe it just wanted to finish with room for discussion

> Wayward Pines, the town, could almost be considered a character itself. A few locations pop up repeatedly, and the idyllic setting gradually grows darker leading to the final episodes
> I’d assume it was not by chance that it was M. Night Shyamalan that was given the directing role for this, given his past penchant for game changing twists.

Should you watch this show: Due to the division of episodes, this series can be viewed in two halves. The first half of the season is probably the best new series I have seen in a very long time, but unfortunately the second half doesn’t manage to quite reach the same heights. By the time the second half came about, I was too invested in the story to stop watching, so in that regard I can recommend the first half. Once the twist is revealed, make your own decision on how you feel, and act accordingly.

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