Amid the tide of television genres like sci-fi, murder/mystery, soap operas, etc., there seems to be one missing. Shows like Under The Dome and The Prisoner introduce their audiences to what seems like a nice enough town but when the layers are pulled back things get creepier and creepier. Due to their growing popularity I think it’s about time this genre gets a name. Considering these shows centre on a sham city or a friendly jail, maybe “shity” or “fail”? Whatever you want to call it, another has arisen in the form of Fox’s Wayward Pines. Against my better judgment I endeavoured to watch the entire ten episodes and bring you my spoiler free review.
Before I get into anything to do with the show’s plot it’s interesting to note that the commercial giant that is Fox has invested in a big-scale drama that only consisted of ten episodes. Did they aim to focus on the writing as shows like Breaking Bad or Fargo have done so well before? Or did they not have enough faith to stretch the budget out over twenty-two episodes? The jury is still out until word of a second series but either way it didn’t work.
Wayward Pines tells the story of Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon), an FBI agent sent on a mission to find two of his missing agents. After a car accident, Ethan wakes up in Wayward Pines, a small town in Idaho. Without his phone or wallet, Ethan manages to find both missing agents but that is not all that he finds. Clues are scattered around the town of Wayward Pines that suggest things are not as they seem and Ethan is not the first to make this discovery. After he teams up with local bartender, Beverly (Juliette Lewis), Ethan makes for his escape but after he breaks all of the towns “rules” the villagers come to stop him.
M. Night Shyamalan acts as the producer and director of the first episode on Wayward Pines and that really should have been my first clue. It couldn’t be an M. Night project without a twist and Wayward Pines’ twist is no Sixth Sense or Unbreakable, it’s much more along the lines of The Happening or The Village. The only thing that was impressive about the twist is that they decided to reveal it halfway through the season, which, while a brave choice, definitely did not help the plot and was the beginning of the end. Wayward Pines had promise as a show about a creepy village with hidden agendas and shadowy figures pushing all the buttons, but as soon as the twist was revealed it all went downhill from there. Every reveal after the twist seemed even more ridiculous than the last and each time I would quote that ever immortal line from Half Baked.
By episode three I was actually having a good time trying to guess the conspiracy of Wayward Pines but I was terribly disappointed after Ethan discovered the truth. Every single theory I had, even the rubbish half theories concerning telemarketers were better than the one I was delivered. It wasn’t just the twist that ruined the show, with the truth came some pretty awful subplots too. The entire plot revolving around the school children wasn’t anything but unsettling and by the third appearance of the school teacher my skin was crawling like a baby on the run.
It wasn’t just the plotline that was creepy, every single actor in this show outside of the resistance had something slightly off about them. Of course Toby Jones is your go-to creepy genius, but he was cast for that reason, Ethan’s family on the other hand are supposed to be normal. Matt Dillon has always been a little bit weird and with his injuries he reminded me of a faster version of Frankenstein’s monster. His wife, Theresa (Shannyn Sossamon) has a haircut straight out of the 1950s and their son, Ben’s (Charlie Tahan) quiet demeanour is nothing but unsettling. That’s about all there is to say about the entire cast, no-one pulls off anything special; although Terrence Howard deserves a mention for his threatening portrayal of Sherrif Arnold Pope.
Before the fifth episode, the set design was pretty impressive and Wayward Pines is reminiscent of a model village in both set and costume design. Unfortunately with a terrible twist comes terrible CGI. As long as you squint your eyes the scenes set in the headquarters are passable but if you open your eyes just for a second you would think you had accidentally switched on a 1970s Bond film.
To give it the credit it doesn’t deserve, Wayward Pines does have a few interesting features. They have set themselves up to be able to introduce any character they want without it seeming crowbarred in and the show does have a legitimate sense of claustrophobia. Oh and the character of Kate (Carla Gugino) has a very fine Bioshock style moment with a wrench attack. Although having mentioned Kate I must say, Ethan if you are going to interview someone after an incredibly violent crime, let them wash their face first.
If you are still interested in the world of Wayward Pines I would suggest maybe giving the books a shot first. Alternatively, Fox released a companion series online, entitled Gone to be watched in line with Wayward Pines. Gone tells the story of a rocket scientist and his search for his missing wife. While Gone only goes for about half an hour in total, it was much more enjoyable than the entire series of Wayward Pines. Fox has left the ending open for another series, although it can be interpreted as a resolution as well. I’m hoping Fox decides to end the story here and follow one of their own Wayward Pines rules; “Do not discuss the past”.
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