Fox’s Mystery Thriller ‘Wayward Pines’ Has A Strange, Creepy Secret

wayward pines matt dillon poster

Wayward Pines Season 1 (A Spoiler Free Overview)
Cast: Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard, Shannyn Sossamon, Juliette Lewis, Reed Diamond, Charlie Tahan, Hope Davis

The opening to Fox’s mystery thriller Wayward Pines is a close up shot of a man’s eye as he wakes up in a forest. Who is this man dressed in a business suit out in the middle of nowhere? What happened to him and where exactly is he? My immediate reaction is that it’s an homage to Lost which had the exact same opening. The difference between how Wayward Pines handles the mysteries compared to Lost is that it’s based on a novel series where the answers are already determined and not made up as the show goes along. Wayward Pines is originally conceived as an 10 episode mini-series so there’s a greater urgency to explain everything in a self-contained story.  

Wayward-Pines-Terrence Howard meets Matt Dillon

Matt Dillon plays Ethan Burke. He’s a no-nonsense Secret Service agent tasked to find two missing agents, one of whom is Kate Hewson (Carla Gugino), his former mistress. After waking up in a forest, Ethan is brought to a hospital in Wayward Pines, Idaho. On the surface, it’s a quaint little town but something is off about the place and the people who live there. The town’s sheriff (Terrence Howard) is not forthcoming with information and does nothing to help Ethan with his investigation. The only person in Wayward Pines who might shed light on what’s going on and possibly help Ethan escape the town is a bartender played by Juliette Lewis. Meanwhile, Ethan’s wife (Shannyn Sossamon) and son (Charlie Tahan) are worried that they haven’t heard from Ethan and try to track him down when the Secret Service isn’t willing to cooperate.

The mystery thriller element is the strongest part of the show. Puzzling clues add to the intrigue of how these pieces will be explained in the grand scheme. As more weird things happen, it deepens the mystery and builds tension. The question changes from where exactly is Wayward Pines to what is Wayward Pines. We also learn that Ethan has experienced hallucinations in the past so he may not be the most reliable of narrators. However, there’s a point in the season where the story shifts gears, while it is handled very well, the mystery aspect which drove the earlier episodes loses its steam.   

Wayward-Pines-Dinner-Juliette Lewis Matt Dillon

Many of the actors are more known for their movie roles. Matt Dillon’s grounded performance fits perfectly with his character. Ethan Burke is both the foundation and moral compass of the story. His actions are very believable for a man determined to escape out of town and uncover the truth. Melissa Leo as Nurse Pam is terrific as well. Pam is a tricky role to pull off because the actress has to present a cohesiveness to a character who continually shows new sides to herself as the mystery and her back story is revealed. Juliette Lewis, Carla Cugino and the rest of the cast are solid although many characters aren’t given that much development. 

If you want to stay completely spoiler free skip to the next paragraph. If you want to get a better sense of what’s going on keep reading. Beyond the mystery, Wayward Pines has something to say on a variety of topics. The premise is contextualized in real world issues of today. Do those in power have the right to invade people’s privacy in order to ensure everyone’s security? The show also draws themes from historical events and political systems. Wayward Pines is like a microcosm in how it reflects darker moments in history such as the way the people are suppressed and controlled. On a broader level, the show asks bigger questions like what is the nature and ultimate fate of humans? What are the moral responsibilities of a creator to humankind? The good thing is that the show doesn’t get sidetracked with these ideas, the focus is on telling an entertaining story, but unfortunately these aspects aren’t as engaging as they could be. 

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The second half of the season isn’t as compelling for me. While it’s refreshing for a show to put all its card on the table way before the finale, the mystery is replaced with exposition and as a result the carefully built up tension is released. Further, towards the end, the dangers that the characters are put in don’t come about as organically as it could, as if the writers are forcing things to happen a little too much.

Overall, Season one of Wayward Pines ends on a satisfying note that I feel the time invested in watching it is worthwhile. Ethan Burke is a strong lead character and worthy to be the show’s primary point of view. The story would fit right in on the old television show The Outer Limits which is known for some far out twists.  The general fan support has been pretty positive and Fox network is debuting Season 2 on May 25th, 2016. Based on early reports, Season 2 will work as a jumping in point for new viewers. Personally, I’m waiting for positive reviews before I decide to watch Season 2.

If you’ve watched Wayward Pines, how would you describe it to someone without giving away the mystery? Are you interested in watching season 2?

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