After the enormous plot twist that came halfway through the season, it wasn’t clear how Wayward Pines could ever hope to possibly top it and what direction the show would take. The second half of the season seemed to fly by in much more of a blur than the first half did, most likely due to the ditching of the slow-burn narrative of the first few episodes for more action-orientated ones. Either way, it led to what was a rather chaotic and unsatisfying conclusion.
From bombings to the carnivorous abbies, the townsfolk of Wayward Pines had a lot to deal with. As Sheriff, Ethan (Matt Dillon) had to somehow contend with the knowledge that it was no longer the 21st Century while also maintaining the town rules set by its founder, David Pilcher (Toby Jones). Kate’s (Carla Gugino) true role as leader of a unit of rebels was revealed, which ultimately only led to more deaths, while Ben (Charlie Tahan) was further sucked into the cult-like world of the First Generation.
The climax of the series had Pilcher turning off the town’s power, giving the abbies access over the town’s electric fence. Free to roam, it wasn’t long before the abbies’ hunger had them munching on half the town. While arguing that the inhabitants of “Group B” were no longer worth saving due to knowing the truth and rebelling, it became clear that Pilcher’s only real interest was in keeping full control of the town and not continuing humanity as he had previously tried to argue. Hoping to wipe out the town and start yet again, his reign of terror came to an end when his sister, Nurse Pam (Melissa Leo), was finally forced to shoot him.
Meanwhile, the townspeople fled beneath Wayward Pines into the abandoned Plot 33 in order to escape the abbies, while School Teacher and bordering on psychopath Megan (Hope Davis) remained behind in the hopes that other children from the First Generation would make it (though all she found were the sharp teeth of abbies). Making their way through tunnels and up an elevator shaft to safety, the abbies were in hot pursuit as they attempted to reach the bunker. Finally, Ethan had to make the ultimate sacrifice to save his family by blowing the elevator up, with himself still inside, in order to kill the remaining abbies.
It was at this point that I realised two things: the first was that there really wasn’t that many secondary characters. Running through the tunnels, Kate and Ethan are essentially leading a bunch of extras. With only a familiar face here and there, it kind of became clear that the show hadn’t really spent much time building a supporting cast that would at least make it all the way through the shows run so that you could care about them. It’s kind of hard to find yourself rooting for extras #1 and #2.
The second thing I realised was that, up until the finale, I had given the show much more credit than it probably deserved (which really wasn’t that much to begin with). As the final lift full of people, including Ethan’s wife, Theresa (Shannyn Sossamon), and Ben, were left waiting to escape, the abbies advanced. It was then that I noticed that Ben was the one holding the gun. Ben! Not Theresa, a woman who had already been established to have given up a career in the FBI prior to the events of the show. Now, assuming she’s had some former field-work – seeing that the FBI don’t normally take new recruits off of the street, how in any realm of rationality does it make any damn sense for Ben to be the one holding the gun? Ben! The child!
Theresa was the character I was really hoping would be fleshed out more in the second half. I was excited before that they had made her so active in trying to hunt down Ethan at the start, rather than sticking her as the passive stay-at-home wife longing for her husband to return trope. And while she was kept busy throughout the season, it was at the cost of sticking her in rather nonsensical storylines.
When Ethan found out about the state of the world outside, he was taken to the control centre of the town and shown the full extent of his new reality. But when Theresa was told, she was left with no real evidence other than Ethan’s word and was then left to investigate this “mystery” for the rest of the season on her own. It was only made more infuriating when other characters, who already knew the secret, would give her a knowing eyebrow raise or wink instead of just telling her the truth and getting it over and done with. With the audience already being fully aware of the town’s secret, it’s a quest built on essentially giving her character something to do while purposefully not affecting the main storyline.
Looking at the season overall, the only real character with any real complexity was Leo’s Nurse Pam. In reflection, that wasn’t as much due to how the character was written, but rather just reliant on Leo’s acting skills in general. Starting as a mysterious but dangerous character that knew more than she was letting on, it was soon obvious that there was more to Nurse Pam than had previously met the eye. As her motivations seemed to come under question in the latter half of the season, her transition into redemption was just too quickly churned through to have any real effect. It seemed she still had darker intentions when she secretly handed Theresa a pass into Plot 33 and that she still might have been playing a game, but this was soon debunked.
In one of the show’s final scenes, Pam and Kate discussed how the future of the town would be different without Pilcher’s mad tyranny. Yet, for some reason, Kate still puts all the power onto Pam, and it seems completely forgotten that, only a few days prior, Pam was the one pushing for the deaths of innocent people at the reckonings. Yes, she decidedly killed her own brother to save the town, but it seems a bit too little, too late.
The final scene of the series, however, was a twist that probably could have been left on the cutting room floor. It would be the common assumption here that M. Night Shyamalan had something to do with it, although it’s also likely that it was intended to rival the surprise from the season’s midpoint. After Ben is knocked out from falling debris, he awakens to find that he’s been in stasis for three years and that the town is now somehow under control of the First Generation. All adults have been placed back into cryo-chambers and the town has returned to a Big Brother-type state.
While series creator Chad Hodge has remained adamant that the show was only intended for one season, this is clearly a set-up for a second that doesn’t really sound that exciting. Not to mention, it kind of tarnishes the fact that Ethan just sacrificed himself a few seconds earlier for nothing. It seems ready to rehash a story that was already told in the first season, with Ben in the place of Ethan, but it seems even more tedious when the idea of the newly united townsfolk attempting to rebuild their world with post-apocalyptic knowledge is the more interesting angle.
If anything is clear from the first season of Wayward Pines, it’s that if the show is picked up for another season, it will most likely continue to fall back on attempting to provide mind-blowing twists throughout the rest of its run. The problem with twists though, is that they often come at the sacrifice of both character and story, with neither being the highest of priorities here.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10