Well, the Wayward Pines experiment is over, and, even if you’d read the novels it’s based upon, there was at least one surprise left for your viewing pleasure as the series wrapped up.
You can’t really talk about Wayward Pines without spoiling it, so please consider yourself warned. I didn’t know what to think of Fox’s early summer entry Wayward Pines after seeing the first episode. The premise felt hackneyed, a cheap rip-off of Twin Peaks melded with traces of Lost. I’ll be the first to admit that my expectations were lowered by the involvement of M. Night Shyamalan, someone I’d lost complete faith in as a storyteller years ago. But I came back for a second run. Good thing too. By the end of the second episode, I realized that I loved Wayward Pines. I’ll admit it. I completely loved this show, and now that it’s over and, in my opinion, more than stuck the landing, it will go down as one of the most pleasant surprises of 2015.
The town of Wayward Pines, as we learned weeks ago, is considered something of an arc, a collection of the last members of the human race cryogenically frozen and revived in the year 4028. In the end, however, humanity began to unravel and David Pilcher (Toby Jones), the architect of Wayward Pines, turned off the power in an attempt to cleanse the city of those over which he’d lost control. The “abbies” (abnormals) at the walls began to climb over given the now powerless fences. And they began to maul the unprotected citizens as many took up arms to fight them. The final episode definitely took on a more traditional sci-fi horror slant than previous outings had tried.
At the end, though, the remaining town members were herded into the infamous bunker – the one containing all the cryogenic chambers – for shelter and safety. The new town sheriff Ethan (Matt Dillon) gave his life in an elevator shaft by activating a series of pipe bombs to stop the oncoming hoard of abbies. Pilcher died as well at the hands of his horrified sister, Pam (Melissa Leo), who shot him for abandoning “Group B” of Wayward Pines to the abbies. So, for a while, everything seemed OK.
Until it wasn’t.
Knocked unconscious by a piece of debris from the explosion, Ethan’s son, Ben, awakens from an extended sleep. In this new world, the fanatic first generation of Wayward Pines – the one schoolteacher Megan (Hope Davis) filled with diatribe about their glorious savior – apparently froze the problematic adults and started over in David Pilcher’s image. The final eerie shot of the episode is the body of a man hanging from a streetlight with a sign around his neck warning others to never try to escape.
Wayward Pines was billed as a one-time limited series. It should stay that way. No longer will audiences be treated by unexpected surprises or shocking deaths. We all know the score now, and a second season would only become a traditional entry into the vast sci-fi television canon. As is, it is a surprising and engaging self-contained piece of pop culture. Leaving the audience with the final shot was a perfect way to end our dalliance with Wayward Pines – humanity lives only to continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
The series MVPs have to be Melissa Leo and Hope Davis. Initially providing an uncannily threatening presence, Leo grew her seemingly one-note Psycho Nurse character of Pam into someone who evolved into having a conscious. You understood Pam’s devotion and her interest in the citizens of Wayward Pines. Plus, Melissa Leo plays crazy like nobody’s business. On the flip side, Hope Davis appeared sweet and sane, serving as the principal of Wayward Pines Academy. She devolved into a fanatical leader, convincing all of the children of Wayward Pines that Pilcher was some kind of god. She also was given the very tricky task of conveying the truth behind the city to a new group of children, the audience surrogate. In the hands of a lesser actress, this revelation would have been silly, too otherworldly to fathom, but she brought it home completely thanks to her complete belief and faith in the material.
At the end, Wayward Pines had the courage to avoid the novel’s more optimistic, unclear ending for a more pragmatic and likely ending. Sure, there are still questions remaining, but I think we can fill in the gaps. What remains is a wacky sci-fi series that had more nerve than traditional television series have displayed. Wayward Pines had the guts to go balls-out crazy, and I completely enjoyed every minute of the ride.