Wayward Pines: The Friendliest Place on Earth (recap and review)

Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) in Wayward Pines
Last week on Wayward Pines in Betrayal, Ethan’s race to find all the bombs ended with Ted’s truck blowing up and injuring Ben and Amy. The Friendliest Place on Earth begins with the two children in hospital and Ben has a concussion. Pilcher is furious and Pam tells her brother that they should do something good for the townspeople. Eric is dying from being penned between the dumpster and the truck. Kate is reliving her first days in Wayward Pines and her dealings with Dr. Jenkins. In her flashback she is convinced that the town is a “Potemkin village;” not real at all.

In Kate’s flashback Nurse Pam gives her an injection to calm her down. She wakes, the memories of her and Jenkins came while she was sleeping in the jail cell, to the sound of sweeping. The town is clearing away any signs of Ted’s destroyed truck. Ruby, one of the insurgents who left the woods early so she would not be late for work, comes into the coffee shop to the sounds of speculation. The people are not buying the gas leak explanation.

Pilcher notices that Ruby is late and goes back to the control center to see where she was. Her chip says she is home at bed, which David knows is not true. They check her home and the camera reveals that there is no one at home. David tasks the team to see who else is “home in bed.”

Ethan tells Kate that Ben almost died from one of Harold’s bombs and he blames his former partner. She tells Sheriff Burke that there is a reason that he was chosen to be the town’s law enforcer; he follows orders. She reminds Ethan that he made the same mistake before and he replies that he is just trying to keep anyone else from dying. He asks her what happened and why she does not trust him. Later more flashbacks show that Kate fought a vigorous form of brain washing and lied to Dr. Jenkins to be left alone.

Pilcher tells Pam that Ruby is one of the insurgents and he tells his sister that they need to do an in-depth security review of all the surveillance camera operators. She learns that one, Reggie, is troubled when he observes citizen’s questioning policy and the wall and their fear. He admits that he blurs or wipes video footage when this happens. “It’s human nature to ask questions isn’t it,” Reggie asks and Pam agrees.

This interaction is observed by her brother David and Pam, not knowing that he saw the interviews, lies and says no one is being slack in their duties. Ben wakes up and Megan Fisher stops by to use her skills as a hypnotherapist again, to turn Ben against his parents. She emphasizes Harold was let go by Ethan because of his friendship with Kate, Harold’s wife and that Ben would never have been hurt if Harold had stayed in jail.

Fisher also convinces Ben that as he has survived a “terrorist attack” he is a hero and people will want to know what he thinks. She also presses home the importance of “clear and severe” rules and punishments. It is clear that Fisher is a real danger to Ethan Burke and anyone else who questions the status quo. Later when Theresa warns the teacher to stay away from her family, Megan checks to see if the moment was caught on camera.

Ethan shuts down the Wayward Pines festival and tell everyone the truth about the explosion and that several of the insurgents are missing. He urges them all to go home and keep safe. Pilcher is not happy with the sheriff for shutting down the festival or for telling them the truth. Burke stops by to see his son and Ben confronts him about letting Harold go and about his friendship with Kate.

Theresa comes in and tries to make Ben stop and Ethan explains that he can ask whatever he wants. The sheriff tells his son that he would have done the same thing regardless of who it was. Ben’s mother figures out that it is Fisher behind her son’s actions. Amy comes in to visit and the parents leave.

Amy is still focussed on Ben and the two visit in his hospital room. Ethan tells Theresa about the bombings and how his “following orders” led to over 641 innocents being killed. He could never tell her before because it was classified and he explained about having to use Kate as a sounding board as she was his partner and privy to the information. At the end of their talk, it looks like Ethan and Theresa are closer together.

Harold and one of the other insurgents plan to take Eric’s body, he died from his injuries, outside of the fence to bury him. The two men steal a 30 foot dump truck to smash through a gate and Ethan is on their trail after getting a call about the theft of the vehicle. Jenkins stops by to see Kate and they talk.

He accuses her of being a fanatic and Kate reveals that she knows he is really David Pilcher. The self imposed savior tells her everything in Wayward Pines is a question of safety versus freedom. Later, as Pam serves her brother a cup of tea and a piece of pie, David has Reggie picked up by security. He tells his sister that the man is a traitor and will be dealt with.

Pam volunteers herself for punishment, “Kill me,” she says and David replies that they will not do that any longer. Reggie’s penalty for treason is to be put back into the cryogenic stasis pod. Harold backs out of crashing through the gate and Ethan catches up with him. All that Burke learns from Kate’s husband is that he is too late.

Harold’s friend crashes the truck through the fence and drags Eric’s dead body out of the vehicle. Holding Eric, the man begins to laugh and says, “We made it buddy.” Suddenly several naked Nosferatu looking creatures converge on the man and Eric’s body. They attack and one of the monstrous creatures looks at the gate and roars.

Anyone watching Wayward Pines who has not read the books that the series is based on will be eagerly following each new episode and perhaps asking just what the truth really is about the little town. Other questions that need answering are: What is the significance of Plot 33 and that metal thing under the ground? Is Boise the only town so perfectly destroyed by Pilcher’s “evolution” and is the rest of the world just like the city outside the fence?

Other questions deal with the choices that Pilcher made in terms of his residents. Each one was pre-chosen, for instance he apparently hand-picked not just Ethan Burke, but Kate Hewson as well, why? Considering the “late” arrival of Theresa Burke and Ben, why did Pilcher abduct the two way back in 2014 when he could not know that Ethan would be so adamant about his family that it could be a deal breaker?

On the face of things, it appears that Toby Jones’ character is one half megalomaniac and one half mad scientist. Ethan may believe his eyes, and therefore believe David’s assertion that Wayward Pines is an ark and the only safe place in the world, but Kate’s conversation with Pilcher seems to suggest otherwise. Is this a government test of some sort; she was warned of just that possibility before waking up in the town, or is the world really in some sort of futuristic post-apocalyptic wilderness where mankind has evolved into some sort of animal.

Wayward Pines airs Thursdays on Fox. Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Shannyn Sossamon, Toby Jones, Hope Davis and Melissa Leo are working perfectly with the show’s creators to provide some quality mystery/thriller television. This is one of the network’s best shows on offer, miss it you will be missing some quality entertainment.

Wayward Pines: The Prisoner Updated?

Wayward Pines banner
Coming late to the Wayward Pines party, the first thought after watching the premiere episode is that this show is an updating of the superlative, and before its time, British series The Prisoner, “Who is number one?” Starring the intense and brilliant Irish actor, director and producer Patrick McGoohan. In some ways the only thing missing from Wayward Pines is the big plastic balloon-like ball which used to chase down and capture the odd “inmate” from the village who managed to get past its boundaries and almost escape.

*It should be pointed out that The Prisoner was remade in 2009 and released as a six episode mini-series. It was met with a mixed critical reception, much like the original 1960s series.*

This Fox series is not just The Prisoner revisited though. There are hints of Twin Peaks, American Horror Story and Cape Wrath, aka Meadowlands in the US throughout the show’s plot and if one looks hard enough, more off-beat and odd television show’s may be spotted like Eureka or even at a stretch The Stepford Wives film.

Of course, Matt Dillon as Ethan Burke is this show’s version of Number Six. In the 1960s show, the “agent” is someone who has opted to get out of the system. His “defection,” which is in fact a resignation, is not allowed; hence his incarceration in the quaint yet disturbing village. As far as we know Burke has not tried to leave his organization. He has had some sort of meltdown after failing to stop a bombing where over 600 innocent people died. His Secret Service Agent is mired in a world of guilt, regret and pathos.

A car accident leaves him injured and disoriented in the “town” (village) of Wayward Pines. As he stumbles about, after checking himself out of the deserted hospital, it becomes apparent that this place is not what it seems. By the end of the show, he has learned that the area is surrounded by a tall, seemingly never ending, electric fence with signs that warn death is imminent if the boundary is crossed.

As this first episode shows, Burke’s life is pretty screwed up from the word go. His guilt, from failing to stop the bomber and his affair with a partner who is thought to be missing has consumed him. Discovering that she is in Wayward Pines, along with the dead tortured Secret Service agent who is also missing, Burke learns that this town is a prison where people listen to what is happening and questioning things can be fatal.

“There are no crickets in Wayward Pines,” says the back of a bar bill that Juliette Lewis’ character, Beverly, hands Ethan in the Biergarten. Of course the same slip of paper has an address where he finds the other missing agent dead and decomposing. Later in the episode, Burke hears crickets and leans towards the foliage where the sound is emanating. He discovers a metal box and this is responsible for the cricket “sound effects.”

After leaving the hospital Burke tries to call home twice and leaves messages for his wife. Away from the town, the Secret Service tell Theresa Burke (Shannyn Sossamon) that her husband is missing and that there was no sign that he was even in the car at the scene of the accident. By the end of the show Mrs. Burke checks the answer machine and it holds no messages from her husband.

Thus far Wayward Pines is four episodes into its first season and looks very promising. Binge watching will allow the viewer to catch up on events and see just how strange things may turn out. The cast includes the superb Juliette Lewis and English actor Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger, The Hunger Games) and Terence Howard (Iron Man, Empire) and of course Matt Dillon as Burke.

Show creator Chad Hodge has come up with an interesting show that appears to borrow from a few existing examples of the weird and wonderful. Producer M. Night Shyamalan directed this first episode and has obviously set the tone for the rest of the first season, which may still turn into an updating of The Prisoner. Time will tell whether this new show finds the audience it deserves.

7 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith