Wayward Pines: City Upon a Hill – The Abbies Are Coming (Review)

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After the Abbies attacked the cornfield in last week’s episode of Wayward Pines this week, in “City Upon a Hill” more are coming  to surround the beleaguered arc of “humanity.” Wayward Pines is struggling, not the town and its people but the series.  There is a problem with taking a show that was meant to be a “one-off” and bringing it back. For one thing all the plot devices   that worked so well in the first series are either watered down or disappear completely.

Losing Ethan Burke (and now all the Burkes) has not helped this FOX follow-up at all. Matt Dillon, who played Ethan,  was a strong protagonist.  He anchored the show with all its apparent madness.  Burke was a combination of Patrick McGoohan‘s character in the cult classic The Prisoner and Neo in The Matrix. (Incidentally, in the first season Wayward Pines felt like a brilliant blend of both.)

Sadly, despiteJason Patric being a personal favorite, Dr. Yedlin does not come across  as a strong rock of right and wrong. Instead the surgeon seems peevish,  petulant and snide. The medical man is not a patch on Ethan Burke.

As the Abbies arrive in droves to apparently finish of the denizens of the town the last Burke dies. Theresa (Shannyn Sossamon) expires as Adam Hassler (Tim Griffin) holds her hand and apologizes once more. 

“City Upon a Hill”l starts with the camera panning a serene group of Abbies in a forest setting. There are children, males and breastfeeding females. A helicopter arrives, above the tree line,  and begins firing indiscriminately at the peaceful creatures.  The Abbies panic and run. It is a massacre with only a few survivors. The chopper lands and Toby Jones steps out.

Once again it seems that the second series is attempting to hint at a deeper conspiracy. That the Abbies are “man-made;” an experiment gone awry. That Pilcher tried to sort out the post apocalyptic problem before the birth of Wayward Pines.

The death of Pilcher (Toby Jones), who was in the middle of killing off his second generation of townspeople,  left puppet leader Jason Higgins in charge. While Higgins (Tom Stevens) is clearly his own little Hitler now, he was inspired and guided  by Megan Fisher (Hope Davis). The brownshirt leader is out of his depth now that the Abbies have proven to be more intelligent than Fisher led  him and the other Generationals to believe.

It also looks like the creatures are telepathic or have some sort of hive-like existence (think the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Margaret is either the queen of the Abbies or the central “hive mind” controller. (Which may be the same thing.)  Regardless of Margaret (or Boudicca if you will)  and her standing in the Abbie “community” it appears that the denizens of Wayward Pines are in deep trouble.

The “mindless creatures” have destroyed their crops and are amassing outside the gate in an ever increasing amount of red dots on the towns security feed.   The crop destruction shows the main  problem with Higgins as leader. While he worked out the importance of gathering the food there was no follow through.

Clearly, despite the truckloads of fresh produce shown being brought back into the fenced off area, there was still a lot that needed harvesting. Rather than concentrating on that, Jason sends out his horticultural expert to “colonize” another food farm. Apparently Fisher never taught her little leader about “one step at a time” management or following through.

There are not as many questions to be asked this season.  The first time Wayward Pines was introduced there was a lot of mystery around the town and its founder. Annoyingly the same mystery remains. What was Pilcher up to before his beloved ant farm ark? Did he create the Abbies?

More importantly are the creatures replacements for the citizens of Wayward Pines? Adam Hassler believes they are and told Dr. Yedlin this when he returned to the town. It makes for an interesting mental picture.

Wayward Pines being populated by a horde of hairless and fanged creatures who communicate telepathically but snarl and grunt verbally.  Will the nakedness disappear when clothes become available?  Will they all queue up at the hairdressers for a mani-pedi?

Perhaps some of these questions will be answered in the next episode “Time Will Tell.” Although from the look of all those red dots surrounding the town, it does not look like time is something the townspeople have a lot of.

Wayward Pines airs Wednesdays on FOX. Tune in and see if the Abbies win.

Wayward Pines: Sound the Alarm – Planet of the Apes (Review)

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It may be a bit of a stretch, but it appears that Wayward Pines has turned into Planet of the Apes. (Or conceivably I Am Legend with a variation on a theme. In “Sound the Alarm,” it becomes even more apparent that the residents of the Pines are really the aberrations. and not the Abbies.

(The Planet of the Apes connection is not too tenuous. There is a similarity in evolution changing man’s role in world. A shift in time lines; in the film a time warp and in the series a time lapse. There is also the fact that a version of man has “devolved” although one does expect to hear “Margaret” yell out, “Get your hands off me you dirty *fill in blank here.*)

There is clearly more going on here that just “natural” evolution. The world class catastrophe which created the new breed of man appears to have altered more than the civilized behavior missing in these new humans. Telepathy or a hive mentality (which is sort of the same thing) has manifested in the Abbies.

“Margaret” is clearly communicating with the her fellow creatures outside the fence while they destroy the cornfield. She is deep inside mission control and strapped to a gurney but is it obvious that the aberration is “talking” or giving orders to her followers.

(In this instance perhaps the lab technician should have called the female Abbie Boudicca after the fierce leader of the Iceni who fought  against the Roman transgressors. She was fearless and a skilled leader of a band of warriors who gave the invaders a very rough time.  Just saying.)

Wayward Pines this week gives more backstory to Rebecca Yedlin (Nimrat Kaur) and, along with Dr. Yedlin (Jason Patric) we learn that Rebecca is married to Xander Beck (Josh Helman).   Theresa Burke learns that Adam Hassler (Tim Griffin) meant for her husband Ethan to disappear. Adam loves Theresa and felt that Ethan did not deserve her (he was having an affair with a co-worker back then) but things went all pear shaped. 

Tony Jones appears again as the founder of Wayward Pines and in the flashback sequences Megan Fisher (Hope Davis) also makes an appearance. David’s sister Pam does not show up in these memories which is interesting to say the least. 

Speaking of Fisher it seems a certainty that this control freak who created the privileged attitude in the First Generation is now on a path of no return.  Not only has she questioned Jason and Meredith, but she also has annoyed Yedlin and Margaret. Out of this group that Megan has antagonized it will most likely be (ironically) the female Abbie who will take this major annoyance out of Wayward Pines.

Obviously the Abbies are more intelligent than previously thought. The mark on Margaret’s  palm is clearly “man-made.” It could be a tattoo but one wonders if the mark is indicative of a pervious scientific experiment, something that occurred during the catastrophe that created the creatures.

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Rochelle Okoye as “Margaret”

After all, Pilcher did “slingshot” his little slice of humanity past the event.  The knowledge base of Wayward Pines is limited in that it has no information from the time of the catastrophe. Abbies could have been developed in a lab, genetically “blended” to ensure the survival of mankind.

If this is the case, and evidence seems to point to this as a viable theory, then all of Pilcher’s people are the aberrations and not the creatures outside the fence. Margaret and her “tribe” may be the true survivors of mankind who are indeed replacements for the denizens of Wayward Pines.

A word on the Generational’s requirement to procreate (or breed). Poor Frank (Michael Garza) apparently learning that he swings for the other team and freaking out because of it. Seems that in this new world being gay is not an option.  It leads to a death sentence according to Frank…

The series airs Wednesdays on FOX. Tune in and see if Frank survives his revelation and whether or not “Margaret” is the Boudicca of the Abbies.

Serena (2014): Jennifer Lawrence in Depressing Drama

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in Serena

There may be a few films on offer that are more depressing than the 2014 drama Serena, but one feels it would be difficult to find them. The film, directed by Susanne Bier and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper is set during the Great Depression and tells the story of a lumber baron and his lady love who  lose everything by the final reel. 

The drama was a long time coming to the US, after premiering in London and doing abysmally at the box office, it took another year for the film to make it across the big pond to be shown in a limited release and then heading straight to on-demand streaming. While the film does look sumptuous, with the Czech Republic doubling for the Smoky Mountains, the plot is off-putting and contains too many holes and illogical twists to make it entertaining.

Bradley Cooper is lumber magnate George Pemberton, who falls in love with Serena Shaw (Jennifer Lawrence) at first sight. Apparently Shaw’s father, who died with the rest of her family in a horrific house fire, was a lumber baron in Colorado. The two marry after a whirlwind romance and Serena comes back to the Smoky Mountains to help George run his lumber business.

A number of things happen, George’s best friend and partner Mr. Buchanan (David Dencik) hates the new woman in his friend’s life. He makes no bones about his distaste for Serena who sets about winning over everyone else. 

Everyone, that is, bar Rachel ( Ana Ularu), the local girl who has had George’s baby “on the wrong side of the sheets.” She hovers around the lumber camp working her old job while Pemberton gives her money for his illegitimate son. Serena is soon pregnant and an accident on the mountainside results in her losing the baby. She will not be able to have another one and the woman becomes more than distraught. 

Therein lies one of the problems with the film. Lawrence, as Serena, certainly delivers in terms of performance literally chewing up great chunks of emotion and spewing them out. Then falling apart when things go wrong at the end. The loss of the baby is meant to be the main cause of her deadly turn but from the very first Serena Pemberton, Nee’ Shaw, has been proactive in terms of “taking out the opposition.”

She encourages her husband to murder his friend and  business partner and this before she miscarries. The backstory to her character could lead one to believe that there was more than one reason that she survived that house fire, but it is never addressed fully.

Serena’s change from strong positive role model, she trains an eagle to kill rattlesnakes to murderous b*tch from hell does not track, especially when considering her orders to George about killing Buchanan. The loss of the baby does not introduce her cold blooded side, that was present before, but that is what the film does seem to be saying.

Cooper does an adequate job as George but sadly his character is too cold, aloof and (Sorry Bradley) passionless to be likable. One feels it was his money that attracted Serena, just as it attracted the camp washer girl Rachel. There is never one thing that stands out about Pemberton apart from the clear lust he has for his new wife.

Perhaps the only thing that works well is the chemistry between the two, in the love scenes that is. It is, unfortunately, not enough to carry the whole thing along. The creepy Galloway (Rhys Ifans) “he has visions,” is odd enough that one wonders why he is kept on, especially after he becomes oddly devoted to Serena and begins to murder for her.

All the actors deliver. Toby Jones (Wayward Pines,  Berberian Sound Studio) is brilliantly annoying as the small town sheriff with big plans for a national park and a clear animosity towards Pemberton. Sean Harris, as Campbell, is excellent as the doomed chap with a conscience and Ana Ularu as the simpleminded single mom of George’s child is spot on.

*Sidenote* Ularu manages to be doubly annoying as she fluctuates between either moping around the camp or gloatingly playing with George’s love child in front of Serena. One can easily see the new wife getting fed up with having this local yokel hanging around.

For all the beauty of the cinematography and the powerhouse acting involved, the film is depressing  and lacking any real empathy for any of the characters. No one is likable enough  for the audience to care when these bad things happen to them.  Whether it is the fault of Susanne Bier or the script failing to make the characters more sympathetic does not really matter. The film just does not work.

At 109 minutes, the film feels longer and perhaps the pacing could have been picked up a tad although even that may not have saved this third outing of Cooper and Lawrence.   This is a 3 out of 5 stars, the movie does get a full star for the beauty of the locations, and is streaming on US Netflix at the moment. Overall a very disappointing offering from the duo who made Silver Linings Playbook sizzle and crackle.

Wayward Pines: Season Finale Cycle Ends on Sour Note (SPOILERS)

Ethan and Theresa in Wayward Pines Cycle
Wayward Pines provided a season finale with Cycle that ended the show on a somewhat sour note. While the final reveal was a twist, including the David Pilcher statue in the town park, it left a bitter taste. Matt Dillon’s character Ethan Burke blows himself and a group of Abbies up to save the town’s remaining citizens and son Ben, who is draped over the blazing elevator shaft calling for his dad, is knocked out cold by falling debris. Before looking at the rest of the season finale perhaps the whole episode, with its moments of revealing clarity, should be looked at overall.

In last week’s episode, A Reckoning Pilcher proved once and for all that under all that visionary rubbish, along with his massive case of megalomania and control freak issues, that he was essentially that snotty kid who takes the basketball home if he does not get his way. In Cycle he also revealed that his noble words about “his people” were empty.

Turning off the fence and leaving the denizens of Wayward Pines to the hands of the Abbies was equal to a child’s stomping their ant farm flat because its occupants dare to escape. Pilcher may have suffered from a Deity complex and had more than his fair share of hubris but in the end, the only ones that walked away fairly unscathed from David’s destruction of the town were his 1st class of the Wayward Pines Academy.

Megan Fisher proved that her devotion and zealous brainwashing hid an innate lack of common sense. Either that or she chose to be eaten alive by Abbies who broke into the compound entrance at plot 33. Viewers can be forgiven for giving a little clap when this annoying woman got her “just deserts.”

Theresa showed that when a “mother bear” is protecting her cub and his girlfriend, no Abbie on earth is too much to handle. Sure, Ethan finished the creature off, but his wife was handling things just fine thank you very much. Kate and Theresa have a moment where she binds Theresa’s wound, from the hospital encounter with the Abbie, and for the time being things are okay between the two women.

Without going into specifics, this is after all more of a review than the usual recap/review format, it is time to look at what was pretty annoying about the episode.

The Death of Ethan:

After an entire season of acting his little cotton socks off, Matt Dillon’s character, former Secret Service Agent Burke, blows himself up and what looks to be about 100 Abbies. Dillon was an integral part of the show and his death is particularly galling and the manner of it even more so; sitting on the floor of the elevator with the detonator in his hand, smiling gently at his memories of wife and child…

It could be said that this is a satisfactory character arc for Ethan Burke, a man eaten up with guilt at the deaths caused by his release of the Easter bomber (before Wayward Pines) and his “affair” with Kate that threatened to destroy his marriage. The main problem with this character’s exit is that the whole show revolved around Ethan, taking him out of the equation is not only a bad idea but it removes Dillon who “rocked it” in this role.

The Death of Pilcher:

Granted, there cannot be many fans of the show that, while applauding Toby Jones for his performance, could not wait for Pilcher/Jenkins to be taken out. Despite the fact that his sister Pam, whom he had a very odd relationship with, was the one to shoot David, one really wanted to see Theresa shoot him and have the power mad dictator be put in stasis. Pilcher’s exit was too fast and felt rushed.

Jason Not Dying:

There cannot be many who did not want to see this major douchebag character get eaten by an Abbie. Unfortunately the “I’m special” kid lives through being shot by Ethan and the Abbie attack and manages to get to the Ark in the Ark.

Ben as the New Burke in Town:

Nothing against Charlie Tahan, the Frankenweenie actor did a bang up job as Ethan Burke’s “Wilbur Milquetoast” son who, under the tutelage of Megan Fisher, becomes a more confident character. His romance with Amy, while a little disturbing, was cute and the fact that Ben has survived a bomb blast and being conked in the bean with falling debris, means that he is pretty resilient if nothing else.

But…

The kid is not Matt Dillon…just saying.

Pam as Hero:

From the very first time Pilcher’s sister appeared, she was destined to be an off the wall character who would blindly follow her brother’s lead. Melissa Leo did such a good job as psycho nurse Pam in the beginning that it is very hard to believe her turn around. It should be mentioned, however, that her shooting of David fits. It must have been obvious to her that he did not think much of his drug addict sis.

Conclusion:

There are other things that were annoying about the finale but these are smaller in nature and not quite as irritating at the above mentioned items. Although the Abbie’s ability to cut off electricity and shut down the elevator did stretch things just a bit. As did the head security guy who forces Pam into stasis/suspension only to do a complete about face and take her out moments later. (Of course he had to, otherwise she could not have so ironically shot down her maniac brother…or as one wit once said, “it’s in the script.”)

The final twist of Ben waking up to find his one time potential “baby mother” calling him sir and being very distant was interesting and for a brief moment all kinds of possibilities were opened. Once he demanded, and got, his clothes and left the hospital though, things got interesting. Only for a short while however.

The fact that Jason and the rest of his special group made it to the ark, and that three years has passed since the massive Abbie attack, made the Nazi-ish spin to the finale almost fait accompli. The conversation in the hospital, “They’re listening,” harked back to the beginning of the series and the additional shock value of seeing a man hanging in the town square by the carousel and a nuclear family having their picnic practically at the corpse’s feet, worked very well. The end result of that final set piece is that the viewer nods and thinks, “yup, Jason lived…”

Some entertainment sites are touting that a second season seems to be on the cards. That may well be. The viewing figures for Wayward Pines were impressive and the right demographic was appealed to. Deadline spoke to M Night Shyamalan who hinted, “very diplomatically” that there may just be a second season.

Sadly, unless they can bring back Ethan Burke from the dead, sorry Ben, the show will have limited appeal. Dillon made the whole thing work, along with his continuing interaction with Jones’ David Pilcher, he brought a certain gravitas to the role. Granted Jason may make a great season two villain but it is doubtful whether Charlie Tahan, great actor that the kid is, can pull off a “Dillon.”

So, the recap of the finale is: Kate lives, Pilcher turns off the fence and Ethan arms the citizens to fight the Abbies. Theresa saves Ben and Amy, Pam gets put to sleep and then woken up and Meg Fisher learns that staying behind can lead to being eaten. Ethan blows up a slew of Abbies and dies, Pam shoots David, Ben survives a bash to the head and Amy is now a nurse. Wayward Pines survives and is now worse than before, Jason may just be in charge and all the “adults” are in suspension. There could very well be a second season with Ben Burke as the lead protagonist.

Wayward Pines: A Reckoning (recap and review)

Jason shooting Kate's group in Wayward Pines
By the end of last week’s episode of Wayward Pines, The Friendliest Place on Earth, two of Kate’s group got past the fence although Eric was dead and Alan was soon to be, this week in A Reckoning, everything comes to a head and it turns out that Ethan was right about Pilcher all along, he is a control freak. On top of that, it appears that the “savior of humanity” is a pretty vengeful one as well.

In a nutshell, this episode clears up an awful lot: The relevance of plot 33, just where Nurse Pam fits in the scheme of things, just how dangerous and certifiable Megan Fisher really is, that Wayward Pines really is the only safe place on earth and that Ben’s classmates have learned their lessons a little too well. In terms of OMG moments, this one takes the award for shocking moments, or more accurately shocking moment. Think Ethan’s office and guns, we will get there in a minute to talk about this one.

The start of the show has Ethan on the reckoning trailer with a knife at Kate’s throat. He asks the gathered crowd, “Is this what you want?” Shouts of “Do it” and other words of excited encouragement are shouted back, this teaser follows last week’s final shot of the Abbie roaring in the night. After the opening credits, two of the creatures are munching on Kate’s crew and one makes its way through the gate.

Ethan arrives in time to run the thing down and finishes it off with a shotgun blast. Several more are crawling under the truck and he shoots out tires until the monsters are crushed. Back at the jail, Franklin is shouting about food and arguing with Kate about what will happen to them. He is very concerned that Sheriff Burke is not only part of the Wayward Pines status quo but that they almost killed his “kid.”

Still at the police station several students from Class One, from the Academy, burst into the office demanding that Arlene tell them where the sheriff is. The ringleader of the little student body spouts the rhetoric that Megan Fisher has been cramming into their heads. Threats are made and the lad, Jason reluctantly leaves along with his few friends.

Ethan is supervising repairs on the gate and Pilcher is not happy, he explains that the sheriff must act quickly and decisively, he wants Kate reckoned. When Burke disagrees, Pilcher reminds him of the Easter bomber. Afterward, Ethan questions Harold to get the names of the rest of her group. During his interrogation, he shows Kate’s husband pictures of Eric’s and Alan’s partially eaten bodies. His tactics work and Harold rolls over giving up the names.

At the hospital, Theresa is approached by Nurse Pam. Pilcher’s sister tells Mrs. Burke about the escape, or attack as Pam puts it, and reveals that she knows that Ethan has shared what is happening at Wayward Pines. She hands Theresa a high-level keycard and tells her to go home but to take Boxwood street home. This will take her to plot 33 and Pam’s final words to Theresa are “See what you find.” In other words she has given Burke’s wife carte blanche to investigate what she finds in the “empty” plot.

Ethan gives David the 14 names that Harold gave up and when they try to find the people on the list, it turns out that they have all taken out their chips. They are off the grid. Theresa goes to plot 33 and finds the camera at the gate is off and she enters the plot. At the hospital, Amy is getting worse with swelling on her brain. Ben is beyond upset and Nurse Pam comforts him.

As Theresa crosses plot 33 she takes out the other camera with a long pole. Entering the wooden shack, she finds a metal trap door under the flooring. Megan goes to visit Ben and asks about Amy. As the two stand talking, he learns that his fellow students have all come to the hospital. Fisher begins building up Ben’s sense of self importance again, re-stressing that he is the one responsible for the safety of the town and not his father.

Ben emerges to have a word with his classmates and back at the security suite, Ethan and Pilcher watch his impromptu speech. After quoting Fisher’s rule philosophy, he apologizes for his father letting the town down. Jason asks about a reckoning and Ben says his dad will not do that. Jason storms off and Ethan leaves the suite.

Theresa goes through the trap door and finds another entrance where she can use the keycard. Jason and his friends reappear at the police station. Arlene locks the glass front door and the boys break through. Kate and her little group are concerned and the boys force their way into the holding area. Arlene tries to call for help and gets roughed up and handcuffed to a filing cabinet.

Jason takes out guns and hands them to the other boys. He then begins loading up his shotgun. Kate tries to slow the boy down, by reminding him about a toy he purchased from the toy shop. She also tells him that he will never recover from what he is “about to do.” Fully indoctrinated by Fisher he ignores pleas to stop.

He forces the group, except for Kate whom he smashed in the face with the shotgun butt, to their knees. He then makes the men recite the Wayward Pines “mantra” and shoots the men in the head, execution style. Jason makes his way to Kate and just as he is about the pull the trigger, Ethan arrives and shoots the boy in the back. Pilcher sees the whole thing from the security suite and the leader is not happy that Kate is still alive.

Ethan and Kate talk. She explains that there will be more “Jason’s;” the town, she says, breeds them. She also says that someone will kill her, she prefers it to be Burke. A shaken Arlene hears a noise and warns the sheriff that she thinks more academy kids have arrived. It is Theresa; she tells Ethan and Kate that there is something they need to see.

Taking them to Plot 33, they go underground and she shows them a video log from Adam Hassler; Kate and Ethan’s old FBI boss. It validates what Pilcher has been saying and what Burke has been telling Kate, the world is gone and only they are left. Theresa says that there are hundreds of the video journals from all over the world and they all say the same thing the world is gone.

Kate asks why Pilcher has not told anyone, Ethan tells her that the man is a control freak. Burke plans Kate’s reckoning for midnight and tells Theresa to show the logs to as many people as possible before midnight, the time of the reckoning. Ethan talks to David and tells him that he will reckon Kate and Pilcher says it is the right decision. Burke then tells Pilcher that this will be the last time he kills anyone.

At the reckoning Ethan asks the crowd if they want Kate dead and then tells them he is not there to kill anyone. Burke then reveals the truth of the place and that Dr. Jenkins is David Pilcher. The crowd hear how Pilcher “hides behind the cameras” as David watches and realizes that Burke set him up. As Ethan explains what is outside the gates, Kate, Theresa and others who saw the video logs, all support the sheriff.

Megan Fisher is the sole voice of dissent. She glorifies Pilcher and in mid-rant, Theresa slaps the woman silencing her for a moment. Fisher then asks why everyone is just “standing there.” Suddenly the lights go out and across the town things begin to shut down, including the electric safety fence. Pilcher’s fingers are busy punishing the entire population of Wayward Pines.

In the show this week it has finally been verified that what Pilcher has been saying it true. The world outside the fence is, or all intents and purposes, gone. Abbies run wild and the cities have all crumbled, even the Golden Gate Bridge is down. The first generation, Ben’s classmates, show just how well her brainwashing has taken and Pilcher has revealed himself to be not a savior but a control freak with delusions of being a God.

The shock of Jason cold-bloodedly killing a handful of people was like a dash of ice-cold water. Sobering and disturbing, it was the “highlight” of the episode. While Fisher is a definite zealot where David Pilcher is concerned and it is her brainwashing that really pulled the shotgun’s trigger multiple times, she is only supported David’s own extreme philosophy.

Wayward Pines was shocking and brutal in The Reckoning. This ensemble piece worked brilliantly the week and most of the puzzle pieces clicked together perfectly. Kudos to actor Toby Jones who manages to switch, in the blink of an eye, from concerned to annoyed just as easily as he goes from sincere to madly murderous. The sight of the “savior” busily clicking keys on his computer and leaving the entire town wide open to Abbie attack was chilling and an obvious clue as to what really happened to Group A.

Wayward Pines airs Thursdays on FOX, do not miss this rollercoaster run of twists and turns and surprises.