Tweetable Takeaway: #WaywardPines is a strange place, is it real or is it all in Ethan’s head? Tweet
Airtime: Thursdays on FOX 9/8 central.
By: Jeff Iblings, Contributor
I’ve watched the first episode of WAYWARD PINES twice now, and I found it to be a really intriguing show. It comes to us via executive producers M. Night Shyamalan and Chad Hodge, with a script written by Hodge based on a series of novels by Blake Crouch.
Shyamalan took over directing duties on the pilot, and it looks great. It has is a moody, ominous Pacific Northwest look reminiscent of Twin Peaks and The Killing. To be sure Wayward Pines takes a page out of Twin Peak’s book, but there’s more to Wayward Pines than just a Lynch/Frost knock off. The show it really reminds me of, is the 60’s British show The Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan. So Wayward Pines is basically the love child of two of my all time favorite shows.
We’re introduced to Secret Service agent Ethan Burke as he wakes up in the middle of a forest, with empty pockets and no idea how he arrived there. The only thing he knows for sure is that he was in a car accident, looks and feels like shit, and is sent to Idaho to find two missing agents, one of which is his former partner and lover. He stumbles into Wayward Pines just long enough to collapse and black out.
The tricky thing is the revelation that Ethan has been dealing with a massive psychological trauma that’s left him with a dissociative disorder, resulting in hallucinations and bad dreams. He feels responsible for something called the “Easter Bombings” which resulted in the deaths of 621 people. This emotional and psychological flaw is important since it affects whether or not what he experiences is true reality. Ethan is an unreliable narrator who questions his own sanity over the course of the pilot. Is this all an elaborate construct of his imagination? It’s hard to tell, and there are clues that muddy things up even more.
The show bounces back and forth between Ethan navigating Wayward Pines, and his wife and son in Seattle in the aftermath of his disappearance. I would imagine this is something that’ll continue into the next episodes. The Secret Service investigates his disappearance and finds the GPS from his car missing, no DNA evidence Ethan was ever in the car, and another agent burnt to a crisp in the wreckage. Even the voice messages Ethan leaves for his wife never seem to reach her. When he does get a hold of a real person, she states she’s a new secretary for the Secret Service, but it seems like it’s really someone in Wayward Pines intercepting the call and play-acting the part to deceive Ethan.
Ethan wakes up in the Wayward Pines hospital, which is weirdly empty except for a sweet, but ultimately sinister nurse named Pam played by Melissa Leo. After he leaves the hospital against the nurse’s wishes, he finds the Sheriffs office locked, and then meets Beverly (Juliette Lewis), a bartender, who seems to be the only normal person in town. Even she acts strange though, and passes him a note with what she says is her address on one side and “There are no crickets in Wayward Pines” written on the other. When Ethan hears a cricket walking to a hotel, he reaches into the bushes and pulls out a small electronic box emitting cricket sounds.
After spending a night in a hotel, Ethan gets kicked out by an aggressive manager and is still unable to find his wallet, phone, or brief case, so he heads to the address Beverly left him. It’s a dilapidated house, but inside he finds one of the agents he’s been sent to locate tied to a bed, tortured, mutilated, and then burnt to death. He heads to the Sheriff’s office to get some help. Terrence Howard plays the Sheriff with a mixture of amusement, aloofness, and danger. It’s clear he doesn’t like Ethan, and barely tolerates him. He especially doesn’t want Ethan to come along and show him the body of Agent Evans in the abandoned house.
There are two moments that really throw the theory of everything being a construct of Ethan’s mind for a loop. The first is when he returns to the bar to find Beverly and a man acts like he’s never heard of her. When Ethan gets upset, the man knocks him out and immediately talks into a walkie-talkie “101628 is not doing well.”
The second is when Ethan wakes up, he’s in the hospital again where he meets Dr. Jenkins, a psychiatrist who tells him he has bleeding on his brain and they need to do surgery to alleviate the pressure. This same man appears in Seattle with Ethan’s boss Adam. Adam asks Dr. Jenkins “If there’s time, I want to call it off.” This makes me think the whole town is a set up ala The Truman Show or The Prisoner.
Just as Ethan is about to be put into surgery, Beverly rescues him, brings him somewhere safe, and gives him a change of clothes. Cleaned up the next day, he wanders back into town and sees Kate, his ex partner and lover. When he confronts her she acts weird, tells him they’re being watched and listened to, and then puts on a Stepford Wives face while she tells him he could be happy in Wayward Pines.
This is the last straw, Ethan wants to get the hell out of town, and so he steals a car to do just that. Only once he drives out of town, it’s as if he drives in a circle and ends up right back in town. He tries a second time, but instead stops outside of town and runs through the woods until he’s face to face with a giant electrified fence that stretches as far as the eye can see. There’s no way out.
- Time seems different in Wayward Pines. Beverly thinks she’s been there a year, but she arrived in 1999. Kate tells him she’s been there for 12 years, but Ethan was with her 5 months earlier. I’m not sure what to make of this.
- If Adam, Dr. Jenkins, and others are in on this, what is the purpose? Is it like Shutter Island? Do they want him to remember something, or is he being held captive like in The Prisoner so he doesn’t talk about things he’s done?
- This still could all be a product of his psychosis. He may be in a fugue state, and everything could be an elaborate hallucination. The pilot episode does start with a close up of his blood shot eye, suggesting that this entire show may be from Ethan’s point of view.
- Is the Sheriff (Terrence Howard) running the entire town? When Ethan asks him “How do I get out of here” at the end of the episode, the Sheriff tells him “You don’t.” Is everyone trapped there? Is it a prison? Is the Sheriff the warden?
- I’m definitely hooked, and can’t wait to see what else is in store, though this being Shyamalan country, I’m also very cautious.
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates. Twitter: @OfSoundnVision