There are a ton of genre series on the horizon this summer but FOX’s Wayward Pines – a ten episode ‘event’ series – is the first out of the gates. The first episode premiered on Thursday but had been available on Hulu for about a week or so prior.
Just minutes into the pilot I knew this was a series that could be great.
We’re pretty much thrown into the creepiness of Wayward Pines. FBI Agent Ethan Burke is supposed to be investigating the disappearance of his former partner (and lover) Kate and another agent, but finds himself stranded and alone in the middle of the woods. He’s supposed to be headed to Idaho, but who knows what’s really going on.
And we sure don’t either.
Unlike some series that rely heavily on mysteries, though, the series promises answers – and soon. In the first episode we get very little information but plenty of hints that at something dark and sinister at work. We’re (hopefully) not looking at six seasons of LOST again here. With any luck, we really are looking at a one season, ten-episode from start to finish miniseries (which – despite how much I love The Following – is exactly what that series should have been).
This series is really working for me and here’s why.
Ethan is an interesting, troubled main character.
I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t entirely sure about Matt Dillon as the lead in this series. But I love him. He’s a real tough guy and it’s pretty great to see that coupled with Ethan Burke’s vulnerability. After failing to stop a bombing that killed hundreds of people, Burke at some point had a breakdown and took up with his partner Kate. But at the same time he really seems to be a dedicated family man. He’s three-dimensional and that really makes him interesting.
The fact that he knows he has a history of mental illness, too, makes everything in the pilot seem a little more surreal. It’s almost like it all could be a hallucination, like it’d be easier for Ethan if it was. The fact that it’s not makes everything all the more terrifying.
The town is pretty terrifying.
And, yeah, the town is terrifying. It’s like Twin Peaks meets Silent Hill meets the desert area from the film The Signal. Wayward Pines is your quintessential small town. It’s got quaint storefronts, all the basic necessities, and everyone knows everyone.
It’s also entirely fake.
The sounds of crickets are piped through speakers. There are cameras everywhere. And everyone – including your everyday bartender – is on on the conspiracy.
It feels like a survival horror game.
No, seriously, there are moments in this show that actually feel like you’re running through a survival horror series. It’s not just the creepy nurse and hospital, though that’s admittedly a big part of it. There’s a scene where Ethan and an ally literally run through this empty hospital hiding from a creepy nurse. How does that not scream survival horror?
The series of slow revelations and the potentially unreliable main character as narrator follow a similar pattern that you’d find in horror games. As a huge fan of survival horror games (even if I’m terrible at playing them), I loved that feeling. I hope the series keeps with it.
Time makes no sense.
Another so far unexplained but potentially awesome part of this series is how malleable time apparently is in Wayward Pines. People can spend years in the town while mere weeks pass in the outside world. Conversely, others can spend decades there from an outside perspective while only a couple years have passed for them in Wayward Pines. It’s super trippy and I can’t wait to see the explanation for it.
The mystery is compelling – and creepy.
Overall the most important thing about this series is that the mystery keeps you drawn in and wanting more. So far, this one does. I know we’re only an episode into Wayward Pines right now but the pilot does an excellent job of laying the foundation for the next nine episodes. Whatever is going on, there’s no mistake about Ethan finding his way to Wayward Pines.
One of his FBI buddies – a man who is close to his family – apparently helped set him up. Somehow his former partner, Kate, who has been missing for five weeks remembers twelve years in Wayward Pines. Nothing is what it seems and the town somehow seems to warp the realities of physics – there is no way out.
This show begs a lot of questions.
And so far it’s given very few answers.
It has, however, started us on an epic thrill ride. I am very hopefully optimistic about the rest of the season. I think Wayward Pines is off to a great start and I can’t wait to see where the story goes next. I’m really hoping that the ten-episode limit works out for this series and that it doesn’t fail like Broadchurch. But with Wayward Pines falling squarely into the sci-fi/supernatural, I’ve got a lot more faith in it’s short-series stamina. FOX has had a pretty good track record with genre shows recently.
With any luck, Wayward Pines should be a hell of a series.