Created by relative newcomer Chad Hodge (IMDB only lists a few credits back to 2003), Wayward Pines has the experience of eight directors to call on, with the opener directed by M Night Shyamalan.
Since the success of The Sixth Sense, Mr Shyamalan has become something of a critic’s punching bag, and unfairly, I think. I remain a fan of his movies, despite the population at large thinking the opposite. But his name on the trailer was one of the things that brought me to watch this show.
It’s picking up a lot of comparisons to Twin Peaks, with a general consensus that it doesn’t quite stand up to it. I haven’t seen Twin Peaks (I was only eight when the pilot was aired), so I’m unable to make judgements. I’m coming to Wayward Pines fresh, and open-minded.
The episode opens with Ethan Burke walking out of the forest and into the small town of Wayward Pines, bloodied and bruised, and with no idea where he is. Flashbacks give us insight into this man, his turmoil, and his extremely fragile state of mind.
Ethan is a special agent who, along with Agent Stallings, headed out to look for two missing agents: Ethan’s former partner (in both senses of the word), Kate Hewson, and Bill Evans. They are involved in a car crash, but Ethan walks into the town alone.
When he comes to in the local hospital, it’s instantly evident that things aren’t right here. The hospital is still and silent, the nurse attending to him is cold and calm. He asks for his phone, but she tells him the sheriff has his things, and has informed his family and the Secret Service of his whereabouts. It quickly transpires this isn’t true. His wife has no idea where he is, and neither does his superior, Adam Hassler. Or so he claims. He does, however, have the body of Stallings, and the wrecked car which, apparently, holds absolutely no evidence that Ethan was ever in it.
After walking out of the hospital, and finding the sheriff’s office locked up, Ethan meets barmaid Beverly (played by the wonderful Juliette Lewis, another draw to the show for me). She serves him on the promise of a big tip when he gets his wallet back. She hands him a note with her address on, in case he needs somewhere to stay. On the back it reads ‘There are no crickets in Wayward Pines.’ And she’s not wrong; Ethan finds the bushes hold speakers emitting the sound. It’s like a horror version of The Truman Show.
After leaving a message for his wife (which she never gets), Ethan checks out the address. Far from being Beverly’s cosy home with a warm welcome, it’s a burnt out house bearing the mutilated body of missing agent, Bill Evans.
Ethan gets little joy out of Sheriff Arnold Pope (who doesn’t have his stuff), leaves another message for his wife, and tries, but fails, to get through to Hassler, so he heads back to the bar to find Beverly. According to the guy there, she does not, and has never, worked there. They argue, fight, and he knocks Ethan out. He pulls a radio from his pocket and calls in “10-16-28 is not doing well.”
So Ethan wakes up in the hospital again, this time handcuffed to the bed. Dr Jenkins, the friendly resident psychiatrist tells him that a bleed on the brain is leading him to have delusions. He suggests surgery, and when Ethan sensibly refuses, he’s dosed up with sedatives and wheeled down to the theatre where he spots some pretty scary-looking surgical instruments waiting for him. But Beverly turns up again, and rescues him. As the sedatives take hold, Beverly tells her story, that she’s been in Wayward Pines for almost a year. Except, she thinks it’s only the year 2000.
When the sedatives wear off, Beverly’s gone, but has left Ethan a change of clothes. As he wanders through the town, he finds Kate Hewson looking very much at home. She says they can’t talk because ‘they’ are watching and listening, that Ethan’s presence puts her life in danger. It seems that time moves a little differently here, as she claims she’s been here for 12 years, despite only having disappeared a few weeks ago.
With a rising sense of fear, and bewilderment, Ethan steals her car to drive home. But it seems that the road out of town is also the road into town. Ditching the car, he goes cross-country, and as night falls, he finds himself looking up at a huge perimeter wall and electric fence. It bears the sign ‘Return to Wayward Pines. Beyond this point you will die.’
Meanwhile we see Hassler talking to our Dr Jenkins, asking to call it off, whatever it may be. Not so in-the-dark as he claimed. But it seems his crisis of conscience has come too late.
Back to Ethan, and he’s climbing into the car as the sheriff turns up. He asks Sheriff Pope how he gets out of Wayward Pines. “You don’t,” is the reply.
Despite all of the reviews to the contrary, I think I’m going to really enjoy this. It’s going to pick up a lot of comparisons to other shows; Lost, Flash Forward, it also feels a lot like the adaptation of Stephen King’s Under the Dome, with that claustrophobic atmosphere. And, no doubt, the cabin fever will be making everyone a little crazy.