Wayward Pines Season One (2015)
Developed By: Chad Hodge Starring: Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Shannyn Sossamon, Reed Diamond, Tim Griffin, Charlie Tahan, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard, Hope Davis
Certificate: 15 Running Time: 42-44 Minutes per Episode, 10 Episodes
Tagline: "A place to die for."
With some TV shows it can take a lot to secure your interest but with others it's incredibly simple. This was the case, for me at least, with Wayward Pines. It's based on a trilogy of novels by Blake Crouch and also bears the name of M. Night Shyamalan heavily on promotional material who was indeed involved in the project to bring the novels to our screens, acting as executive producer and also directing the first episode. That already made it sound promising and I wouldn't have blamed myself for being pulled in by that superb cast either, but it was actually just a brief 10 second synopsis that did the trick. I can't remember exactly what it was now, oddly enough, but it was something along the lines of "Guy wakes up in some weird town and is unable to leave again" and that does kind of sum up the show, or the first half of the first season anyway.
The 'guy' in question is US Secret Service agent Ethan Burke (Dillon) and he does quite literally wake up in the small town of Wayward Pines, Idaho. Or the woods surrounding it at least, after apparently being involved in car crash while on the tail of two missing Secret Service agents including his ex-lover, Kate (Gugino). It doesn't take too long for him to realise that Wayward Pines is no ordinary town though.
"Do not try to leave. Do not discuss the past. Do not discuss your life before. Always answer the phone if it rings. Work hard, be happy, and enjoy your life in Wayward Pines!"
If seeing that on signs all over the town doesn't set alarm bells ringing then nothing will! Apparently not everyone is happy or enjoying their life in Wayward Pines however, and dissenters are dealt with swiftly and brutally in public 'reckonings', enforced by strict sheriff Arnold Pope, as well as all loyal and happy residents keen to see their way of life continue. Despite this, a small group of rebels has begun working in secret, determined to uncover the truth, escape from the pesky town, and return to their friends, families, and former lives.
This seems to particularly be the case with Nurse Pam, Sheriff Pope (Howard), and psychiatrist David Pilcher (Jones) amongst others. He does manage to make the odd ally such as bartender Beverly (Lewis) and his old flame Kate who is not only very cautious and nervous of breaking the town rules but, strangely, she also appears to be significantly older than she should be. Pretty much everyone else is keen for him to accept his lot and settle in without a fuss though.
It's actually a sufficiently major and unexpected plot twist that I'm doing my best to not give anything away in case any of you haven't seen the show yet but it's tough! I did find it a bit of a let-down that a reveal of such magnitude wasn't saved until the end of the season - it was the sense of mystery, of wondering just what in the blinking hell was going on in this weird little town, that gave the show such allure after all, and would surely have kept viewers coming back to find out more.
A Knight's Tale but she doesn't really get much to do here. You'll still genuinely care about her though, and most of the other characters as well, as things build towards the explosive finale that everyone in the town feared, and probably most of us too. With a disruptive influence like Ethan around it was bound to happen eventually - all he had to do was follow the rules and enjoy his life in Wayward Pines, but noo. I guess the outcome was kind of inevitable though, once we found out what was going on.
That might have happened sooner than expected, perhaps a bit too soon, but it's definitely a truth that looms menacingly over the rest of the season like a black cloud, forcing you to constantly remember what's at stake, so in that sense I guess the early spoiler kind of worked. Either way, this is a superb first season. It's effectively two halves of a story - before and after - but both are riveting in their own way. It was originally expected to be the show's only season as well though, so although we did get a second, things sadly kind of fizzled out from here...
RKS Score: 8/10