|Any resemblance to Twin Peaks is purely coincidental.|
I nearly stopped watching this pilot a minute after it started. Why? Because the first shot was of an eye opening, followed by a pull back to an injured man in a suit lying on the ground. Seriously. Do they think we've all forgotten? Or was M. Night simply gifting us with an obvious homage?
But I hung in there and watched the entire pilot, and there was enough going on that I might stay with it.
Matt Dillon plays Secret Service Special Agent Ethan Burke, who goes to Wayward Pines, Idaho to investigate the disappearance of two other Secret Service agents, Bill Evans and Kate Hewson. After a serious car accident, Ethan wakes up injured and on the ground (see above), walks into the town of Wayward Pines, and discovers that Something Strange Is Going On.
Wayward Pines the town resembles the Village in the classic television series The Prisoner, as well as Persons Unknown and specific episodes of the spy thrillers La Femme Nikita and Alias. Arnold Pope the sheriff doesn't act like a regular sheriff, plus he loves rum raisin ice cream, so law enforcement has clearly been compromised. The hospital features Nurse Pam, a jovial fiend with Nurse Ratched vibes, who threatens Ethan with no-anesthesia brain surgery. The phones are old, the décor is weird, and no one will give Ethan his wallet or his cell phone, much less a straight answer. Like I said, Something Strange is Going On.
I particularly liked the Hotel California "you can never leave" bit when Ethan discovers that the road out of town simply circles around and dumps you back in Wayward Pines. Followed by the great big fence like the Great Wall of China and the sign, "Beyond this point you will die".
But for me, the most interesting thing about this episode is the time element. Beverly the bartender (Juliette Lewis) is Ethan's immediate ally, giving him a great big hint about the Wrongness of Wayward Pines -- the sound of crickets is faked. Beverly knows that agent Bill Evans was horribly killed and his body is in an abandoned house. Beverly confides that she's been in Wayward Pines for a year, and that she came in 1999 to install Y2K software. That would seem ridiculous, but when Ethan finds his former partner Kate Hewson, she's twelve years older than she was when Ethan knew her only weeks ago, and she's married to a stranger (Reed Diamond). Kate tells Ethan sotto voce that they're being watched and Ethan needs to stop asking questions. Which he doesn't.
This was a fairly strong pilot. I just wish it had some subtlety. The plot points and character beats are hammered into the audience as if we're not very bright and need to be led by the hand. This Town Is Wrong. How Wrong Is It? The hints that Ethan might be hallucinating because of something terrible that happened in his past might just as well have been omitted, because they go right ahead and show us that Ethan's boss back home, Adam Hassler, is conspiring with Dr. Jenkins, the Wayward Pines shrink. Plus it's hard to believe that an agent who was truly dealing with serious mental issues, including hallucinations, would be on active duty.
I'll outright admit that it's the cast that is attracting me to this series, or possibly miniseries: Carla Giugino, Reed Diamond, Juliette Lewis, Shannyn Sossamon as Ethan's wife Theresa. It is not M. Night Shyamalan, who could have interpreted this pilot with less of a heavy hand. Where's the storyteller who made The Sixth Sense so unusual and compelling? Sigh.
-- I really liked the credits that showed toys in a model town.
-- Was the woman behind the desk at the Sheriff's department deliberately doing Lily Tomlin's Ernestine the phone operator? I was expecting her to start saying "One ringy dingy, two ringy dingies…"
-- A couple of other weird moments were when Beverly told Ethan, "I always believed you", as if they'd done all this before. And when the bartender said into the walkie, in reference to Ethan, "10-16-28 is not doing well."
Red alert! Wayward Pines is based on a series of three books by Blake Crouch. If you haven't read them, comments on this review will be free of book spoilers. If you've read the book series and want to include book spoilers in your comment, please post it on the Wayward Pines book series spoiler thread.
Two out of four crickets,
Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.