I’ve just come to the end of Wayward Pines and I’m still not entirely sure what I’ve watched! The fact that M Night Shyamalan is involved in something of such variable quality is no surprise: it’s a series that is at times brilliant, baffling and batshit. The whole series is still on Now TV for a couple of days if you haven’t managed to catch it yet and you want to marathon it. I don’t know if I would recommend it: there are some fantastic elements but also some truly dreadful ones and the finale is just completely crazy. I don’t know how much of this is because it’s based on a series of novels, as I haven’t read the novels or researched them. It certainly got some interesting ideas going on, and at 10 episodes it’s not too long an investment of your time if you do decide to watch. Beyond the cut lie spoilers!
At first, when I sat and watched episode one of Wayward Pines with my friends, we all thought it was going to be derivative of Twin Peaks. As the series progressed, other influences began to show-The Prisoner, Pleasantville, The Truman Show and many others. However, it isn’t quite like any of these.
The show stars Matt Dillon and Juliette Lewis, from the 90s and Shannyn Sossamon who hasn’t been seen in many years. IMDb tells me she’s been in a load of American TV shows that I haven’t seen, so hooray for her having continued work. It also stars Toby Jones, who I’m increasingly beginning to think is a clone (he, Toby Clones, heh). I refuse to believe that any one person is capable of starring in as many TV shows and films produced in as many different countries as he is and I think that’s the only way it can be possible.
The idea of Matt Dillon’s character rocking up in the seemingly idyllic world with a sinister undercurrent is not a particularly new one, but it’s okay. However, when we start to discover that the residents are executing dissidents in a very public and violent manner, it gets interesting. When one of those executed is Juliette Lewis’s character, it gets even more interesting. That was probably my favourite plot turn (it’s not so much of a twist, as the character expects it), even though I liked the character.
Around the midpoint of the series, the children of the town are letting on a secret: they are actually living in a post-apocalyptic future and are the last remaining humans. Whilst this is certainly a twist-it didn’t feel entirely fresh, but I can’t remember where I’ve seen a similar twist before-it’s one that means the rest of the series kind of unravels after it’s revealed.
Toby Jones’s founder reveals that these aren’t the first humans that have come to Wayward Pines-at which point it gets a little bit Jurassic Park 2! And then at the end, it turns into a zombie-fest, with the finale being all kinds of crazy: time jumps, zombies eating people, civil disobedience and the kitchen sink. Maybe this all makes sense in the novels a bit more than it does on screen, but the series seems to have gone from being a mysterious, sinister setup to being a schlock horror/survival show and it’s not really clear where, if anywhere, it goes from here. I spend most of the ridiculous last episode scratching my head trying to figure out what they wanted us to make of it all. That said, the final scene was excellent and arresting and it looked great visually. Indeed, a lot of the visuals in this series were some of my favourite things about it.
Overall, whilst there were some great scenes, particularly towards the middle of the series, the whole thing felt incredibly messy and bizarre. Perhaps that’s how it’s meant to feel, but I can’t help thinking that the writing and production staff had thought through the whole world and its dynamics, but not really thought about how to make sure the audience was clued into what was going on as they were. I’m not saying I didn’t understand anything that happened, I’m just not sure why it all had to happen and what the show was trying to be.