SPOILER ALERT: As always.
So far, Wayward Pines’ “ten episode event” tactic has really worked out, plot-wise—it’s one of the more satisfying, well-paced dramas on television. A ten-episode season means no down weeks, no holding back, and certainly no time to stall. It would be a blessing if every TV mystery was paced this way.
Last week’s episode ended with a shocker: Terrence Howard’s Sheriff Pope was killed off by a combination of Ben Burke (Charlie Tahan) hitting Pope with his own police cruiser, and Matt Dillon’s Ethan shooting him. It happened quickly but, after Pope had been shot, a section of the enigmatic electric fence encircling Wayward Pines lifted, and a growling (and out-of-focus) humanoid pulled Pope’s body into the woods beyond. If anyone saw that coming, you deserve some sort of Nobel Prize in Clairvoyance, because that was unexpected. (Some thought that Wayward Pines was a break from Howard’s Empire, but actually, Wayward Pines was shot first.
You’d think that, after killing the sheriff of a town of people who condone cold-blooded executions, the Burke Family would run…right? As last night’s episode began with the Burkes headed back into Wayward Pines, you (and I) would be wrong. The early scene where Ethan washes Ben’s hands clean of blood, and Ben asks, “What were those things, on the other side of the wall?” is great; that Ethan tells Ben it was a wolf is fantastic. The in-over-their-head conversation that Ethan and Theresa (Shannyn Sossamon) share while Ethan fills her in on what’s happening is the type of banter that makes following Wayward Pines’ mystery so juicy. Ethan may not be the most intriguing protagonist, or the most reliable “narrator,” but his everyman, salt of the earth ethos makes him a wonderful compass to guide us.
The mailmen in Wayward Pines are dedicated! Dropping off Ben’s new Wayward Pines Academy uniform in the dead of night, fresh off Ben’s assisted murder of the town’s sheriff? That’s devotion to one’s work!
Not sure how I feel about Ethan being named town sheriff. Sure, Pope was a megalomaniac crooked cop, but surely someone else had to be better suited as the new town sheriff than Ethan. Not to mention, it feels a little too convenient; here’s one of the only people in this town desperate to get out, but since he’s got a nice law enforcement background, we’ll give him closer access to the engine that’s keeping this town running?
Hope Davis makes her entrance as Megan Fisher, a bubbly administrator at Wayward Pines Academy. Fisher’s high fiving prowess isn’t great, but Davis is a welcomed addition to the cast. Her conversation with Ben about whether Ethan is trustworthy or not makes us wonder whether or not all is as it seems for the Burkes.
Ethan’s uncovering of a small storage space underneath a rug in Pope’s office—now Ethan’s—was particularly creepy. It seems Pope was keeping tabs on the people closest to him, who all certainly seem off. Melissa Leo’s Nurse Pam, who makes a citizen’s arrest of a Wayward Pines’ realtor (played by Justin Kirk), is the creepiest of the creepy, the crème de la creep. It’s nice that Ethan is in a position of authority and seems able to keep Pam at bay.
Theresa and Kate (Carla Gugino) have a long-awaited confrontation. The tension in the Kate’s toy store is palpable. I’m definitely anxious to find out more about Ethan’s affair; it’s surprising both at what little we know about the relationship and that I haven’t really felt the urge to know more yet, four episodes in.
When Ben asks another student about the animals that live beyond the wall, she confirms they exist, and asks Ben how he knows about them. At the very least, they exist, and it wasn’t in Ethan’s—prone to hallucinations—head.
Ethan interviews the realtor Peter (Jeremy Kirk), who he’s been asked to execute for graffiti, and asks him why no one can leave town. Kirk’s realtor tells him that the one surefire way to leave is suicide. The phone ringing a moment or two after this exchange made me wonder: why is whoever is hiding behind those phones so gung ho on hiding in the first place? My fingers are crossed it’s for a legitimate reason. I’m starting to get a serious Cabin in the Woods, puppets and puppeteers vibe.
The realtor’s story about hooking up with a girl who turned out to be Pam raises a few notes. First, it seems that Wayward Pines is not simply a place where people who have made immoral mistakes come, but a place where they are brought. Two, time certainly works differently in this town, and Pam does, in essence, feel like some sort of powerhouse Wayward Pines recruiter. Why does she seem to simultaneously be powerful, and know very little? Is it a ploy or a strangely organized hierarchy?
Ben has proved to us again that he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, going off into the woods with his classmate. She seems to have some knowledge of what the things in the woods are and he can’t help but be curious. We’ve seen this archetype before; it would be shocking if Ben’s curiosity didn’t get him, or his family, into deep trouble.
When Ethan refuses to execute Peter, he asks to be taken to the wall. Apparently, Peter is responsible for building the wall; he recites a stanza from the Robert Frost poem, “Mending Wall.” When erecting the wall, Peter had questions about what he was walling in and walling out. After Peter kills himself, Ethan climbs a cliff—what Peter told him was the only way out—and doesn’t notice that when he reaches the top, one of the humanoid creatures is watching him. The frightening creature looks part Area 51-esque, part Signs.
It wasn’t a huge week for Wayward Pines. The pacing of the episode was of a high quality, we’re learning more each week, and the episodes are all impeccably acted and directed. Individually, this episode just wasn’t up to the standard of the others thus far. Hope Davis’ Megan Fisher is an intriguing addition to the cast, and her hypnotherapist experience can only yield wonderful scenes. Wayward Pines is getting to the unraveling of the mystery, and it’s looking good, but this week wasn’t one to necessarily gush over.