SPOILER ALERT: As always. this review of Wayward Pines, season 1, episode 8 contains details you might not want revealed.
Last week’s episode “Betrayal,” ended with us believing that Ben was blown to bits in the back of a truck. As “The Friendliest Place on Earth” begins, we see that Amy is walking around just fine—injured, cut, and bleeding, but seemingly fine—and Ben has survived. Sure, this might not be a show high on real-world believability, but there’s no way either of them should’ve survived a blast of that magnitude. I cry foul. Ben might be critical, but that explosion was too large for either of them to make it. It’s a small complaint, but I do think they could’ve at least dialed back the breadth of the explosion.
Harold and Adam (Tim Griffin), as well as a few fellow Wayward Pines citizens, have gotten into the forest only to realize that escaping might have been a bad idea. Harold realizes more than once that he really cannot do this without Kate.
There are fantastically acted flashback scenes by Carla Gugino this episode. Kate—despite her barely audible warnings and utterances through teary eyes to Ethan—has been, for the most part, an emotionally muted character in the linear storyline this season, so it’s nice to see Gugino get to spread her wings a little. (Also, bonus bookworm points to viewers who understand why A Midsummer Night’s Dream playing at the movie theater in town is poetic.)
Kate is holed up in jail as people around town begin to remove their tracking chips. This seems strange, to remove the chips and not leave town. It’s very clear that surveillance’s eyes are on townsfolk at all times. Did people try to leave, see what was out there, and come back?
Ben wakes up from his coma, and Megan Fisher (Hope Davis) immediately visits him as soon as Theresa leaves the room. She’s trying to wedge herself between Ben and his mother and father, in Fisher’s traditional easygoing, passive-aggressive fashion. Fisher is a complex and intriguing character, but she’s clearly begun to overstep her bounds…but then again, maybe that’s on Pilcher’s orders.
Nurse Pam is tasked with interviewing Wayward Pines’ surveillance team, trying to spot a leak. However, as she breaks down crying near the end, it seems that she might be a leak herself. The concerns people in town have seem to have crept upon the previously unflappable, Nurse Ratchet-esque Pam as well. It’s really the first time in the show thus far where Pam has been a sympathetic character, and the tension of Melissa Leo and Toby Jones’ scenes in “The Friendliest Place on Earth” are immaculate; it’s clear that Pilcher knows Pam has slipped up, and he’s just dangling her on the hook until the moment is right to strike. Leo hasn’t been tasked all that much prior to this episode, but it was worth the wait—Pam’s nuance and depth are on full display.
Theresa tells off Megan Fisher in the hospital, and it’s pure gold. Theresa hasn’t been all that vibrant a character this season, but the last few episodes, her role, and the content of her scenes, has been beefed up. It’s nice to see Shannyn Sossamon get a layered character on a prime time TV show; she’s been relatively under-the-radar the last few years after kicking off her career with A Knight’s Tale and 40 Days and 40 Nights.
As I continue to watch this show, I wrestle with the question of whether Pilcher is a savior or a lunatic. When he talks to Kate at the prison, his words certainly slant him towards the latter: “I thought if I could make Kate Hewson conform, I could make anyone conform,” he says through the bars of her cell. Conform? It doesn’t seem like the word choice of a saint. But then again, we see that the Abbies are very alive and very dangerous—so why does Pilcher feel like he’s lying? If Pilcher has hidden so much of the truth from his citizens, then it makes me wonder what else he could have stuffed up his sleeve. Could it all really be a government experiment, as is addressed by Kate this episode, and was previously introduced with the Adam Hassler voicemail.
Pilcher kills a headquarters volunteer for, essentially, sympathizing with the people he surveys. At this point, it seems Pilcher has about lost it. Pam aligns more with the unknowing citizens than she does her own brother anymore. How far could we even be from a mutiny within the headquarters, too? It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch at all. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Pilcher is killed by Pam’s hand now, with the way this episode was structured and written.
When Adam and Harold steal a dump truck to ram the electric fence, Harold can’t go through with it because Kate’s stuck in town. He stays behind and, although he’s captured by Ethan, he has a better fate than Adam; within seconds of ramming the gate, Adam and his deceased (who he’d been taking across the wall to bury on “free ground”) are devoured by the Abbies.
“The Friendliest Place on Earth” is a tough episode to assess, at first glance. While we weren’t exactly deprived of action, a great deal appears to be bubbling beneath the surface. There are drastic shifts in dynamics: previously amiable and reserved people are striking out (Theresa threatening Megan; Ben turning on his parents after talking to Megan), and Pam’s allegiance seems to be shifting. This could spell quite a last two episodes for us. Thanks to the ten-episode arc, we are likely to get answers come the finale, meaning we should be in for high octane action. Either way, “The Friendliest Place on Earth” might not have been the episode we wanted—that one’s still to come—but it’s certainly the episode we needed. The wheels have to be in motion for the car to speed ahead, and we’re looking at quite a stretch of road ahead.