Wayward Pines was a fun ride, and I’d love to see TV operate in this way more often. Big stars. Auteur directors. High concepts (Oh wait… Maybe TV already does this all the time?). It’s almost like we’re in some sort of, television age of gold? Yes, Wayward Pines was an awesome idea. Based on a best selling book with an interesting, sci-fi concept, it featured some legit mega star actors (Matt Dillon, Carla Guguino, Terrence Howard to name a few). But the most compelling figure involved, to me at least, was the director, M. Night Shyamalan. Or at least, I THOUGHT he was “the director”. Turns out he only directed the pilot of Wayward Pines. And that is, in fact the beginning of…
Where Wayward Pines Went Wayward
Is anybody out there watching True Detective season 2? There are many reasons why it isn’t that great. Heck, let’s list them! Incomprehensible plot and script, hackey dialogue, uneven acting performances. suffering from the GREATNESS that is season 1, and suffering from the overrated-ness that is season 1. Those are all good reasons why season 2 is not stacking up. But perhaps the biggest reason is the directing. Wunderkind director Cary Joji Fukanaga was a revelation to True Detective. The way he composed the frame, the atmosphere he created, was the cliched “other star of the series”. But it’s true, his talent cause True Detective to really pop. Wayward Pines pilot was by far it’s best episode. It was the creepiest, and the most suspenseful. Sure, there are higher rated episodes (because of big plot developments) but as far as art goes, the pilot was as good as it got. Not having M. Night helm the whole season was a mistake. And it seems like it could have been a possibility, considering it was such a short miniseries. I was prepared for this show to be Shyamalan’s big return to grace. The phoenix rising from the ashes of “The Last Airbender.” I think that’s exactly what would have happened had he stuck around. But there’s a bigger reason that Wayward Pines got off track.
Lost is probably my favorite show ever. Nothing has captured me the way those cast away’s on that island did. But towards the end of it’s run, the show runner’s, Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse caught some flack. And some of it I agree with. Basically, they spend 6 seasons, and hours and hours of spreading mystery seeds. Super fans wanted all of those seeds to sprout in to answers, but for the writer’s, that was never the point. They wanted the mysteries to tantalize people, but the real show was the characters and their arcs. And to that end, they (mostly) delivered beautifully. I loved the characters and I thought the finale was amazing. I was bummed out with how Claire and Sayid played out, but almost everyone else had a touching story. I do, however, count myself among the fans that were sad there wasn’t more concrete answers and connections between the mysteries. How does that relate to Wayward Pines? It had the exact opposite problem.
Unlike basically every sci-fi or genre show on TV, Wayward Pines didn’t wait until the final episode to reveal it’s big mystery. By episode 5 we know that (SPOILER ALERT) the town of Wayward Pines is 2000 years in to Earth’s future. It was so unconventional to get that reveal early on that I thought for sure it was a red herring. I was waiting all the way until the final episode for that to be proven a lie. But, to the writer’s credit, they stuck to their guns (and source material I suppose). Every mystery presented on the show, every lose end, was wrapped up neatly by the end of the series. Doing my post-viewing-wikipedia-deep-dive, I found out that the first 5 episodes covered book 1, and the last 5 covered books 2 and 3. That leads us to the biggest issue with Wayward Pines. They simply packed too much plot, and not enough character into 10 episodes. If they could have extended to 15 (and kept Shyamalan) I think this series could have been perfect. Cramming so much content in to so few episodes is bound to cause sacrifices. In this case, the Burke family was placed upon the pyre. I’d pay someone 5 dollars to go back and count the number of scenes that the family had together. I’d bet it’s somewhere around 2. Or maybe 7. I don’t really know how many, but I know it wasn’t many. And they missed the point of what the show SHOULD have been about. It should have been about a family reconciling and coming back together. Trust was broken, and over the course of the series it could be built back up and we could see a family restored. It would have been beautiful. Instead of a show about the reconciliation of a family, we got a show about some weird future town, that also happened to have some people living there.
Another issue people had with the show is they claim that all the suspense was sucked out mid season with the big reveal. I disagree, as I mentioned I thought that may be a head fake. But, even if you felt that way, I believe if we cared more about Ethan and his family, the suspense would still be there. Because even if we knew “the truth” (see what I did there?) of the town, we still don’t know the fate of the people we care about. Unfortunately, great art in story telling can never be about things happening, it can only be about people. And I think the writers forgot that.
One More Thing
I hate to be the guy that says “the ending sucked”, but, the ending sucked. Unlike many people, I’m actually ok with an open ending. It can be really exciting and satisfying if done correctly. One of my favorite shows of all time, Terriers (Seriously please watch that show guys, it’s on Netflix), had an amazing open ending. But the ending to Wayward Pines wasn’t really open ended. Honestly, it was the total opposite. Ethan did some heroic stuff, for, I don’t know, 10 episodes. And then he died. Fine. But you’d like to think he died for something. So that the people of Wayward Pines can have a better life. Or at least the chance at a better life. But nope! In two seconds, the show jumps ahead three years and we see that the people are EXACTLY where they were at the beginning of this whole thing, except now it’s run by kids. What a bummer! It would have been WAY better to have it end happy. And then, as the show is about to fade out, one of the evil kid’s gathers the other evil kid’s to him, and they start doing that stupid “first generation” hand gesture. THAT would have been better. Then you can decide for yourself. Do the kids win? Did David’s philosophy of ruling with an iron fist continue? Or did the adults learn and can they turn the kids away, and give peace and openness a chance. WHY AM I NOT A WRITER!?!?
In conclusion, Wayward Pines was a fun ride, but it missed out on the chance of being truly special. And yes, when it’s time for a reboot, I offer my services to make it better (The same goes for you Lost and the Transformer movie franchise).