Friday, 28 August 2015

Wayward Pines

When I first heard about Wayward Pines, all I heard was the comparisons to Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks is one of my favourite shows of all time, and I was worried that this was just going to be some desperate imitation filled with the same quirky characters and surreal delivery – even the title is similar. After many people made these comments, M. Night Shyamalan (executive producer) said, "I think when it's all said and done, it has nothing to do with Twin Peaks." But later, in January 2015, Shyamalan acknowledged that the series is somewhat inspired, especially as the author of the source material has expressed his admiration of Twin Peaks. But I still gave it a go. And you know what? After the first episode, I was completely hooked. This show is like an addiction – and what better time to binge all 10 episodes than now. And thankfully, it is not a desperate Twin Peaks clone.

Wayward Pines, out now on DVD only, is developed for television by Blake Crouch who adapts his own trilogy of novels Pines, Wayward & The Last Town for the screen. M. Night Shyamalan directs the first episode and executively produces the entire series, with a variety of directors handling episodes 2 through 10. Wayward Pines stars Matt Dillon as Ethan Burke, a U.S. Secret Service agent investigating the disappearance of two fellow agents in the mysterious small town of Wayward Pines. Ethan awakens from a car accident unable to contact the outside world, and unable to leave. The inhabitants of Wayward Pines are under constant surveillance by cameras and microphones, and held by a strict set of rules enforced by Sheriff Arnold Pope (Terrence Howard), with any attempt to escape punished by public execution. New residents come and go but it seems the only escape is death – made all the more worrying when Ethan’s wife and son turn up in town by bizarre circumstances. As time goes on, Ethan discovers the harsh truths of this town and has to make increasingly difficult decisions, to protect himself and his family. So already, the Twin Peaks comparisons are looking unfounded, don’t you think? Yes, Wayward Pines has more in common with The Truman Show, with its Orwellian surveillance and inescapable town. I suppose with a title like Wayward Pines and the setting of an unusual small town, comparisons are inevitable. But I can confidently say that this stands firmly on its own as a unique and thrilling series. 

The pacing is relentlessly fast and full of surprises in every episode. By the end of episode 3, I thought to myself “Where can this show go from here? It seems like they’re revealing too much too fast!” after the many twists of the opening episodes. But then - and this happens several times - you’re thrown a curveball which changes everything. When you think you know what’s going on in Wayward Pines, you probably don’t. I don’t want to reveal anything about where the story goes but believe me when I say it’s one of the most original and unpredictable shows I’ve seen in a while – especially when you consider the arguably intentionally misleading marketing. If you’re in the loop with current television, you may have noticed that the finale didn’t go down very well with audiences. Some thought it was anti-climactic and underwhelming, or too ambiguous. For me, the ending was perfect – made even better by repeat viewings, which this show encourages and welcomes. Whilst some shows don’t have a lot of replay value, Wayward Pines almost requires it.

Wayward Pines has a superb cast. Matt Dillon is great, in his finest role yet – as Ethan, we spend the entire series at his side and share in all of his emotions; anger, fear, sadness and confusion. But the show is an ensemble piece, with some terrific turns from faces both familiar and unfamiliar. Toby Jones is on typically incredible form as Dr. Jenkins, Oscar-winner Melissa Leo is extremely unsettling as the town nurse and Terrence Howard brings some understated scares of his own as the psychopathic Sheriff Pope. Juliette Lewis is great too as bartender Beverly and Carla Gugino is fantastic as Ethan’s former lover Kate – who has also ended up a resident of the unusual town.

Wayward Pines is a hard series to review. Because of the many twists and turns and genre changes, it’s difficult to talk about without giving anything away. But if you have 40 minutes free to watch the first episode, do it. You’ll be hooked from then on. Wayward Pines is one of the most thrilling, shocking, addictive and entertaining new shows of the last few years. And as it wraps up in just one 10-episode season, it isn’t a huge commitment to watch.

Wayward Pines is one of the strongest mystery thrillers I’ve ever seen, and earns a solid 5/5.


Sam Love

Wayward Pines at CeX

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