Sep 3, 2015

[TV] Wayward Pines: Season 1

There are like a gazillion shows in our "to-watch" queue for TV shows. With so little free time during the work week and some pretty busy weekends to boot, it seems that we rarely find the time to just sit down and explore shows and see things through. But here and there a show hooks us sufficiently to try and make time for it or at the very least it becomes the priority show to watch during the slower moments.

Wayward Pines was a show that kind of jumped the queue, as it were. We had heard that few friends had talked about the quirks of the show but it didn't immediately blip on the radar. But eventually we gave it a shot and rather liked the vibe of the show and eventually watched the whole thing through.

I like how shows like this seem to be embracing a shorter season term as opposed the more typical network television formula of 20+ episodes in a season. It allows for more focused storytelling and it reduces the chance of fluff characters getting unusual amounts of screen time or ridiculous side plots.

Synopsis: Wayward Pines is a US drama series developed for television by Chad Hodge. The story was based on the Wayward Pines novels written by Blake Crouch.

Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) is a US Secret Service agent who is currently investigating the disappearance of two his colleagues. His investigation leads to a small town known as Wayward Pines, Idaho, but it seems Ethan gets into a car accident on his way there. He wakes up in the town hospital with no links to the outside world. He eventually gets out of the hospital and finds that he is also unable to leave the town as well as the one road out of town just seems to lead back to it.

Eventually he explored Wayward Pines and is tipped off to a small cottage where he finds what appears to be the remains of one of the officers that he had been sent to find. He also manages to find Kate (Carla Gugino), the other agent and a former lover of his. But apparently she has been living a normal, almost idyllic life here in the town for some years now. Confused by her changed state, he is eventually shown that the town is managed by some pretty strict rules of behavior and violators risk the chance of being "reckoned" which is their term for being publicly executed.

Despite the relative brevity of the show in terms of its overall length, things started out with a delightfully measured and gradual pace that brings the words "slow burn" to mind. After all, we spend most of the first two episodes with Ethan having little to know clue what the heck is going on in the town and with us as viewers limited to the same perspective. It's a manner of storytelling that we don't see a lot of these days as many shows seem insistent on spoon feeding most facts to the audience (think How to Get Away With Murder).

Matt Damon was an interesting choice as a lead actor. I'm sure he still has some name recall, although I tend to associate him more with lighter, more comedic roles as opposed to the grim man Ethan is in the show. He has an odd goofy quality about him, especially when it comes to his facial expressions, but for the most part he managed things well enough in the show.

Toby Jones plays Dr. Jenkins, the town psychiatrist and he's one of those actors pretty much fated to play "evil" roles. I like how things weren't precisely like that in the show, but you have to admit he has the look of an evil genius about him. Just look back at his work in the first Captain America movie.

And that whole switch around is what defines a lot about the series. Sure, its' easy to bring up the likelihood of surprise twists as we had M. Night Shyamalan involved in the show as one of the producers and the director of the first episode. But beyond that, the entire narrative has you as a viewer repeatedly shown the "truth" about things and we then follow Ethan as he tries to deal with the new status quo.

And things really become interesting as we see his character torn between his original convictions at the start of the series and what he ends up doing later on in order to protect his family and hopefully still get to the bottom of things. As much as Ethan is a trooper, his character is still presented as a dogged investigator and he seems to have a good feel for when he's not being told the full truth.

I thought this show would be some sort of Eerie Indiana style experience with a more adult tone, but the way the show came out rather surprised me. Yes, I wasn't entirely expecting all the twists and this was a good case of when I enjoyed being surprised. Sure, some characters were portrayed in rather hammy, campy ways (hello Terrance Howard!) but in the end they all told a quirky and rather unique story. And that's what made this show so memorable.

Wayward Pines is hardly a perfect example of how to create a genre TV series and I can totally see it not getting renewed for a second season. But hey, that cliffhanger ending was quaint enough and maybe someone will decide to write a new story to fill another season, right? For now, this season gets 4 secrets and mysteries hidden beyond the outskirts of town out of a possible 5.

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