July 24, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Wayward Pines”


If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few seasons, it’s that no matter how much a network swears it’s airing a “closed-end” or “event” series, that’s never ever the case.  If the initial run of episodes have any kind of success, the network will find a way to keep the series going, either as an anthology (True Detective, American Crime) or just by producing more episodes whether the storyline makes cumulative sense or not (Under the Dome).  WAYWARD PINES, however, seemed like it would be an exception to the rule for strictly practical reasons:  FOX sat on the show for a solid year before airing it, meaning that the actor deals had already expired.  In addition, the network did the series no favors by premiering it on the last Thursday of the regular season, against the season finales of Scandal and The BlacklistPines seemed destined to burn off its episodes and exit forever.

But a funny thing happened:  the series rebounded from its low premiere, and has ended up doing as well as any other network scripted show this summer, and better than most.  And as we discovered with tonight’s finale, the nature of the ending could easily permit a semi-rebooted Season 2, since most of the characters played by big-name actors were either dead or absent, perhaps permanently.

A Season 2 would be a different proposition from the first, which had to be carefully marketed to hide the secret that wasn’t revealed until halfway through the run.  As it turned out, that first half was the weakest part of the story, an apparent rip-off of/homage to Twin Peaks, but without anything to compare to David Lynch’s touch for surrealist Americana.  In the end, though, while Wayward was based on novels by Blake Crouch, it fit into Executive Producer M. Night Shyamalan’s reputation for plot twists, as that entire first set of hours was revealed as a trick to hide the fact that the action was really taking place 2000 years in the future, with the town as the only remaining outpost of 21st-century humanity, and predator mutants controlling the rest of the planet.  (In truth, not everything that happened in those first episodes fit together even after the big reveal, but it was best not to dwell on that.)

The finale, written by Crouch and Executive Producers Chad Hodge and Matt and Ross Duffer, and directed by Tim Hunter, spun the story into all-out horror.  David Pilcher (Toby Jones), the mad scientist behind the entire scheme to rescue a remnant of mankind but preserve it via surveillance and ritualized murder, decided that the current Wayward Pines residents were a failure and should just be eliminated, so he turned off the electricity to the fence that kept the mutants out.  Soon enough there was a season’s worth of Walking Dead people-munching going on.  Our hero Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) bravely sacrificed himself for the good of his wife Theresa (Shannyn Sossamon), son Ben (Charlie Tahan), partner/former mistress Kate (Carla Gugino), and the rest of the town, Pilcher was killed by his sister Pamela (Melissa Leo), and she and Kate, who had been deadly enemies, found a way to band together.  Although things seemed to be stable after that, a further time jump 3 years later revealed that Pilcher’s creepy teen acolytes had somehow taken over and restored Wayward Pines, and the only one who was still clearly alive was Ben.

With the nature of Wayward Pines now revealed, a second season would be a more straightforward thriller, and it could go in many directions, especially since there were still people in Pilcher’s suspended animation tubes who we hadn’t even met, and who could therefore be cast with anyone.  As it was, the show was diverting fun once it finally got going, and without the burden of those introductory hours and the exposition that followed, another season could be quicker out of the gate.  Certainly if Under the Dome was able to stagger into a third season, a second for Pines isn’t so far-fetched.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."