TV Review: Wayward Pines - Season 1 Episode 1 "Where Paradise Is Home"
M. Night Shyamalan is not exactly the trusted name he used to be. Ten years ago,Shyamalan carried with him a level of credibility that told the viewer that his movies were something special with a guaranteed twist you didn't see coming. His last half dozen films have instilled less and less confidence that he is able to pull off what he used to. So, what better what to regain a viewer's confidence than producing a television event series in line with the type of movies that made you a household name? Helming the first episode of Wayward Pines, a ten episode event series on FOX with an all-star cast, Shyamalan aims to bring us a series that evokes everything from Lost, The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, and The Prisoner
After watching the first episode, I am glad to say that Wayward Pines is not a disaster on the level of THE HAPPENING or THE LAST AIRBENDER. In fact, Wayward Pines is a decent mindf*ck of a premiere with the promise of some seriously bizarre twists and turns.. The plot is basic enough: a Secret Service agent on the hunt for his partner finds himself in a car accident. When he awakens, he finds himself in a small Idaho town full of bizarre characters. Unable to escape, Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon), begins to investigate where he is and why he cannot escape.
On the good side, Wayward Pines has a lot more atmosphere than the similarly themed Under The Dome. Where that series seems brighter, Wayward Pines evokes the drab natural environments in a way that evokes Twin Peaks and The Killing. The town itself feels off almostg as much as the characters do. Populated by everyone from Melissa Leo as a creepy nurse, Juliette Lewis as a potential ally, Terence Howard as the sherrif, and Carla Gugino as Ethan's former partner/lover turned pod person, the cast of Wayward Pines is pretty damn impressive. Some seem a bit hammy (Leo and Howard), but they all compliment Matt Dillon's exacerbated Ethan Burke.
Where Wayward Pines seems to stumble is in the flashbacks and "real world" sections of the episode. Shannyn Sossamon plays Burke's wife who is told he was involved in a car accident and is now missing. She begins to investigate on her own, using Ethan's friend and supervisor to aid her. We quickly learn that he made some sort of a deal with a doctor played by Toby Jones who seems to run Wayward Pines. Narratively, there is no indicator of when we are getting a flashback or a real world sequence which gives the entire episode a disjointed feel. Maybe this will be explained as the series goes on, but it required me to rewind and rewatch several scenes in the first episode alone.
By episode's end, we know that Wayward Pines is not some accidental or supernatural place but a very man-made prison. Why it exists is still a mystery, but even the reveal we do get seems like it could have been saved for later in the show's run. Wayward Pines is being presented as a one season series, so maybe there is no reason to save these reveals for later episodes, but it still feels like it could have been shown in a better manner. Wayward Pines definitely seems like it has a lot of weird and surreal potential, but the first hour doesn't seem to quite stick the landing. I am definitely going to watch and see what happens over the next nine hours, but I am not holding my breath.