Wayward Pines (2015) is mystery, thriller, and science fiction television series based on the Wayward Pines trilogy of novels by Blake Crouch. The show was created by Chad Hodge and produced by veteran filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan.
The first season centers on Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) a U.S. Secret Service agent on his way to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents in the town of Wayward Pines, Idaho. On the way, Ethan and his partner get into a car accident. Ethan wakes up hospitalized inside Wayward Pines. Soon, he finds himself unable to leave the town.
His investigating reveals that one of his partners is dead, while the other—his former lover Kate Hewson (Carla Gugino)—is alive and married. Why has she settled down in this town, and not reported back to the U.S. Secret Service. And why is she so afraid of speaking with him? “They’re watching us,” she says.
Soon, Ethan discovers Wayward Pines is more than a strange small town. For one, it’s surrounded by an electrified fence. Any attempt at escape is punished by a public execution known as a “reckoning,” carried out by Arnold Pope (Terrence Howard), the town sheriff.
Everyone in this town is acting strange, one way or another. All of them seem to be keeping secrets from Ethan who continues searching for the truth.
Meanwhile, Ethan’s wife Theresa (Shannyn Sossamon) and son Ben (Charlie Tahan), drive to Wayward Pines to investigate Ethan’s mysterious disappearance. They too get into a car accident and wake up hospitalized and trapped in Wayward Pines.
Although I love watching small town television mysteries like Broadchurch (2013-) and Harper’s Island (2009), I was a bit skeptical about Wayward Pines, given M. Night Shymalan’s track record as a filmmaker. I love his earlier work, but his more recent films keep getting worse and worse. The Last Airbender (2010), for example.
That’s why I was pleasantly surprised by how good the series’s pilot episode was—and M. Night both produced and directed that episode! Maybe M. Night has found his true calling as a television series producer? But that pilot episode convinced me to give the series a chance, and I’m delighted that I did.
Every episode of the first season gives off an ominous vibe. There is never a dull moment throughout the series, and the suspense built at a steady pace.
The cast was also excellent. I was especially terrified by Melissa Leo’s portrayal of Nurse Pam. Even the secret service agent Ethan was more afraid of her than he was of Sheriff Pope, who carried out the public killings in Wayward Pines. Another standout was Megan Fisher who played Hope Davis, the former hypnotherapist now principal of Wayward Pines Academy.
Science fiction elements are introduced in later episodes. This may surprise viewers who were expecting a usual small town mystery show. However, I very much enjoy the sci-fi genre. The sci-fi elements were a welcome addition for me.
VERDICT: Wayward Pines puts a sci-fi spin on the small town television mystery genre, and is a thrill to watch. It’s also a welcome back to form for M. Night Shyamalan. If you’re a sci-fi fan searching for an intelligent and entertaining television mystery I strongly recommend watching season 1 of Wayward Pines.