“Wayward Pines” started with one of those “The Twilight Zone”-like mysteries and rode that for several episodes, before belching out its big secret in one long bit of exposition halfway through its run. And frankly, whatever one might think of the novels on which the program was based, it never recovered, dramatically speaking, from that juncture, leading up to a season (and possibly series) finale that was chaotic, violent and unsatisfying. When an hour of television is most memorable for its fleeting “The X-Files” tease, something has been lost in translation.
Yes, there were some big deaths in the final hour (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched), after the genetically aberrant monsters humankind has become in 4028 penetrated the town’s defenses, feasting on the populace. Yet one can argue that the dramatic tension oozed out of the show shortly after the midway point, once it became clear Wayward Pines was actually an island from which there was no return, with the characters’ lives back in the 21st century having long since evaporated.
Would humanity survive? Frankly, once everyone but those suspended in cryogenic freeze has been dead for centuries, it was hard to really care.
For those who still did, getting caught up in whether what amounted to a small rebellion could break the authoritarian control of founder David Pilcher (Toby Jones), “Wayward Pines” engaged in a considerable cheat. After playing out that narrative, the producers abruptly skipped an enormous amount of story in having the main character’s teenage son, Ben (Charlie Tahan), awaken from a coma, only to discover that — during his extended slumber — the town’s creepy First Generation had taken over, fulfilling Pilcher’s original vision of control through surveillance and fear. At that point, it seemed almost irrelevant that Pilcher, along with intrepid hero Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon), had died.
It is, obviously, a rather bleak appraisal of humanity’s present as well as its future. Still, the show’s principal failing is that — even with all the big-name actors who passed through, some dying early on — the program didn’t succeed in conjuring any more incentive to care about these people individually than it did the town collectively. That seemed especially true as an assemblage of anonymous extras flanked the Burke family as they raced down the tunnel and up the elevator shaft, with Burke and his one-time partner Kate (Carla Gugino) bravely leading the way.
Although the producers are still talking about the possibility of another season, it’s hard to see what would be enticing about continuing this story, given where this arc concluded. Because while “Wayward Pines” began with the premise of whether people could find a way to achieve forced harmony and peace under these confined circumstances, it gave them precious little to aspire to — no hope of escape or redemption beyond its walls.
If those sadistic, sneering kids wind up representing humankind, hey, at least the rest of us have been dead a couple of millennia and don’t need to worry about whether these children are our future. So goodbye, “Wayward Pines,” another series that started with mystery and promise and, ultimately, couldn’t see the forest for the trees.