You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Wayward Pines’

Matt Dillon, Melissa Leo, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Shannyn Sossamon, Terrence Howard, Charlie Tahan, Reed Diamond, Juliette Lewis, Tim Griffin, Hope Davis

Adapted from Blake Crouch’s novels with an M. Night Shyamalan-directed pilot, “Wayward Pines” suggests various series – “Twin Peaks” and “Lost” come to mind – but may owe its closest debt to “The Prisoner,” the 1960s cult favorite that featured a spy confined in a strange village from which there appeared to be no exit. Perfectly suited to a 10-part limited run, this Fox show has capitalized on its concentrated approach to cast the project to the hilt, with the disclaimer that viewers shouldn’t become too attached to anyone. All told, it’s a solid TV version of summer popcorn fare.

Matt Dillon stars as Ethan Burke, a Secret Service agent pursuing leads on two missing colleagues in the idyllic, titular Idaho town. The assignment is complicated by the fact that one of the wayward agents is his former partner, Kate (Carla Gugino), with whom he had an affair.

Burke awakens from a car accident in the hospital, where Melissa Leo plays the creepiest nurse this side of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Pretty quickly, he realizes there’s no way to call out of the town, seemingly no escape and a brutal authoritarian regime in place – including a ruthless, ice-cream-eating sheriff (Terrence Howard) – that doesn’t tolerate dissent. “It’s fear that keeps everyone in line,” he’s told.

Ethan befriends a local bartender (Juliette Lewis), but there are nagging questions of who can be trusted. And that also applies to Ethan’s increasingly agitated wife (Shannyn Sossamon), who doesn’t receive much help from her husband’s bosses in seeking information regarding his whereabouts.

Everything about “Wayward Pines” is tense and spooky from the get-go (Chad Hodge adapted the project for TV), down to the old-fashioned rotary phones, which certainly plays into Shyamalan’s strengths as a filmmaker. It’s in finishing off his projects where his feature career has been on a downward trajectory ever since “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable.”

The advantage of a close-ended format is that it allows for teasing out the threads and unfolding clues – is it an experiment? Supernatural? Something akin to “The Truman Show?” – with the promise that audiences won’t be forced to wander in the wilderness for too long awaiting answers.

That said, the cat-and-mouse game begins to become a bit tiresome in the later episodes (five were previewed), before the fifth offers a fairly concrete explanation regarding what’s going on – although even that, seemingly, should be viewed with skepticism, given the unseen forces manipulating and controlling the inhabitants.

Fox did luck out in one respect with Howard’s post-“Empire” involvement, which the network has been eager to tout in its advertising. Still, he’s just one part of an impressive ensemble of players, including Toby Jones and Hope Davis, topped by Dillon, whose slow-healing face lacerations must have been a makeup department nightmare.

The elaborate kickoff campaign also includes a global preview of the pilot, and plenty of promotion within “American Idol,” all of which should help put the program on the map – wherever that is. The limited time investment involved means “Wayward Pines” isn’t “Lost,” despite the mysterious similarities, and that’s probably a good thing. Because based on half the journey, for those with a taste for such fare, it looks like a show worth finding.

TV Review: 'Wayward Pines'

(Series; Fox, Thurs. May 14, 9 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Vancouver by Blinding Edge Pictures, De Line Pictures and Storyland in association with FX Prods.

Crew: Executive producers, Donald De Line, Ashwin Rajan, Chad Hodge, M. Night Shyamalan; co-executive producer, Rob Fresco; producer, Ron French; director, Shyamalan; writer, Hodge; based on the novels by Blake Crouch; camera, Amelia Vincent; production designer, Curt Beech; editors, Elizabeth Kling, Michael Ruscio; music, Charlie Clouser; casting, David Rubin. 60 MIN.

Cast: Matt Dillon, Melissa Leo, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Shannyn Sossamon, Terrence Howard, Charlie Tahan, Reed Diamond, Juliette Lewis, Tim Griffin, Hope Davis

More TV

  • Russian Doll

    TV News Roundup: Natasha Lyonne's 'Russian Doll' Sets Netflix Premiere Date

    On Friday’s roundup, Netflix announces the premiere date for “Russian Doll” and Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Brexit” film has a premiere date on HBO FIRST LOOKS Showtime has released a new teaser for the upcoming comedy series, “Black Monday,” which will premiere Sunday, Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The series stars and is executive produced by Don [...]

  • Vanity Fair Review

    TV Review: 'Vanity Fair'

    There’s something comforting about the predictability of a period piece novel adaptation in the Masterpiece Theater tradition. Knowing the story, or even just the rhythms of the genre, there are rarely many surprises. The women will toss off witticisms and cry careful, pretty tears; the men will steel their jaws and declare their love, ideally [...]

  • FILE - In this April 5,

    CBS Claims Commitment to Ending Harassment. Its Actions Say Otherwise (Column)

    At this point, a new breaking sexual harassment case at CBS isn’t exactly a surprise. Over and over again, powerful CBS company men from producers to executives to the ex-CEO himself have made headlines for propagating decades of harassment and abuse, with dozens of witnesses affirming that the pattern was business as usual. But as [...]

  • Willow ShieldsVariety Portrait Studio, Beautycon Festival

    'Hunger Games' Alum Willow Shields Joins Netflix Drama Series 'Spinning Out'

    Willow Shields has been cast in a series regular role in “Spinning Out,” the upcoming ice skating drama series at Netflix. She joins a cast that also includes Kaya Scodelario, who was announced as the series lead on Thursday, taking over the role originally held by Emma Roberts. Shields will star as Serena, Kat Baker’s (Scodelario) [...]

  • Adam Levine Cardi B

    Maroon 5 and How the Super Bowl Halftime Show Became Music's Least Wanted Gig

    Who would have thought that the Super Bowl Halftime show, an American institution watched by more than 100 million people, would become the least wanted gig in music? But thanks to the ongoing controversy concerning the NFL’s stance on a player’s right to protest, brought to the forefront by football’s top conscientious objector Colin Kaepernick, [...]

  • CBS Studios Exterior

    James Corden's Fulwell 73 to Develop Sci-Fi Drama at CBS (EXCLUSIVE)

    CBS is developing a drama series that hails from James Corden’s production company, Fulwell 73, Variety has learned exclusively. The series is titled “Embody.” In the series, after a mission gone wrong renders her permanently blind, a special agent volunteers for an experimental government program that can temporarily transfer her consciousness into someone else’s body, giving [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content