Summer 2015 Review: Wayward Pines

15 May

Wayward Pines

There are supernatural mystery shows and then there are supernatural mystery shows. Many post-Lost supernatural mysteries have somewhat tamped down the mystery angle, probably smartly, so that they can work as character-based shows while the slow process of unfurling plot and answering questions inches its way forward. Often this effort is unsuccessful, and the dialogue and characters pale in comparison to the sheer curiosity generated by the central mysteries, but the effort is noble and well-advised. Placing all your eggs in the mystery basket often leads to disaster as Lost clearly demonstrated. Wayward Pines, however, disregards that recent trend, putting just about all its eggs in that supernatural mystery basket; every last one of them.

Matt Dillon portrays the protagonist, a secret service agent on a mysterious secret mission trying to find a missing coworker/former lover.  He is involved in a car accident, remembers little when he comes to and wakes up in a strange town in a decidedly old-fashioned doctor’s office where a seriously creepy Melissa Leo is working as his nurse. He is immediately suspicious of why he can’t contact anyone and where his belongings are. He gets up and escapes the hospital and then finds a local bar where the kind bartender played by Juliette Lewis offers him a burger on the house along with her address.

Things get weirder from there. Dillon, after an unsuccessful run in with sheriff Terence Howard, gets corralled back to the doctor’s office (I might bet getting the exact order of these events wrong, but that doesn’t really matter). He goes back to the bar, where it turns out no one is familiar with Juliette Lewis, going as far as to claim that she doesn’t exist and that he’s inventing her. When he heads to the address she left for him, he finds his fellow agent and passenger in the car in which he had his accident brutally murdered.

He tries to get out of the town, but finds that it’s surrounded on all sides by fence; it’s a trap or a prison or something. Juliette Lewis helps him escape from the hospital before surgery is performed on him against his well (more creepy Melissa Leo, along with help of doctor Toby Jones), conveying to him that she’s been trapped in this mysterious town for years. He eventually runs into the subject of his initial search, played by Carla Gugino, who looks all Stepford Wife-d up, and is older than he remembers her. It turns out, she tells him in hushed tones, because there are ears everywhere, that she’s been there 12 years, while far less time has passed in the outside world.

Oh, if that’s not enough, there are scenes outside of Wayward Pines featuring Dillon’s wife and son in Seattle, who are freaking out, naturally about what happened to him after the accident, since neither he nor his body has been found. His boss tells them he has no idea what happen to Dillon, but we learn that the boss is totally in on it, calling Toby Jones, to try to call whatever it is off, but it’s too late.

The recent summer network show that really went for the jugular supernatural mystery-wise that Wayward Pines immediately reminds me of is Under the Dome. I regret to remember that I watched nearly the entire first season of Under the Dome, despite the fact that it was probably the worst season of television I’ve seen in the past five years (Dexter Seasons 6 and 8 may be the closest competition). Asking questions is easy. Answering them is hard. It’s crazy but true that I liked Under the Dome well enough to keep watching it the first time I saw it because it got so stupid, so fast, but that’s because the easiest part of these shows is the pilot. If you believe the writers know what they’re doing, that every question asked no matter how outlandish or far-fetched it seems, hides a brilliant, intriguing answer that is satisfying, unpredictable, and wraps up all loose ends, well, these shows are incredibly tantalizing. That almost never, ever, happens, unfortunately, but the less information you know the easier the perfect ending is to imagine.

And if you’re not intrigued by the mystery, well, what else are you really watching Wayward Pines for.  Wayward Pines is obviously inspired by Twin Peaks, and while Twin Peaks was unquestionably mystery-driven – Who Killed Laura Palmer? It wouldn’t have endured without a lot more on its bones than that.

I’m not sure, from the one episode that Wayward Pines has more. The dialogue isn’t particularly sharp and the characters and cinematography are not particularly intriguing. There’s nothing else to get worked up about except for the mystery. And the mystery is actually intriguing to me, but I can only get fooled so many times by supernatural mystery shows before I stop biting. At this point it would take a lot for me to trust in a television supernatural mystery, and I’m not convinced I have that level of trust here.

Will I watch it again? No. I’m not falling for one of these again. I swear. I’m not going to do it. Just one more episode? Maybe it’ll get good? No, I’ll read about it on Wikipedia or if someone tells me I really need to watch it later on.

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