We’re week two into Wayward Pines, and I have to say if the titular town is supposed to be a weird, wild hamlet in the vein of Twin Peaks, it’s a very humorless carbon copy. Sure, Twin Peaks had that extradimensional Black Lodge in the woods, home to body-inhabiting murderer BOB and other damned souls, but they also had quirky townsfolk like the Log Lady and pretty jailbait like Audrey Horne. They also had the Double R Diner, where Norma and Shelly are always ready to serve you a slice of pie, and let’s not forget that roadhouse where you could hear Julee Cruise sing haunting, dream-pop ditties.
Wayward Pines has none of that. As Americana as it looks, it’s devoid of personality. The allegedly friendly townspeople are anything but and, apart from Siobhan Fallon Hogan’s entertainingly insolent sheriff’s receptionist, they aren’t very amusing. But, then again, our hero Agent Burke isn’t trying to stick around and get a nice, little home away from the rat race of the big city.
Wayward Pines is certainly a town that doesn’t even bother hiding the fact that it’s all-around strange. Hell, there are signs in shops telling people, don’t bring up the past and always pick up the telephone. Burke, who suddenly has money even though he still doesn’t have his wallet and other belongings, notices the bills he pays people with are counterfeit bills — from the ‘80s!
As much as Pope, who forces Burke to stay in town now that he’s considered the prime suspect in Agent Stallings’s murder, and Dr. Jenkins try to convince Burke his brain hemorrhage is getting the best of him and he should get surgery (which he almost considers when he thinks he sees his wife and son being wheeled away on gurneys at the hospital), Burke demurs their advice. Of course, his instincts are correct, as bartender Beverly tells him he’s got a microchip implanted in his leg, a monitoring device some Pines folk stuck in there. She also tells him that it was Pope who killed Stallings.
As sluggish as this episode (aptly titled “Don’t Discuss Your Life Before”) is in the beginning, it picks up dread-leaden steam in the second half, as Burke and Beverly, now plotting together to get out of town thanks to a map Stallings left in his shoe, get invited by the Hewsons for an effectively tense dinner. Even though Burke hatches a scheme to leave their microchips at their home so they can skip away undetected, Beverly lets it slip that she has a daughter in her previous life, which is of course a no-no in the land of Pines. Before they could make a run for it, that’s when all the phones ring and the mob comes out with bats and stuff.
When Beverly gets caught, strung up, and has her throat slit by Pope, which is directly taken from Blake Crouch’s Pines book, it’s a far less festive scene than how it was written:
“Most had outfitted themselves in extravagant costumes. Fake gaudy jewelry dripped from the wrists and necks of women. Beaded necklaces and pearls and tiaras ... The men looked equally absurd. One wore a sports coat and no pants.”
The bacchanalian vibe would’ve been a nutty, sordid touch, but that was nowhere to be found. Instead, the townspeople convened like a concerned, vigilante coven, ready to see someone brought to justice. As Pope did the act, a lot of the residents — Kate, the sheriff’s receptionist, even Nurse Pam and Dr. Jenkins — didn’t look all that enthused about what they were witnessing. This is probably the show’s way of giving the townspeople at least a smidgen of a conscience; they may feel just as trapped as Burke.
It’s a bit disappointing seeing Juliette Lewis go. She and Dillon had some good chemistry, as they desperately clung to each other in the hopes of being each other’s springboard out of this trap. But, since it’s in the book, her character had to get knocked off. (This perhaps made it very easy for her to skip over to Secrets and Lies, that ABC series she starred in earlier this season.)
Now Burke is back to having to deal mainly with two women: Kate, who is either helping him discover the truth (she slyly directed him to Stallings’s widow in town, who thinks he died of a suicide) or making sure he doesn’t find out, and his wife Theresa, who was last seen en route to Idaho with their son in the passenger seat. I fear the show may get all soapy and immediately start up a love-triangle story line, since Burke still has some feelings for his partner/old flame, and he might get back to creepin’ mode if he continues to be stuck in this place and Theresa doesn’t show up in time.
As mixed as this show can get, it still has the potential to get menacing and ominous in future episodes. After all, if Wayward Pines is supposed to make the viewer feel as trapped and uncomfortable as Agent Burke, scrambling around a godforsaken hell he’ll do anything to get out of, then it’s working.
SOME STRAY THOUGHTS
- Terrence Howard is certainly making some interesting acting choices as Sheriff Pope. Apart from him rocking an unkempt, woolly head of hair (dude always looks like he just woke up) and constantly licking on ice-cream cones, that whole sequence where he speaks to Burke while he’s hanging out in a jail cell, closing the steel bars and everything, was an interesting way to play the scene.
- Melissa Leo’s Nurse Pam — WTF? What the hell was up with that low-blow taunt to Burke about betting he wants to get back to his wife so they can bang their brains out? Her character (which also may be that new FBI secretary who keeps giving Burke the runaround whenever he calls headquarters — it sure sounds like Leo) has gone from being deceptively monstrous to just plain ol’ gross.
- With the way she was acting all nefarious underneath that beaming smile, it looks like Carla Gugino’s Kate may be the femme fatale of the show. With that auburn hair she's wearing, Gugino looks like the kind of gal Barbara Stanwyck made a career out of playing back in the day, the kind of gal who starts a lot of trouble or gets a guy in trouble.
- The whole microchip scene was handled so matter-of-factly. It’s almost like Beverly told Burke, “Oh dude, by the way, you got a microchip in your leg!” Not to mention Burke took out that microchip out like he was removing a splinter from his foot. Man, that was in your goddamn leg! One of the perks of the Pines book was that Crouch made Burke (and the reader) recognize the pain he was feeling all the time. As for the Burke of the show, the dude is almost impervious to pain. (You tied up that leg wound with duct tape AND YOU’RE STILL WALKING?)
- I loved that brief bit of back-and-forth stammering between Dillon and Lewis when the Hewsons asked them if they were on a date. Under different, less fearful circumstances, that would’ve looked like just another man and woman trying to figure out if they’re a couple or not.
- Was that Al Green Burke and Beverly were dancing to, so they could quietly talk without being heard? And if it was, what was the song? I’m having trouble placing it.
- Wait — so Beverly worked at that bar all along? What about the dude who told Burke last week that she didn’t work there?
- As I mentioned last week, no matter how many shots of the Space Needle you show, Wayward Pines, we all know you shot this show in Canada!