Wayward Pines’s latest ep, “The Friendliest Place on Earth,” should’ve been titled “Mission Accomplished.” The episode not only ends with an insurgent finally completing the faction’s mission of breaking through the fence (by slamming a stolen dump truck straight through it), but also with David Pilcher getting his full George W. Bush on and telling his personnel that “we are in a time of war.” Any way you look at it, shit is about to get really real now in Wayward Pines.
As the show has morphed from a single-plot mystery to a multi-layered, speculative-fiction serial (quite successfully, I’ll add), the writers are really letting it rip with the War on Terror allusions. I always had a feeling Pines was a pulpy, paranoid take on post-9/11 America; “Friendliest,” with several characters still haunted by tragedies they could’ve prevented — and subsequently overcompensating to prevent future ones — definitely confirms it.
Even though he’s in a tyrannical, Napoleon-complex mode now, it’s hard not to sympathize with Pilcher. (Plus, how can you hate on Toby Jones? Not only is he a good actor, dude looks like a beloved cartoon character!) With memories of the last time he told residents the truth still in his mind, he gets the daily paper to report that the explosion from last week’s ep was a gas leak so as to calm the increasingly inquisitive townspeople. He even throws a “fellowship gathering” at Pam’s request, which had to be the most pitiful — and incredibly windy — street fair I’ve ever seen. (The sight of Siobhan Fallon Hogan’s receptionist kvetching while holding a churro did make me smile.)
But Pilcher still has to deal with those pesky insurgents, some of whom (including Harold) are hiding out in the woods. When he starts wondering who at headquarters might be helping them, Pam conducts an internal investigation of the volunteers in order to cool him out. And while many of the volunteers are all too happy to keep tabs on the townsfolk for their leader (“I love it when they let something slip,” says on), another volunteer — let’s call him Poor Ol’ Reggie — reveals that he’s been known to occasionally erase footage of people crying about how they got here. “It’s just human nature to ask questions,” he tells Pam, who uncharacteristically does not divulge this info to his brother.
Unfortunately, Pilcher was watching the exchange go down from his office. Despite Pam’s pleas not to give a Reggie a reckoning, even going so far as to offer herself as a sacrifice (where the hell did this selfless, compassionate Pam come from?), Pilcher thinks up an alternative: He sticks Reggie back in suspended animation. See ya in another 2,000 years, Reg!
Pilcher isn’t the only haunted character making rash decisions for the good of the people. Though she spends most of the episode locked in a jail cell, we do learn what made Kate decide to be the town’s Guy Fawkes: In a flashback we see her straitjacketed, yelling about getting out of town and demanding to talk to someone in charge before Nurse Pam puts her under. She later has Pilcher fooled during an office visit in another flashback, saying she’s accepted the laid-back life of Pines over the fear and anxiety of her previous life. But the brainwashing didn’t actually take, and she’s ready to start a revolution.
All of this makes me care more for Ethan than I did when he was just trying to escape Pines all by his lonesome. Ever since assuming the role of sheriff, he’s become a lawman whose black wardrobe continually matches his mood. He made a promise to protect the townspeople from the faction, the abbies, and even Pilcher. But in the episode, all those opponents came at him at once. Not to mention that his son — who, thankfully, survived that bomb blast — is laid up in the hospital, pissed that his dad let the man responsible for the blast go. All this drama made a remorseful Ethan finally tell Theresa about “the Easter bombings” (remember that red herring from the pilot?) and how he could’ve stopped the terrorist who ended up killing 621 people.
I’m shocked Ethan hasn’t flipped out and alerted the townspeople of the dire circumstances they’re in. He certainly had his chance at the gathering, where he took the mic and informed the public that, yes, a bomb did go off, and they should all take their asses back home. Now that the fence has been penetrated and abbies (tell me this doesn’t flash in your head whenever you see them) have access inside Wayward Pines, I’m gonna assume the final two episodes will have Ethan trying to stay sane as this nightmare continues to develop around him.
SOME STRAY THOUGHTS
- With veteran TV director Tim Hunter helming the episode, this proud Twin Peaks knockoff finally has a Peaks connection. And don’t think I didn’t get that wink to Peaks when Pam told Pilcher she was gonna slice a piece of pie for him.
- I see Amy is continuing her reign as the Thirstiest Teenage Girl on Prime Time. Even when she’s in the hospital with her face scraped up, she still has time to rest her head on Ben’s chest (where she can hear his heart beating double-time — because he’s WITH A GIRL) and ultimately just lie next to the dude.
- Once again rocking some killer knee-high boots, persuasive schoolmarm Dr. Fisher shows up at the hospital to put the bug in Ben’s ear about his dad letting Harold go and almost killing him. (Is Pilcher personally instructing her to do these deeds, or does she just dig manipulating the minds of kids?) Theresa is certainly on to her tricks, which leads to her pulling out the claws when she sees Dr. Fisher at the hospital. That was a nice, bitchy soap-opera moment.
- I guess Theresa was too concerned with her kid in the hospital to investigate that lot.
- “Is he really a doctor?” With everything Ethan’s been through, can you blame him for still being leery enough to ask that question?
- It seems the writers really wanted to make sure that somebody from the faction had a sufficient reason to steal a truck and take down the fence. So, they saddled Harold and the other guy whose name escapes me with some slowly dying rando. When that guy died, the other guy decided he needs to be buried in “free soil,” outside of Pines. While I assume the writers wanted a moment of doomed liberation at the end, with the other guy holding his dead comrade in his arms (“We made it, buddy!” he predictably told the corpse), they didn’t have to go through all of that.
- Since we got plenty of close-ups of Melissa Leo’s face in this episode, am I the only one who found that red ridge around her nose (a remnant from her dust-up with Ethan way back in the pilot) to be kind of hypnotic?