The association of producer M. Night Shyamalan made everyone assume that Wayward Pines would end with some kind of mind-blowing twist. And lo, there was a twist ... but it wasn’t nearly as huge as the one that came midway through the show’s run. Spoilers follow!
After 10 episodes, which wrapped up with last night’s “Cycle,” the result was a show that felt a bit like it was running in place after letting the air out of its mystery five or six episodes in. That doesn’t mean it was completely devoid of thrills and unexpected moments; though we were taught that Wayward Pines’ “First Generation” believed it was an elevated class, it was still shocking last week to see sneering teenager Jason, a character we’d never met prior, cruelly mowing down unarmed prisoners. Jason was unfortunately a bit of a one-note villain—a missed opportunity there, since it would’ve been fascinating to know more about his state of mind—but he’s also David Pilcher’s ultimate creation. The “abbies” were shaped by environmental factors to become human-like creatures that kill without conscience, and Pilcher’s created essentially the same result, with his list of rules, his spreading of paranoia via surveillance, and his fondness for public executions as a way of spreading fear and meting out “justice.”
Last week, Pilcher reacted to Ethan publicly revealing the truth about Wayward Pines by shutting off all the town’s power, essentially opening the gates for an abbie invasion. He’s ready to kill ’em all and start the whole thing over. “We need to discuss preparations for the awakening of Group C,” he tells a horrified Pam. (Over the past few weeks, it’s become clear why recent Oscar winner Melissa Leo took this role; unlike Matt Dillon’s Ethan Burke, who was solid but remained on the same predictable path throughout, Pam was easily the show’s most layered/disturbing/chameleonic character.) Though Pam’s believed in her brother’s vision all along, she finally puts her foot down, or tries to. This is no longer about ideas, she tells David—this is about saving human lives.
But at this point, any dedicated viewer of Wayward Pines has gotta ask what the point is. This experiment has failed, and it’s not entirely David Pilcher’s fault, to be honest. Is there any way a contained settlement in the year 4028, hemmed in on all sides by an electric fence to protect its residents from certain death outside, will succeed, even if everyone is BFF?
This is a big question that the show doesn’t answer. But it does plunge toward its final moments with energy, as Ethan, Theresa, and Kate gather up everyone who survived the abbie invasion and head to the vacant-lot bunker Theresa discovered last week; it has tunnels, Megan Fisher grudgingly reveals, that lead to Pilcher’s mountain lair. There’s a drawn-out sequence that includes a ladder-climb out of a stuck elevator, but the upshot is: Megan, who bravely stays behind in case any of her precious students show up at the bunker’s locked door, is eaten by abbies. Theresa, Amy, and Ben survive, though Ben takes a knock to the skull that puts him in a coma. And Ethan dies heroically, blowing up an elevator shaft to prevent a pack of shrieking abbies from devouring his loved ones.
In the mountain complex, David orders his guards to put everyone into stasis, including all the volunteers and the rebellious Pam. But her “sleep” doesn’t last long, thanks to a sympathetic guard who lets her go. It’s fitting that Pam, who’s followed her brother from day one, be the one to depose him from power, via a bullet to the chest.
So. Ethan’s dead. David’s dead. The two men who’ve battled each other throughout Wayward Pines’ entire arc—unable to negotiate their differing views on how to preserve the last dregs of humanity—are gone. There’s a moment of hope when it looks like Theresa, Pam, and Kate might be taking charge. “No more lies. No more surveillance. No more reckonings,” Pam vows.
But something David says before he dies ends up providing the final thought for Wayward Pines, and fueling its inevitable final twist: “You can’t kill my ideas.” Thus, we have a comatose Ben waking up in Wayward Pines’ hospital, much like his father did when the show started. Turns out he’s been asleep, or rather in stasis, for three years. Amy, now a nurse, is still on his side, but “they’re listening,” she tells him, and his status as the son of Ethan Burke makes him a marked man. Seems the First Generation, led by Jason, successfully rode out the abbie attack on the “ark” Pilcher hid for them inside Wayward Pines Academy, and it’s now in charge.
The ways of the old days are back ... but actually, they’re worse than ever. We see Ben stumble down Main Street, past that ever-symbolic merry-go-round, and everything looks squeaky clean and harmonious. Everyone is young, since all of the adults are either dead or in stasis.
But the camera pulls up, revealing there’s dissent even among the youth who grew up learning Pilcher’s teachings: a corpse, hanging from a noose, wearing a sign that reminds all who see it of Wayward Pines’ rule number one: “Do Not Try to Leave.” The show is over, though ... so thankfully, we can, left with the depressing notion that humanity wasn’t worth saving in the first place.