When last we left the post-apocalyptic town of Wayward Pines, a group of violent teens had taken charge after a devastating invasion of “abbies,” monsters that rule the earth in the distant future. With season two premiering tomorrow, May 25, we talked to new showrunner Mark Friedman about what to expect.

io9: The first season of Wayward Pines was all about Matt Dillon’s character solving the mystery of the town. Now that the audience knows the big secret, what will be the source of tension and conflict in season two?

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Mark Friedman: It’s really [building off this idea] that you see in the first season: there are still people sleeping in the mountain. There are new characters that we can wake up, and see them move into this world, so that a new viewer will be able to follow the story and understand it through these characters’ POV. But we also want to honor, and don’t want to insult, the viewers from the first season, who are the reason the show’s coming back. We do not want to spend half a season with a guy trying to figure out what this place is. The one thing I knew we absolutely couldn’t do was tell the same story again.

So we’re taking the crisis for humanity to the next level. The crisis for Wayward Pines is an existential crisis for humanity, because these are the only people left. We’ll be learning more about the abbies outside the fence, how they operate, and also seeing the fractures that are forming between the leadership and the people who live in the town.

Can you give us any hints about what role the abbies will play this season?

We’re going to learn a lot. To me, the one big thing left unexplored [in season one] was the abbies. You only see them as these drooling, screaming monsters. But if they are us, an evolved version of us or a degraded version of us, depending on who you ask, they must have some sort of structure to their world—and some plan, possibly, for eliminating us.

Megan Fisher (Hope Davis) studies an abbie cadaver in the second episode of Wayward Pines, “Blood Harvest.” (Image: Sergei Bachlakov/FOX)

A much bigger part of season two will be how people react when they realize the abbies aren’t exactly the threat that we thought. And at the same time, the biggest thing that we didn’t learn about from season one, is that we’ve only seen male abbies. Where are the females? Clearly there are some, because they’re having children. They’re us in some ways. That question is a bigger part of season two, and it really fits this show perfectly—from the beginning, the show on the human side has always been about incredibly strong female characters. So, to tell a story about strong women, but not just in the human world—that’s something unique that Wayward Pines can do.

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Jason Patric’s character, Theo, is a surgeon—a big change from Matt Dillon’s character, the secret service agent who became the town sheriff. How will this make Theo’s Wayward Pines experience a different one?

Again, we were really conscious of not repeating ourselves, so this isn’t a guy who walks down Main Street with a gun or wears a badge. He’s more of an everyman in certain ways, but he’s also a very smart guy. As a surgeon, he maybe doesn’t always have the best bedside manner, but this is the kind of place where it’s hard to figure out what it all means—and for a guy who’s used to things making sense, this would be a tough place to live. You would just be asking questions all the time.

Dr. Theo Yedlin (Jason Patric ) wearing his trademark look of disbelief in “Blood Harvest.” (Image: Sergei Bachlakov/FOX)

Also, since he’s a surgeon, he’s used to patients that are unconscious on his [operating] table. He doesn’t deal with kids with a cough. He doesn’t have that kind of training. But to me, this show is all about the end of humanity, and people finding their humanity, whether it’s in their jobs, in their relationships, that sort of thing. For him, it’s kind of a journey back to his own humanity.

At the same time—people say that when surgeons see anything they just want to cut. They just want to do surgery and open people up. We talked a lot about the idea of, “Is Wayward Pines the patient? Is that what it will ultimately be for Theo?” He realizes what’s wrong, he realizes he needs to take charge, he realizes he needs to save the patient. But the patient is the town, and it’s all that’s left of all of us, so the stakes are pretty high.

What role will the other new cast member—the character played by Djimon Honsou, who we just barely meet in episode two—play in the story?

Djimon Hounsou’s character is introduced in “Blood Harvest.” (Image: Sergei Bachlakov/FOX)

He is basically what we’re calling “the duster,” which means he was the guy who woke up every 20 years to dust off the pods and check all the systems to make sure everyone was okay. So later in the season, we’ll see that whole story. But the idea was that he’s the one person who really saw mankind’s extinction. He was the one guy who, one day when he turned on the TV, saw just snow because it was all over. We wanted to explore the question of what kind of burden that would place on a person. He’s the only one who has it, and he has no one to share it with. It certainly gives him a different perspective as the season unfolds and the crises that they face get worse.

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The opening credits have changed slightly from last season, along with the way the town physically looks. It’s more beat up and not as picture-perfect after the events of the first season. Will the mood of the show also be even darker and grittier as a result?

Thank you for noticing the credits, because we spent a long time thinking about what we wanted the opening shots to be. [Laughs.] There was a line that didn’t make it into the final cut, which is Theo saying the town has seen better days. We set up a sort of fairy tale version of small-town America in the first season, and the goal was to bring a guy not to that world—[instead] it’s a world with theft, violence, and destruction. It’s a different feeling. But I also didn’t want to do a show that was about a civil war, because in a town like Wayward Pines a civil war would last about four days. It’s not a sustainable storyline.

Season one survivor Charlie Tahan guest stars in the season two premiere. (Image: Sergei Bachlakov/FOX)

I think the show is most successful not when it’s about what happened, but when it’s about the aftermath of what happened, and how people deal with it. Putting people under pressure, and this idea that we’ve got these monsters outside—but the threat inside, amongst ourselves ... we don’t even need the abbies. We’re doing a good job of killing each other without them. There’s a line later in the season where Theo says, “I’ve seen more people die here in a week than in my hospital in Boston in a year.”

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So we want to explore this idea of whether humankind even deserves to be here. These people have cheated death. They’ve jumped in their pods and they’ve slept through the catastrophe. Maybe that was a mistake, and maybe our time is up. For me, when I was writing the first episode, I would read about events in the world and think, “Wow, maybe we really are screwing it up.” There were always things going on that made me think, someone could make the argument that mankind has squandered their opportunity here, and doesn’t deserve it.

Wayward Pines returns Wed, May 25 on Fox.