Wayward Pines is halfway through its second season, and it’s moved way beyond the questions that drove its initial narrative. Everyone on the show knows where they are; a voice-over every week brings new viewers up to speed. But why they’re there still remains a mystery—and it’s something season two is struggling to answer.
We’ll be discussing episodes one through five, and have seen episode six (which airs tonight), so let’s just go ahead and drop this here:
Last season was all about Matt Dillon’s character—and with him, an intrigued TV audience—puzzling out the secrets of the picture-perfect yet paranoia-laden Idaho town. The biggest reveals were, of course, were that Wayward Pines’ residents (put into suspended sleep to survive their species’ near-extinction) are all that’s left of humanity 2,000 years in the future; and that giant wall just outside the city limits was built not to contain its populace, but rather to protect it from the snarling creatures that have replaced humans: “abbies.”
That’s a lot of jaw-dropping information, and season one carefully doled it out piece by piece, week by week. Season two is far less suspenseful. Instead, the overriding mood is desperation, followed closely by fear and existential dread. This is partially thanks to Jason Higgins (Tom Stevens), a “First Generation” member who was specifically chosen in infancy by late town founder David Pilcher to be groomed as ruler, and whose fascist tendencies aren’t limited to his fondness for Hitler Youth-esque uniforms.
It’s also because the people of Wayward Pines are no longer content to dutifully obey the town’s rules, which seem to have actually dwindled from last season’s array of bullet points (“Do not discuss your life before,” etc.) to one huge blanket policy on never questioning authority. But though the town still holds public executions, the citizens have gotten bolder. The surveillance system isn’t as omnipotent as it was before season one’s massive abbie invasion, so people can communicate more freely. Without Pilcher’s iron grip keeping total order, the town’s corners don’t line up as perfectly as they once did. That means the leaders are more capriciously dangerous, and everyone—no matter where they stand—has begun to worry, not just about their own day-to-day struggles, but about the future of the town, and with it the survival of the human race.
To that last point, the town has adopted a mighty creepy repopulation strategy, overseen by shark-like Pilcher disciple Megan Fisher (Hope Davis), in which girls who’ve just gotten their first periods are paired up—eugenics alert!—with boys the same age and ordered to procreate or else. There’s no wiggle room for kids who are gay or who don’t want to start having sex at age 11 or 12, much less start popping out babies.
There are even more immediate concerns. One is that the town’s food supply is dangerously low and cannot be replenished, thanks to a coordinated abbie attack on crops planted in the only usable soil around, located outside the wall. Agricultural expert/town elder CJ (Djimon Hounsou) estimates they have six weeks before people start starving to death. That abbie attack beyond the wall is also a big reason why the town’s stash of vital medicine is so low; town doctor and recently-thawed contrarian Theo (Jason Patric) warns that without the proper drugs on hand, even seemingly minor infections could become fatal. Amazingly, even zealot Jason’s faith begins to waver. In Wayward Pines, there’s no religion other than Pilcher’s cult of human survival—and that’s looking rather bleak by the end of episode six.
There’s another mood that lurks around the edges of Wayward Pines this season: regret. The younger characters feel it—like the older brother who caves and tells obsessed babymaker Megan Fisher that his sister has just gotten her first visit from Aunt Flo. But the folks who remember “life before” do battle with it daily. One of the season’s best moments is when Theo, who was abducted into his Wayward Pines residency, wonders what his father thought when he realized his son had suddenly dropped off the face of the earth. More than anything, Theo wishes he’d had a chance to tell his father good-bye.
This is heavy stuff, and Wayward Pines—a show that drew initial comparisons to Twin Peaks—is way lower on the quirkiness scale this season. (Siobhan Fallon Hogan’s performance as the hospital’s daffy secretary is the only thing that even resembles comic relief.) This may be due to the decreased involvement of M. Night Shyamalan (still credited as an executive producer), or it may just because everything is pointing toward OMG WE’RE ALL DOOMED.
And really, everything is also pointing toward the fact that doom is perhaps the best and only path for the human race in the distant future. The abbies have a much more prominent role this season, particularly after a powerful and poised female abbie becomes one of Megan Fisher’s laboratory study subjects. It’s clear that the abbies aren’t the savages that the people of Wayward Pines have always assumed—they may be drooly, but they’re organized, they’re fast learners, and they definitely have an end game. They are also shown as having suffered thanks to Pilcher and company, who never engaged them with anything other than hot sprays of bullets.
How will the rest of the season play out? If Wayward Pines is to succeed as a show it needs to realize, unlike those stubborn humans, when it’s time to bow out. (That means no season three, guys.) And even if trying to cheat evolution weren’t a factor, most of the characters are horrid people who aren’t much fun to spend time with. Even de facto main character Theo is a hot-tempered jerk a lot of the time.
And, sorry, but Wayward Pines is an absolutely horrible place to live. It doesn’t resemble life as we currently know it in any way, shape, or form. How could it, given the circumstances? If Pilcher’s original volunteers knew that their utopian future would include the constant threat of violence, unending power struggles, and the unpleasant business of forcing children to breed, would they have signed on so eagerly? Perhaps not. The show’s biggest problem right now is that it’s become difficult to care if humanity lives or dies. Frankly, I hope they all die—and that female abbie gets to ride on the merry-go-round on Main Street any damn time she pleases.