Critical Condition: Wayward Pines

Which touchstone is M Night Shyamalan's small-town mystery most indebted to: Twin Peaks? Lost? The Prisoner? Under the Dome? The Love Boat? Find out when it premieres on Thursday (The Zone, 8.30).

Which touchstone is M Night Shyamalan’s Wayward Pines most indebted to: Twin Peaks? Lost? The Prisoner? Under the Dome? The Love Boat? Find out when the 10-part, small-town mystery premieres on Thursday (The Zone, 8.30).

“The short description of the miniseries is that Secret Service agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) is on his way from Seattle to Idaho when he’s in a car accident and wakes up in Wayward Pines, a plastic nightmare of a fake town from which he can’t escape. But that’s not even close to what it’s about. You can find strong elements of Twin Peaks and The Prisoner in it, plus a little bit of that Lost feel and a whole lot of that Twilight Zone vibe. It is also, along the way, a maddening mish-mash of tone shifts from dead serious to creepy to silly and then onward toward some kind of mind-bending dystopian sci-fi.”

“Everything about Wayward Pines is tense and spooky from the get-go, down to the old-fashioned rotary phones, which certainly plays into Shyamalan’s strengths as a filmmaker. It’s in finishing off his projects where his feature career has been on a downward trajectory ever since The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. The advantage of a close-ended format is that it allows for teasing out the threads and unfolding clues – is it an experiment? Supernatural? Something akin to The Truman Show? – with the promise that audiences won’t be forced to wander in the wilderness for too long awaiting answers.”

Wayward Pines does have more than a hint of Twin Peaks, but it’s not nearly as weird and imaginative. It’s a 10-episode thriller based on a series of novels by Blake Crouch that feels plodding. A small town can be sleepy, but the mystery that binds its residents shouldn’t also be soporific. Part of the problem is the pace. Wayward Pines takes a slow, ritualistic and gloomy death march through the obvious [with] the artsy, distinctive look of an auteur-driven television show, but its energy and creativity exist solely on the surface … Wayward Pines is supposed to be so scary it keeps people awake at night. I’ve never slept better.”

Entertainment_Weekly-1.svg_“A shocking number of shocking deaths will make you care, and several entertaining performances will hold your interest, particularly that of a lively Melissa Leo as a creepy, knowing nurse who may be an agent of control in the town. She, Terrence Howard, and Carla Gugino—who has the most alluring mystery—know how to work well in the murk. They pull you through everything that’s tired, tedious, and trippy and nurture hope that Wayward Pines will add up to something novel. Or, at least, just add up.”

“Like an episode of The Love Boat or a disaster movie from the 1970s, Wayward Pines presents a series of well-known actors in unexpected roles. Is that Juliette Lewis playing an oddly friendly bartender? Terrence Howard as the sheriff with a strangely menacing ice cream fetish? There’s Toby Jones as the amiable doctor. That’s Justin Kirk, briefly seen as a bearded Realtor, and Hope Davis as the zealous teacher who is definitely Hiding Something. Honestly, for a critic of a certain age, it became difficult not to scan the crowd scenes in search of Red Buttons or Mr Fred Astaire.”

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One Response to “Critical Condition: Wayward Pines”

  1. Looking forward to watching this show tonight.

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