After nine hours of back to back shocks to the system, Wayward Pines
delivered it's tenth and final episode, "Cycle." My initial reaction to the final moments of the break-neck hour was disappointment -- not in the storyline, the performances, the cinematography or the actual final details of the story's end. My disappointment was an empathetic reaction to the plight Ben Burke now faces. I felt his panic.
What does that mean? It means that the storyline worked, the performances were well-delivered, the special effects and the cinematography and were effective and unobtrusive, and the ending was believable ... even in its horribleness. As a viewer of the series was I satisfied? Of course not. I want to have my cake and eat it too. I wanted unicorn farts and, I'm ashamed to admit, a big yellow bow of hope to tie it all up. Ask me the question again five minutes later and I will admit that, yes, I actually am satisfied with the ending because it was a challenging surprise that forced me to swallow something other than cake.
So, What Really Happened?
Remember that the First Generation crew led by Jason? He and a bunch of other First Generations made it to the "arc" of supplies for their whole group to survive on should there be another "flood" like the one that destroyed the first attempt at building Wayward Pines. We see the kids enter the safe room, but then we see nothing more of them. That was a sneaky way to lull us into a false sense of security before hitting us over the head with that ending.
So ... the adult survivors including Kate, Theresa and Pam must have been eventually taken-over by the First Generations once the Abbies migrated and it was safe for the kids to come out of the arc. The arc also contained armaments, so that must be how they overpowered the adults and forced them to be cryo-preserved again. Once the adults were out of the way, the First Generations could execute the directives that Megan helped inculcate them with.
However, this iteration of Wayward Pines is even worse than Sheriff Pope's because they leave the corpses hanging in plain sight for all to be reminded not to try to leave. That's harsh.
What Made Wayward Pines Satisfying to Watch?
Several aspects of Wayward Pines worked very well to provide a satisfying viewing experience. The pace was consistent, the characters were more than paper dolls, and the gore of the monsters was incorporated judiciously as were the casualties.
1. A Consistently Building Pace
There was exactly the right level of action and revelation throughout each episode and the storyline as a whole. Several plot points threw me -- which I love -- from the very beginning all the way to the end. To name a few: Beverly's death, Pope's death, Ethan being named Sheriff, Kate and Harold planning escape, Pam turning out to be a decent person, sex being encouraged in school, Ben and Amy being blown up, Harold's death ... the list goes on.
On an episodic level, the action scenes progressed with enough fervor to quicken the pulse without overloading it especially in the final three episodes. Though there were sufficient surprises throughout the first seven episodes, they served as excellent foreplay for the explosive final three episodes.
2. Multidimensional Characters and Relationships
Though he was the main character, Ethan changed the least of the whole cast. He did evolve from anxious and panicked man fearing a mental breakdown to a man in charge with a clear purpose. However, several other characters developed and changed throughout the series.
Most enjoyable was the metamorphosis of Nurse Pam Pilcher. For someone who began as such an antagonistic force to be reckoned with (pardon the pun), Pam's softer side came out as her eyes were opened to the effect her brother's plan was having on the residents of Wayward Pines. Next were Kate and Theresa. Kate became more interesting when her plot to escape was revealed. It seemed odd at first that a special agent who used to partner with Ethan would roll over and pretend to play nice even if she was threatened, but as we learned about her history and her plans it made more sense. It was also delightful to see her reaching out to Theresa. At times Kate was divisive with Theresa, but she was also compassionate.
Theresa finally began to blossom when she persisted despite dissuasion from her creepy real estate boss. She continually displayed moxie in her covert discussion with the terrorized new resident Wayne Johnson, her reaching out to Kate, and her research into Plot 33 which proved vital to their survival. Shannyn Sossamon's delivery of Theresa's final scene when we see her realizing Ethan is dead made my heart stop. It was that good.
And what can we say about the sociopathic personality of Dr. David Pilcher? Man, he could do benevolent in one scene, then turn around in a garden seemingly off his rocker, then start rubbing his palms together like Gullum. Very interesting character.
3. Judiciously Displayed Gore and Sparse but Impactful Casualties
As frightening as the prospect of a world overrun by Sleestack-like carnivores like the Abbies, Wayward Pines didn't beat us over the head with them. Yes, we saw them feasting, screeching and hissing, but it was the prospect ... the mere idea of the Abbies ... that was most unnerving. I appreciate that. I really do.
As for the casualties, they weren't gratuitous. Beverly and Pope's deaths were bold choices. I expected them (Beverly at least) to reappear, proving her massacre was a ploy to manipulate the residents. These two deaths shocked me because both Juliette Lewis and Terrence Howard are big names, both concurrently starring in successful shows. After seeing them killed off early in the show, I was ready to see Ben dead after the bombing, and pleasantly surprised when he survived.
As for Pilcher, his death was predictable as was his shooter, but both choices were appropriate.
Perhaps the two most difficult to watch were the deaths of Harold and Ethan. Again, bold moves, but well delivered as far as their placement on the trajectory of the timeline which gave them the greatest impact possible. As far as Ethan is concerned, it's impressive that Wayward Pines didn't chicken out and allow him to crawl out of the burning elevator shaft at the last moment. As for Harold, his death was beautifully delivered. His love for Kate was palpable as was his terror at what they had to endure.
Well Done, 'Wayward Pines'
Now that the end has been revealed I want to go back and watch the whole series over again. The second time around I hope to feel more compassion for those who started out looking like complete douche bags. I do believe, however, that both Pilcher and Pope were psychos no matter how you look at them. All in all, I give Wayward Pines two thumbs up.
(Images courtesy of FOX)