Wayward Pines: “Choices”

(Episode 1.06)

TV Reviews
Wayward Pines: “Choices”

This is a review. Thus, it is likely to contain spoilers. If you haven’t, as yet, found yourself at liberty to view this episode then consider yourself apprised of the potential jeopardy and proceed at your peril.

While I am aware that the show is based on a series of books by Blake Crouch, I have not read them and do not intend to until this show has ended. I will be reviewing the show solely on its own merits, not as an adaptation.

With the last twist-centric episode titled “The Truth” I would submit that a more fitting title for this week’s hour would have been “The Whole Truth,” rather than “Choices.”

As important as the last episode was to the trajectory of the show, it was heavy on concepts and light on details. This week is all about filling in the cracks.

It isn’t an uninteresting idea for an episode, but much like last week, there is an awful lot of exposition dumping via monologue. Truly, you could put last week’s hour together with this week’s and everyone would think they were a single, massive section of plot download. Most of it is made up of two people sitting in a room with one lecturing the other. There’s no question that it fails the “show, don’t tell” mantra of screenwriters.

The biggest surprise of the week was that I really didn’t mind.

Perhaps it is a result of years and years of shows with chasm-deep mythologies that, in the end, are only capable of addressing their most glaring enigmas while the fine details are brushed under the rug. It is nice for once to have a show that is willing to just slow down for a nice chat, particularly when that chat goes into obsessive detail regarding all the questions that have arisen in past episodes.

The problem is that none of it was very surprising. Even the things that I expected to be surprises turned out to not be surprises. In fact, everything that the Doctor told Ethan last week appears to have been completely and utterly true. If he was holding anything back, we don’t have wind of it yet.

Aside from the initial disorientation and attention garnered by an opening shot of Wayward Pines’ main street in wreckage and flames (which turned out to be a flashback to the first attempt to awaken people in the new world), the events played out as advertised. There were a few small tidbits of interest (Mrs. Fisher was a passionate early supporter back in the 21st century) and details that I presume will come into play later (Nurse Pam is the doctor’s sister and a recovering drug addict, which makes her day-to-day life in a fully stocked hospital an interesting choice).

In the end, I suppose that I liked it because the plot details were, for once, secondary to the characters. The episode was less about new revelations and more about the doctor’s hope for redemption, both for himself and for mankind.

Making it past the big twist doesn’t mean that we don’t still have some big questions to consider. It’s just that now I’m coming up with the questions for myself rather than the show spoon-feeding them to me. For instance, given that the doctor admits that it takes a village to keep Wayward Pines operating smoothly, then why don’t those people just live there? Obviously, these are all people who bought what the Doc was selling back in the old days, so why use kidnapped people at all? I assume genetic diversity is part of it, which leads me to the most obvious question of the night. We can see that there are still plenty of people still in cryogenic sleep, but how many are we really talking about? Hundreds more? Thousands more? The final numbers would give us a clearer idea of precisely what the Doctor and his people are attempting here.

Along the same lines, how are they so sure that no other evolved humans have survived? I mean, they have helicopters, but can they circumnavigate the globe? Can they access any functioning satellites that might still be in orbit (an idea that I will readily admit relies on the potential lifespans of our current satellite technology and is a topic about which I am entirely ignorant)? I find myself almost hoping that Wayward Pines is only one of several sites that the Doctor secreted away around globe. Finding out that there are other towns waiting to be reached would open up the show not only in geography, but also in scope. Strangely, finding out what is really outside the walls of Wayward Pines has only served to make the town seem smaller.

Expanding beyond the walls is undoubtedly what Kate and her husband have planned. It is clear now that the last half of the show, at least in some part, will bring Ethan and Kate into opposition, two former lovers at odds over differing agendas. Kate and her revolution should be fertile ground to mine. Given some of her vague statements to Ethan, she seems to at least have a basic understanding of what is outside the walls, though she may not be aware of how much time has passed. Nothing builds tension like formerly intimate partners who are suddenly unwilling to communicate with each other.

As pleasant as it has been to just sit back and have answers handed to me on a platter, I’m ready to get back to the immediate plot and to see how our characters navigate their new paradigm. Even more, I’m interested to see if the show has anything interesting to say about life in a world where there is a very, very clear delineation between the controlling class and the worker class. Given the times we’re living in, ‘rulers that very overtly view their subjects as cattle’ seems like an ideal scenario for social commentary.

Some closing thoughts:

It isn’t easy to instill mystery into a subplot involving realtors, but I am genuinely intrigued by the undeveloped lot of land that nobody wants to talk about. It is especially interesting since it still isn’t clear who is keeping it isolated. If the Doctor and his ‘First Generation’ folks are using it, they haven’t mentioned it to Ethan thus far, and that omission raises its own questions. Better, if someone else is keeping that lot vacant without the overseers noticing, that is even more interesting. Good to see that the recent revelations haven’t stemmed the flow of new enigmas.

Jack McKinney is a professional camera salesman by day and a freelance filmmaker, Paste contributor, and amateur prestidigitator by night (and occasionally weekends). You can cyber-stalk him on Twitter.

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