Wayward Pines is a ten episode miniseries about a Secret Service Agent, Ethan Burke, who visits a mysterious town in Idaho in search of two missing agents. While little is known about the series thus far, Ethan’s Burke’s investigation into the town, and the disappearance of the two federal agents, is the underlying plot.
From the trailers for the pilot episode, “Where Paradise is Home,” we know that Agent Ethan Burke is in a car crash, in or nearby Wayward Pines, Idaho. Burke finds himself in the town, searching for the two missing federal agents he came for and trying to figure out what is wrong with the town.
“Where Paradise is Home” starts with Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke waking up near a creek. An immediate flashback (or flash-forward) shows Ethan talking with a psychiatrist about a bombing. Ethan walks into the town and finds his way into a restaurant where he asks where he is. The cashier answers his question, explaining that he is in Wayward Pines, Idaho, before Burke falls unconscious. He wakes up in a hospital ward where an overly friendly, and more than a little creepy, Nurse Pam explains that he was in a bad car accident. Burke’s partner, Agent Rick Stallings, was killed in the car accident, and Ethan suffered from multiple broken ribs and a concussion. The Secret Service Agent demands his belongings so that he can contact his office and family. When Nurse Pam says that the Sherriff has his effects and that he needs to rest, he grabs his clothes and tries to sneak out of the apparently empty hospital. Nurse Pam tries to intercept him before he leaves, but she relents, suggesting that she is worried about him.
After leaving the Wayward Pines Hospital, Ethan Burke finds a bar where he meets “the first normal person he’s met in the town,” a Bartender named Beverly. Beverly offers to buy Ethan’s dinner, seeing as he has no wallet, and on the check she writes her address should he need any more help. Burk turns the check around to see a scribbled note, “There are no crickets in Wayward Pines.” When he leaves the bar, he investigates a bush where crickets appear to be chirping to find a small speaker.
Ethan is woken up the next morning, in a hotel in the town. The incredulously rude desk clerk kicks him out of his hotel room and, after leaving the hotel–which, like the hospital, is named after the town–he goes to see Beverly. The address on the check leads to an abandoned house, and, inside, Agent Burke discovers one of the two agents he came to Wayward Pines looking for, Agent Evans. Evans has been tortured to death, and his corpse has been left in the abandoned house to rot. Ethan goes to the Sherriff to report the murder, but like so many other denizens of the unusual town, Sheriff Arnold Pope is unaccommodating and eerie. Sherriff Pope takes Ethan’s information, but when the Secret Service Agent offers to lead him to the body, he refuses. Pope does allow Burke to use the phone; however, he gets a voicemail with his family and a uncannily rude secretary at the Secret Service office.
Ethan Burke goes looking for Beverly, hoping to find out what is going, but the only man at the bar says that a Beverly has never worked there before. Burke becomes agitated, and when he tries to push his way past the manager of the bar to find Beverly, the man knocks him unconscious. As he falls to the floor, the manager can be seen pulling out a radio and calling in “101628 is not doing well.”
Later, Ethan wakes up at the hospital ward again, only this time he is restrained to the bed. A psychiatrist named Dr Jenkins explains that, in the vehicle accident, Burke suffered a traumatic brain injury and his brain was bleeding, and that he requires immediate surgery in order to survive the trauma. Despite Burke’s protest, Nurse Pam gives him a shot and wheels his bed off to surgery. (Again the hospital is eerily empty of anyone else.) Nurse Pam leaves Ethan right outside the surgery room, and Beverly sneaks in and wheels him out. Once she gets him to an elevator, she helps him off of the bed and explains that he needs to be able to walk in order to escape. The two flee Nurse Pam, Beverly hiding in one room while Ethan stowaways in another; when Nurse Pam goes after Beverly, Burke attacks her and knocks her out (possibly killing her).
Once Ethan and Beverly escape the hospital, they eventually make way to a nearby cemetery where they take refuge from a storm in a mausoleum. There, Beverly explains that “they” are trying to break Ethan’s mind; Evan’s was killed because he tried to escape. Beverly describes how she arrived at Wayward Pines; she was a software tech trying to sell computers to the local school when she was struck by a motorcycle. Beverly explains that this was October 21st, 1999, and that within the week she will have been in Wayward Pines for a year. As he passes, out Burke mumbles that it isn’t 2000 but 2014.
The next morning, after dreaming about being consoled by Kate Hewson after the Easter Bombing, Burke wakes up in the mausoleum and finds a fresh set of clothes from Beverly. He meanders out of the cemetery and discovers a park where a group of adults are having a picnic. Ethan immediately recognizes his old partner, and lover, Agent Kate Hewson with the others. Kate, and her husband, Harold, leave the picnic and Burke follows them to their home. There, he asks for Kate and she leads him outside to try and explain what has happened. Kate whispers that “They” are watching and listening to them, and after trying to warn him, she puts on a fake smile to tell Ethan he can be happy in Wayward Pines.
Outside of the anomalous Wayward Pines, Ethan Burke’s wife, Theresa Burke, and his son, Ben Burke, wonder why he hasn’t communicated with them. Theresa attempts to take a selfie with Ben to send to Ethan, when the phone rings. The caller is Adam Hassler, Ethan’s boss at the Secret Service, telling Theresa that Ethan was in a car accident in Idaho and that they haven’t been able to locate him after the accident.
The Secret Service requests their vehicle back from the Wayward Pines Sherriff’s office, and, upon investigation of the vehicle, finds no GPS tracker or a trace of Agent Ethan Burke. Burke’s boss, Adam Hassler, meets with Theresa to explain that Ethan might not have been in the car. Burke’s wife asks if he is with “her” (“her” being his former lover, Agent Kate Hewson). Later, Adam Hessler meets with the enigmatic Dr Jenkins and attempts to call “it” off, but Dr Jenkins suggests that it is too late.
After Kate goes back inside her house, Ethan steals a car and attempts to flee the town. He drives outside of town and follows the exiting road, only to return to town not long after. Ethan drives through the town again, and, after exiting, abandons the stolen car and flees in the woods. A long, exhausting hike into the woods reveals a large cement wall with an electrified fence on top, spanning as far as the eye can see. A warning sign on the wall reads “Risk of detah: return to Wayward Pines. Beyond this point you will die.” The camera pans out to reveal that the entire town of Wayward Pines is surrounded by the wall and a massive mountain, with no way in or out. Ethan eventually returns to the stolen car where he is confronted by Sherriff Arnold Pope. Ethan Burke demands to know how to get out of Wayward Pines and Sherriff Pope answers, “You Don’t.”
There’s no doubt about it: Wayward Pines is a show that’s directed by M Night Shyamalan (for better or worse remains to be seen). “Where Paradise is Home” is a unique blend of creepiness and suspense that definitely hooks the viewer. Almost right away, it is evident that there is something not right about the small town in Idaho, even to those that hadn’t watched the trailers on FOX. A conspiracy, or maybe even multiple conspiracies, is evident right away when watching the premiere episode. Collusion exists between at least some members of the Secret Service with whoever the “They” is that control the unique town. The town is obviously secluded, and it is possible that it’s very existence (at least it’s true existence) is hidden from the outside world. The town definitely has a Twin Peaks, WA feel, although it also seems that Wayward Pines tries to separate itself from the David Lynch series as well as it can. Unfortunately, where Wayward Pines separates itself from Twin Peaks, it seems all too familiar with Covington.
Matt Dillon is a great actor, who typically plays the lead in well-written movies, but isn’t (at least to my knowledge) often seen on television. Dillon’s appearance in Wayward Pines is evident of the resurgent push for television dramas. Other well-known actors include Terrence Howard and Juliette Lewis, two very talented performers that play equally intriguing characters in the new series.
Wayward Pines just might be the TV series to redeem M. Night Shyamalan… or it could fail miserably. (Let’s hope it’s the former and not the latter.)
Violence: “Where Paradise is Home” has a couple violent scenes, such as when Ethan attacks Nurse Pam (blood shown) and when he discovers the late Agent Evan’s corpse. The corpse is badly mutilated, and indicates torture before Evan’s was killed. While there isn’t any direct violence shown, many denizens of Wayward Pines appear to be scared of something.
Language/crude humor: After two viewings of “Where Paradise is Home” there were very few expletives: h*** and d*** mainly.
Sexual content: No overt sexuality was shown; however there is dialogue indicative of Agent Ethan Burke and Agent Kate Hewson having an affair.
Drug/alcohol use: The only drugs shown in “Where Paradise is Home” are medicinal and ostensibly helpful, not harmful.
Other negative themes: “Where Paradise is Home” contains murder, an affair, and some form of conspiracy.
Positive Content: Not a lot positive content in “Where Paradise is Home”; the premier episode of Wayward Pines is written to engage the audience for further episodes.
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The Bottom Line
"Where Paradise is Home" sets up Wayward Pines to be an enthralling series. Just enough detail is given to mesmerize the audience, while enough is teased, but kept hidden, to keep viewers coming back. Wayward Pines just might be the TV Series to redeem M. Night Shyamalan.