If M. Night Shyamalan did one thing right these past few years it was producing Wayward Pines, the sci-fi TV series based on Blake Crouch’s books.
The first season was a solid fish-out-of-water story with Matt Dillon’s puzzled Secret Service agent at its centre. After a car accident, the character wakes up in a small town called Wayward Pines only to find that there is no way of ever leaving it. Nifty plot twists followed and every episode left us on a mouth-watering cliffhanger: de-evolved ghoulish cannibals, cryogenically frozen people woken up in a post-apocalyptic world gone mad, a thrilling finale where all Hell breaks loose.
It was a fun ride and it would have worked fine as just a standalone mini-series but a second season was soon in the works and here we are.
The good news is that Season 2 is not simply a retread and continues the story while fleshing out new and old characters rather than lazily repeating what worked the first time around. Jason Patric is the unfortunate fellow woken up after the end of the world, this time, and forced to live in Wayward Pines. Refreshingly, he’s not just a replacement for Matt Dillon although he’s every bit as bamboozled and defiant, and instead is thrown into the awkward role of being the town’s main doctor and surgeon. He’s not really even the main character, not in the first half of the season anyway, as the focus is predominantly put on everyone around him especially his wife (played by Nimrat Kaur) who may be more involved in the town’s creation than we thought.
There’s something right in the world when a promising Indian actress like Nimarat Kaur is given such an important, interesting role in an American TV series. She is no stranger to television, of course, having starred in the fourth season of Homeland but it’s the first time that Kaur is given a US TV role she can sink her teeth into. Her character is the biggest mystery of the season thus far and she does an excellent job at keeping a poker face going throughout as it’s slowly revealed what she was up to during the three years that preceded her husband’s return and how she knew David Pilcher (Toby Jones), the town’s founder.
The way in which this season disposes of the remaining cast of the last one is nothing short of genius. Instead of relying on those characters for familiarity, we get to see each of them get killed off in shocking, heartbreaking ways thereby showing how cruel this new regime has become under the leadership of Jason Higgins (Tom Stevens). Evoking an amalgamation of various despotic governments and dictatorship, this second season subtly ups Wayward Pines’ twisted nature just when you thought it had reached its peak.
Children as young as 12 years old are forced into conceiving by orders of this show’s creepiest antagonist Megan Fisher (a brilliant Hope Davis). Homosexuality is never presented as an option to the kids who have no idea what the word even means. Those who oppose the new leadership are exiled outside the fences where they will no doubt meet their end in a horrible fashion and the picture of David Pilcher is plastered all over town like some kind of deity.
Indeed, the show is just as dark as ever and it deals with some pretty disturbing notions. Add to that the fact that there might be more to the monsters (called “Abbies”) than meets the eye. When a super-intelligent female is found in the middle of town just as everyone’s crops are burnt to the ground by the other Abbies, you’ve got yourself a rather grim vision of the future to say the least.
This is a much less twist-heavy, and therefore less Shyamalan-esque, second season which feels more like a novel: it’s an ensemble story that develops its characters and their backstories little by little, always leaving something crucial out for the viewer to wonder about. Whether the climax will be as explosive and effective as the last season’s has yet to be determined. But from the looks of it so far, it’ll at least be worth watching. I should point out that M. Night Shyamalan himself hasn’t directly been involved in a new episode yet, except for Executive Producer credits, but if one of them was directed by Vincenzo Natali, known for cult films like Cypher and Cube, then we can probably expect more cool guest directors down the line.
Fans of the gimmickier aspects of the first season expecting more of the same might be a tad underwhelmed by this second instalment of Wayward Pines which goes for something a bit different and slower paced. However, this is still one of the most entertaining and bizarre shows on television at the moment so I do recommend you catch it.
Wayward Pines currently airs on FOX every Wednesday.
Want to compare with previous season? Click here to read Adam’s review.