The adaptation of the sci-fi trilogy “Wayward Pines” is back and ready to elevate its action to new levels. But what resulted is a predictable sci-fi civil war between humans and “abbies” (evolved humans), without preserving the originality of the premise that made the show fresh. After thorough world-building in the first season, it’s disappointing to see the premiere paint a season filled with only mindless fighting.
The premiere begins with a concise recap by Ben Burke (Charlie Tahan, “Gotham”) before the new protagonist is introduced. By the end of this episode, this helpful refresher becomes a sad reminder of how much this season plans to diverge from what made the show interesting. After following his missing Secret-Service-agent father to Wayward Pines, Burke and his mother are abducted and frozen by Wayward Pines founder, David Pilcher (Toby Jones, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”). After being brought back in 4028, Burke makes a formidable hero as he organizes opposition against the hostile “pure” citizens born in the city. Seeing the scary effects the evolved Abbies would have on humans is an imaginative concept, but this season’s new protagonist — Dr. Theo Yedlin (Jason Patric, “My Sister’s Keeper”) — takes most of that away. At the beginning of the episode, he has an argument with his wife Rebecca (Nimrat Kaur, “Homeland”) at a beach resort on vacation. He’s abducted — like Burke — after getting drunk. He wakes up in Wayward Pines in 4032, glossing over the advancements Burke achieved in the previous season. After predictably recognizing the suspicious behavior of the citizens he’s surrounded by, local law enforcement finds him and essentially forces him to join the human opposition. He is asked to start working as the town’s only doctor, a position he readily takes up. Not much is known about Yedlin at this point other than the fact he wants to save lives. Expecting him to carry the weight of life and death in this supernatural world without knowing any of his special skills or talents makes it hard to stay engaged in his story in “Wayward Pines.”
First Generation supporters who work in the hospital share there’s been an increase in deaths in the city, though they are quick to point out “progress is being made” in eradicating human opposition. The blatant parallels between First Generation and fascism had previously been established, but the change in the city’s political landscape after the time jump merit a deeper exposition of the changes that had occurred. Without it, the concrete threats facing Yedlin and his fellow humans remain unclear. Though First Generation’s “propaganda, protests, and ‘reckonings’” are referred to, they’re not much more creative or imagination-grabbing than the turbulent politics of the real world. After viewing the city’s gruesome practice of publicly killing dissenting citizens, Yedlin feels empowered to take up the fight as the characters’ roles in the upcoming escalation of tension fall into place.
The cinematography is one of the few things that brings gravity to the show’s drama. The dim lighting suits the opposition’s dire circumstances, adding to the show’s unsettling tone. Struggling to see the hospital that Yedlin works at clearly effectively lets the viewer connect to the confusion the doctor must feel in his new environment. With such flat characters taking center stage this season, the lighting is one of the few means for the audience to feel sympathy for their plight.
Not being the biggest science fiction fan, I researched to see if there was something I wasn’t getting from the show that made me hate the direction this season seems to be taking. What I found was that the concept of a spooky city having public executions as a way of life in science fiction has been done quite a few times in both literature and television. After finding out that last season was intended to be close-ended, and that it was not renewed until after the show proved a success, this sudden unoriginality is not surprising. Milking the attention-grabbing premise to create new material after an idea runs dry rarely works, but it has led to the longetivity of many Hollywood blockbusters at the cost of the viewer. “Wayward Pines” is no exception.