Take a portion of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (1990), mix it with a few of dashes of the classic 1967 TV series The Prisoner, and toss that formula into a blender with a few other pieces of popular fiction I shan’t name for fear of spoiling the whole damn thing, and you’d probably end up with something that looks a lot like Wayward Pines. Based on a very entertaining series of novels (entitled Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town) by Blake Crouch, and adapted for a ten-episode run by Fox TV, show-runner Chad Hodge, and executive producer M. Night Shyamalan, Wayward Pines feels sort of familiar in several appealing ways — but also promises to deliver some (hopefully) unexpected twists and turns over the course of its summer season.
All we know from the outset is that Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) has awakened just outside the adorably quaint but unquestionably odd town of Wayward Pines, Idaho, with no memory of how he got there. After a brief wander through town, Ethan collapses from his mysterious injuries and then awakens (yes, again) in a creepy hospital that seems to be run solely by one oddball nurse.
Unable to locate his phone, wallet, or briefcase, Ethan makes his way to the police station–but of course, there’s nobody there. He finally comes across a friendly face in a bartender named Beverly, who gives Ethan a free meal, but very little in the way of information. It’s here that we learn that Ethan is a Secret Service agent who is on the hunt for two colleagues who went missing in the area not too long ago, but unfortunately Beverly is no help in this department. (She does, however, hand Ethan a receipt containing an address and a mysterious clue, so clearly this lady knows something.)
In the midst of Ethan’s misadventures we jump back in time (just a little) to see how our hero came to be so battered and confused, and then we cut to Seattle, which is where Ethan’s wife, son, and superior officer are trying to figure out what happened to the guy.
Meanwhile, back in Wayward Pines, Ethan has finally located the sheriff, albeit one who doesn’t seem all that concerned to hear that Ethan has stumbled across the corpse of a missing federal agent. Then he discovers that Beverly may not actually exist, gets knocked out, and wakes up (a third time!) under the care of a freaky psychiatrist who wants to operate, which finally inspires Ethan to get the hell out of Wayward Pines immediately… and that’s when things start to get really weird.
As directed by M. Night Shyamalan, the first episode of Wayward Pines plays a lot like a cockeyed film noir combined with a particularly intriguing episode of The Twilight Zone. Dillon does a fine job of portraying a tough guy who is having a difficult time keeping his temper (and confusion) in check, and while we only get a few moments to spend with Melissa Leo (creepy nurse), Shannyn Sossamon (concerned wife), Juliette Lewis (helpful bartender), Terrence Howard (inscrutable sheriff), Toby Jones (weird shrink), and Carla Gugino (mystery woman!), it’s certainly promising to realize that Wayward Pines has such an impressive ensemble.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that the initial episode is shot very well, boasts some beautifully ambiguous production design, displays a weird sense of humor, and includes some fine Charlie Clouser music as a bonus prize. I’m starting to wish I hadn’t read the books already, because those who are willing to play along as Wayward Pines unfolds will probably get the most enjoyment out of it.
Suffice to say, it gets pretty crazy.
Wayward Pines premieres Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 9PM on Fox.