Wayward Pines: Fox should be ashamed

Wayward Pines

I am three episodes into Wayward Pines, the 10 episode mini-series on Fox and executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan.  If I was giving it a star rating, I would say it is a 4 out of 10 stars. The show is stale and tired, with old ideas that have been reworked and repackaged… think The Prisoner meets The Village. By the way, this article does contain spoilers.

Lets go over the basic premise so far: The series revolves around Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon), a U.S. Secret Service agent investigating the disappearance of fellow agents. After a car accident, Burke awakens in the town of Wayward Pines, unable to reach the outside world and unable to leave.

Burke finds one of the agents he was looking for dead, and the other, Kate Hewson (Carla Gugino), living a “normal” life, as if she had always lived there. However, the inhabitants of Wayward Pines are trapped there by a set of rules enforced by the Sheriff (Terrence Howard), and attempts to escape are punishable by death.

The Prisoner, Patrick McGoohanNow, lets look at the plot of The Prisoner, the classic British television show from the 60s, which had a remake in 2009 that failed. In this series, a British secret agent (Patrick McGoohan), after resigning his job, is knocked out in his flat. When he wakes, he finds himself being held captive in a mysterious “village” that is isolated from the mainland by mountains and sea.

In Wayward Pines, producers have switched the abduction from sleeping gas in an apartment to a staged vehicle accident. They have also switched the village from being on an island to (what appears to be) a caldera of a dormant volcano in Idaho.

The Prisoner‘s village is secured by numerous monitoring systems and security forces, including a balloon-like device called Rover that recaptures, or kills, those who attempt escape. The village’s population consists of a few hundred people from all walks of life and cultures, all seeming to be tranquilly living out their lives. Those who who try to escape have no idea who they can and cannot trust.

Wayward Pines  is also secured by numerous monitoring systems and security forces, and those attempting to escape are killed. The Wayward Pines‘s population consists of a few hundred people from all walks of life, and all seem to be content to just live out their lives. Again, those who who try to escape have no idea who they can and cannot trust. Are we seeing it yet?

At the end of the third episode, we have the possibility of monsters outside of  Wayward Pines‘ walls, when Burke kills the Sheriff, and uses a remote found on the body to open the wall. Something reaches out and grabs the Sheriff’s body. There are then sounds of monsters growling and screaming, with electricity zapping. Burke decides against using this route to escape.

The Village, CreatureThis feels a whole lot like M. Night Shyamalan’s contribution to the project, taken from his movie The Village.  In that film, a group of anti-modernists construct a hidden 19th century style Pennsylvania village. The founders use “creatures” in the surrounding woods to keep residents afraid of leaving . I would not be shocked if the creatures outside of Wayward Pines‘ walls were just people… or maybe Wayward Pines‘ version of The Prisoner‘s Rover.

The element that seems to be the new trick for Wayward Pines‘ is time-travel.  Burke finds Agent Hewson older, and she tells him that she had been there for 10 years, despite the fact Burke had “been with her” just 5 weeks earlier. Hewson also informs him Agent Evans, the one found dead, arrived 8 years after she did, despite the fact they went missing together.

There is also Beverly, a bartender who helps Ethan try to escape. She believes she is a software salesperson from 1999, who was traveling to address Y2K issues. She has been living in Wayward Pines for only a year, and is confused when she finds out it is really 2014. Maybe we will see an appearance from Doctor Who.

Rarely, in Hollywood, do we get something truly unique. Shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are unusual anomalies.  What we normally are fed are familiar stories, or reboots of old movies and television shows.

It is not because Hollywood has run out of ideas; it is because they are risk averse. They would much rather try to recreate the success of a show like The Odd Couple, then role the dice on a new concept.

If networks want to rework old shows, they need to do it in a way that one does not immediately think this is just a poor imitation of the original. Maybe Wayward Pines will have some surprises for us, but I’m not holding my breath.