'Wayward Pines' Episode 1 Recap: "Where Paradise is Home"

A promising start to an atmospherically dark conspiracy thriller.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Blake Crouch, the new Fox series is helmed by former horror wunderkind turned nonwundernonkind M. Night Shyamalan.

Shyamalan’s name might be an instant red alert for anyone who saw Signs or the dozen people who saw The Happening. But it shouldn’t, because Shyamalan is an above replacement level director. Say what you will of the man’s plotting, but his framing is almost impeccable and his skills that he wowed audiences with in Unbreakable are in full display on Wayward Pines.

Matt Dillon too shines as the gruff Agent Burke. Dillon is a natural fit for the bizarre world Burke has been left in. His anger at every bureaucratic roadblock or just plain misunderstanding is naturally suffocating. It overwhelms and elevates the emotional stakes without changing much. Burke only wants to leave Wayward Pines, and with every passing minute escape becomes insurmountable.

Why leave? Because Wayward Pines is a dozen levels of creepy. The town appears to have been founded right dab in the middle of Uncanny Valley; its citizens are recognizably human, but somehow off. Same goes for the bugs. Beverly (Juliette Lewis), a bartender that Burke befriends warns him there are no crickets in the town. There aren't, they're just little speakers in the bushes. She sends him to an abandoned house where one of the agents Burke is searching for is dead, and when Burke tries to report it with the local police — a force of one, Sheriff Pope (Terrance Howard) — casually chows on ice cream.

Where Wayward Pines' strength lies in its atmosphere, perhaps its weakest muscles are Burke's allies on the outside. Burke's son and wife are easy sympathizers, and you naturally want Burke to reunite with them. But by existing they remove what could have been an easy endgame for Wayward Pines: Burke is nuts.

Dr. Jenkins (Toby Jones) tries to convince Burke that he is a mental patient and a resident of Pines. Really, who on Earth is a secret agent? But Burke's wife and son do exist, and they need Ethan. Adam Hessler, Ethan's partner in the Secret Service, needs him. M. Night's tradition of twist endings could have continued in this direction, but Wayward Pines sacrificed this and it may be better for it. There's still room for twists, naturally. But what could those twists be are no longer the right questions to ask.

Ultimately, a show is only as good as its villains and Sheriff Pope is going to be an interesting opponent. Terrence Howard provides cheesy fun. In the pilot, his only function appears to just be a nuisance to Burke, and though it may be annoying there's potential for the two to clash in an incredible showdown.

Wayward Pines is bound to be a lightning rod for fan theories, and the more obvious ones will be discussed at length. But there’s enough fertile ground to seeing what the more creative, out-there fans come up with that could be as entertaining, if not more than the show itself.

In the closing moments, Adam meets Jenkins, revealing his involvement in Burke’s disappearance. So what is the true nature of Wayward Pines? Is it a government project fo

Is everyone blissfully ignorant or painfully aware?

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