Two episodes prior to “The Friendliest Place on Earth” was titled “Choices.” That could have easily applied here, where everyone continues to wrestle with the choices they’ve made that led them to Wayward Pines and the ones they’ve made since waking up in this sleepy, godforsaken town. It’s just not getting easier here.
Picking up immediately where “Betrayal” left off, the episode shows that Ben and Amy’s doomed rendez-vous has ended with a bang, literally, and a severely wounded Ben in Ethan’s arms. Thus begins Wayward Pines’ minor genre change into a medical drama. Ben will be just fine, but now we must fear the vultures that surround him, namely TV’s Most Awkward Sex-Ed Teacher, Principal Fisher.
Upon visiting Ben (while he’s still wounded! Give him rest, lady!), Principal Fisher twists truths to Ben saying his father is guilty of putting him in the hospital. He had the bomber, and he let him go, so it’s like totally his fault. Although uncomfortably true, that twist would be a crock of shit — except Ethan has done that before.
While in the hospital waiting room, Ethan tells Theresa not only why he cheated on Theresa with Kate just before coming to Wayward Pines, but a work secret that in an apocalyptic 4028, has little to no consequence to reveal: He let a terrorist go.
An “Easter Bomber” was previously in Ethan’s custody at the CIA, but orders from the top forced Ethan to let him go. The bomber then went on to kill a staggering 621 people, all blood on Ethan’s hands. In a delirium, Ethan found his way into Kate’s pants, because “she was there” and has regretted it since.
Explaining his infidelity to Theresa has been a long time coming, but now that it’s happened, it’s rather muted. There are bigger problems to deal with: Their marriage doesn’t really matter when their son is nearly blown up to shreds. Thus, we have seen the (probable) end to one complete story thread in Wayward Pines, however disappointing.
Also kind of muted? Ethan confronting Kate. Not that we should expect anything more than yelling and staring between the two, because this kind of violence is bad, but Kate did nearly kill Ben. What should have been a really dramatic, tense moment between two ex-lovers, now sworn enemies, was kind of dull and uninspired. It just happened like it needed to.
But it’s not all bad. Textured within this episode are brief flashbacks of a hysterical Kate, when she first began as a patient in the hospital under the supervision of the Pilchers before wising up to relax and play the game. For all her composure, it was nice to know Kate had, at one point, lost it like anyone else would have.
Elsewhere, David Pilcher is at a loss. Besides the very existence of terrorists with bombs in his town, children — “the most precious resource” — were hurt. With snake-like advice from Pam, he throws an ill-timed town festival and it’s the most awkward, least-fun thing you’ll ever see. Thankfully Ethan is there to shut it down. Who wants cotton candy in a cold winter morning anyway?
Meanwhile, Pam takes on her brother’s orders to evaluate Pines’ security and questions every employee (not unlike that time you were awkwardly asked “How are you doing?” by HR and all you could muster was “Okay, I guess”).
And here is where Wayward Pines begins to demonstrate a confusing, but fascinating, direction in its characters. Early on, Wayward Pines was a Twin Peaks copy but has since morphed into a bold-faced, very obvious allegory to the War on Terror and the paranoia that arises/arose/is still arising. And stunningly, the inhuman, ubiquitous surveillance has been humanized.
They run a tight ship, but there’s one loose screw: A lone surveillance employee exercises human decency and erases or mucks up evidence anytime someone questions why the hell they’re in Wayward Pines and not literally anywhere else.
Pam lets it go. David doesn’t. He kills him.
It’s not unique of Wayward Pines, but it is interesting that the show has gone this far without presenting many clear villains. There are antagonistic forces, because that’s just how you create literature, but there’s not one man or woman in a high tower on a rolling chair stroking a cat. Every episode changes your opinion of a character, and I’m not sure that aspect of the show is a good thing; it’s getting exhausting.
In the beginning, Pam was clearly someone to hate. I rooted when Ethan punched her in the face early in the season, and I vehemently hate violence against women. David, meanwhile, was just a scientist who wanted the ignorant world to be enlightened to a factual truth, like Galileo. “The Friendliest Place on Earth” makes you change how you see them, and I’m stunned how successfully it’s been pulled off.
They’re not the only ones. Ethan and Kate were both easy to root for. They’ve turned heel: Kate is an outright terrorist, while Ethan has become the strong arm of the town that’s hiding too many secrets. Yes, there are justifications and arguments you can reason, but nothing changes just how much they’re like the monsters they swore to destroy.
There’s little to no one that Wayward Pines is allowing us to get behind. Ben is too dumb to think for himself, Theresa just didn’t do much and has her own thing to worry about (Plot 33 remains unanswered), and Pam is still too conniving and is in no way near becoming the heart of the show that Ethan is supposed to be. This week is just a change-up, not a permanent direction. It would just be nice to know where that direction is going.
Finally, the abbies. They need to be a threat, so of course they find their way into the town. While everyone deals with all they need to this episode, Harold Ballinger is left with the body of the bomber along with another of his and Kate’s band of rebels. While Harold turns back to break Kate out, the others use their truck to ram through the fence. It works! Until they’re eaten alive right outside the border with an gaping, truck-sized hole allowing the abbies to waltz into town.
Next week, there will be a reckoning.