Nothing will ever be the same in Wayward Pines after tonight’s halfway point, and frankly, I’m not entirely sure I want it to be. Welcome to the First Generation, where membership is offered only to those who are that happy combination of trustworthy and prepubescent.
You want to know what Wayward Pines is?
Do you really want to?
Wayward Pines is PEOPLE! a town in the year 4028, when civilization has died out and all that’s left is a settlement nestled in the mountains built to keep out genetically mutated human leftovers called Abbies (short for ‘aberrations’). The quaint mountain town is, metaphorically and literally, an ark for mankind, established 2,000 years ago when “great scientist” David Pilcher—whom we know as timid Dr. Jenkins—foresaw the coming of the aberrations and selected a sample of humans to ensure the survival of the human race.
Everyone who is deemed necessary for the survival of mankind awakes in the Pines after being placed in a hibernation chamber for two thousand years. But despite the inclusion of adults on the ark, it’s really the children who are groomed to be the future of Wayward Pines and humanity. The kids are brainwashed into keeping the town’s true nature—and timeline—a secret from their parents, who have lived too long in the old world and can’t handle the truth.
These cult-like kids are called the First Generation, and there’s ostensibly about a hundred of them. (Our own Benjamin Burke is number 111, though not all who preceded him have made it through orientation.) This ark only survives if everyone follows the rules, which explains why life in Wayward Pines is so strict about leaving the past behind and eliminating anyone who threatens to crack the floorboards.
Here’s the caveat: This new intel about 4028 (not to be confused with the iPhone app) and the ark and the end of civilization is what Ben learns directly, what Ethan discovers slowly, and what Theresa may soon glean if she gets enough gold stars…but that’s not to say that what Mrs. Fisher told us is the entire Truth. Is her brainwash in and of itself a lie? And yet, we non-book-readers can do nothing but believe the cards that are presently on the table.)
So, if you were gasping at every revelation in tonight’s dialogue-dense hour, you’re not alone. At least we’ve got some answers now, but they’re accompanied by a whole new set of questions you might be asking yourself. Here are six on my mind:
- Time travel—a thing, or not a thing? Can Nurse Pam, Pilcherjenkins, and the late Sheriff Pope travel back and forth through centuries, or did they do all of their Pines recruiting in our present day and then go into hibernation themselves? (To rephrase the question: has everyone who will ever pop up in Wayward Pines already been frozen?)
- How much do we believe that Wayward Pines is the only settlement of its kind? Could there be other Wayward Pineses that share Pilcher’s same mountain facility overlook?
- What are the rules and processes by which someone is selected for Wayward Pines?
- What role would Adam Hassler serve in 2014, given that he seemingly played a part in the Burkes’ arrival and has steady contact with Pilcher?
- If the children are the future, how does a person like Kate fit in, who has no kids yet has lived off Wayward resources for 12 childless years?
- If Wayward Pines is all about saving humanity, then why does nobody seem to care all that much about killing people?
(That list bit is the most troubling. Here’s a town that’s ostensibly been created to perpetuate the human race, yet fear has been endeared at the cost of morality. Is the saintly Pilcher a savior or a sadist?)
Tonight’s episode saw all three Burkes learning The Truth (I’m going to capitalize this for Dramatic Effect) about the little town of Wayward Pines, although they each come across a different layer of it.
There’s Ben, who proves to be a shining example of logic as he sits in the orientation room watching Mrs. Fisher’s PowerPoint presentation about the death of humanity and scientific benefits of mouse hibernation. His love interest Amy is all but certainly an agent in his brainwashing, as are the rest of the students who chant and hold candles as they invite Ben, Carrie, and Reed into their dark, academic decathlon cult ranks.
Now that he’s been initiated, Ben will likely be the reason why Ethan and Theresa need to reassess their desire to leave. Before learning the truth about Wayward Pines, Ben was already resenting his mother for her inaction and feeling the pull of a new group of friends that he lacked in Seattle. To add on a fear of mutants, a grave secret he must keep from his parents, and the belief that everything he ever knew back home is a relic…well, even this logical teenager can be made malleable.
I’m most interested in what comes next for the fraternity-lite First Generation. Is their purpose simply to repopulate, or will they be asked to embark on something more sinister?
Ethan uncovered The Truth—though not nearly as comprehensively as Ben—by witnessing it in the wild. He successfully scaled the rock wall out of the town, but found himself stumped by a seemingly inaccurate map that sent him from one set of woods to another set of woods to another set of woods, almost like a baker looking for a cow as white as milk or cape as red as blood or hair as yellow as corn or slipper as pure as Nurse Pam’s zest for life.
In Ethan’s efforts to find help in Boise, he discovers remnants of buildings and road signs, which probably don’t give him as much pause as the close-up look he gets at the Abbies. We don’t need to hear what he has to say to know that he’s shocked, frightened, and confused by what he sees—a writing choice which was all the more effective than him regurgitating the same realizations as Ben.
When a helicopter arrives bearing Pilcher nee Jenkins, the good doctor knows that Ethan has undergone a change from his short time spent in the true wild. Because of his experience with the Abbies, Ethan has no choice but to suspend his disbelief (he’s seen but doesn’t buy the remains of Boise). His greatest decision thus far comes when he gets in the helicopter with Pilcher and Pam, essentially closing out his wordless episode with a gesture that can only mean, “Fine, f–k it.”
Finally, there’s Theresa, who is fueled by her son’s insouciance to follow up on the realtor job offer. She’s greeted at the office by a chauvinistic boss, Big Bill, who immediately sends her to the hospital to move in Wayne, a newly arrived construction worker.
There’s a bizarre moment when you can sense that this job might actually be Theresa’s own version of brainwashing—hearing her sell the town like an old-timer Pinesian is jarring—but she very quickly reverts to the same suspicious, frightened Theresa once Wayne reveals he might have seen something crazy after his accident.
Avoiding the ear of Nurse Pam, Theresa takes a reluctant Wayne to his new house and straight to the laundry room (in unit! So lucky!) to talk in hushed tones masked by the washing machine buzz. Wayne says that after waking from his accident, he remembers looking through a glass window and seeing people looking at him—Pam among them. “There were more of these chambers,” he says, gesturing to the washing machine, “and they were all filled with people.”
Dovetailing on what we learned this week about hibernation, it sounds like Wayne did wake up—maybe too early?—and got a glimpse into the sleep chamber facility, perhaps before he was supposed to. By the time Theresa leaves Wayne alone, he’s so distraught that I’m almost convinced Mrs. Fisher was right: adults really can’t handle the truth.
Much like her husband, Theresa makes a promise she can’t keep—that she’ll find out what it is that Wayne saw and why they’re in Wayward Pines—but it’s a bravura move that, unlike her husband’s first attempts, she might actually pull off.
So, here’s where I stand.
Wayward Pines is an ark? Cool! Mutants outside, idyllic life inside? Neat. Hibernation? Always in vogue. Children keeping a dark secret from their parents until they, what, kill them in a blaze of juvenile glory like Kid Nation? Not so sure I’m on board. If there’s one big uncertainty here, it’s the portion of the Mrs. Fisher brainwash wherein the town’s secret-within-the-secret veers from normal to fishy.
I’m still hung up on a few things, particularly in regards to the population’s divide of knowledge versus ignorance. Who knows what, and how much? Who’s in on the secret, and who’s smiling and nodding along? (Of that latter group, how could they in their unawareness not make a bigger push for morality?)
What’s Pilcher’s deal? Is there more than one Wayward Pines? Is this all a ploy? Is he a mad genius who has constructed a giant bio-dome of ruined forestry around his already giant acreage of idyllic forestry and hired a cast of naked CW actors to play Aberrations, thus creating the greatest long con since The Truman Show? Likely not, but a boy can theorize.