WARNING: The following contains spoilers from season 2 of Wayward Pines. Read at your own risk!
Author Blake Crouch centered on Ethan Burke’s plight in the Wayward Pines trilogy, but in the television adaptation of his series — for which he serves as an executive producer — Ethan hasn’t been in the picture for a season. Still, Crouch says extending the small-screen version to beyond its first season allows for bigger questions to be asked, bigger questions that were raised in the melancholy season 2 finale.
The hour, in fact, didn’t feature a showdown between the humans and Abbies; instead, as many humans as possible locked themselves inside the pod chamber, to sleep until they can step out into a new, Abby-free world. It’s a gamble not even CJ (Djimon Hounsou) is sure he’s willing to make — but he does, anyway. While the humans sleep and the current Wayward Pines deteriorates, the Abbies outside the fence thrive, with the final shot showing an Abby with a baby. So… what does it all mean? EW called up Crouch to delve into the finale’s biggest scenes:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with that last scene, with the Abby holding what looks like a human baby. What do you want people take away from that? What does it mean?
BLAKE CROUCH: Look, Wayward Pines is very focused on the idea of human evolution and humans evolved into Abbies, but that does not have to be a static thing. It’s continuing, even in the course of our show. Evolution has always pushed forward, and [the scene] suggests that the Abbies are changing also. The Abbies will evolve into something else. And we wanted to just drop the notion that perhaps when these residents of Wayward Pines emerge from the pods, they’re going to find a very different world than the ones they left behind.
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So in a way, it’s like history repeating itself.
Yes, exactly, but evolution doesn’t have reverse gears. Yes, it looked like a human child, but would it be something perhaps more a stop even beyond the Abbies?
Either way, the humans in the pods will eventually wake up to a whole new world again. They almost didn’t, though — CJ came close to terminating them all. Can you tell me about what he’s thinking in that scene and why it was important to show him nearly hitting the button?
Yeah, he doesn’t press the button for termination. He considers pressing it. He thinks about it. We’ve watched him watch Wayward Pines from its infancy. He was the guy who was watching all of the pods in these 20-year increments when everyone’s asleep. He’s watched mankind fall apart outside of the [Mountain] superstructure. He has this knowledge that no one else has. And it’s a huge moment for him, deciding whether or not to terminate the rest of humanity. That’s definitely a question on his mind, and that’s a question on the writers’ and the creators’ of this show’s minds — does mankind have a right to continue and to push on?
That’s a huge call to make, and it made me wonder — why hasn’t CJ ever been the leader of Wayward Pines? Why does he go through with being the wisest man in town, and yet never take up the mantle?
You know, I always thought of his character as [the man who] has the institutional knowledge and memory of Wayward Pines. He is a reluctant leader. He’s slowly watching everything go to pieces and seeing Pilcher’s grand project not work out, and I think his character arc was [about him] slowly wondering if he or anyone should actually be here. Those aren’t the questions of, in my opinion, of a leader. Those are the questions of a conscientious objector.
He does talk about the idea of Wayward Pines ultimately being a failure with Theo, who then repeats the idea in his voice recording. Is it safe to say that Theo is also on the same page, that he doubts the idea of saving humanity?
I think it is, but Theo never volunteered for any of this. Theo thinks this is insane, period. He’s just doing the best that he can in an incredibly tense and fraught situation, but he hasn’t had the years and years of breathing the air of Wayward Pines that CJ has. There’s nothing he can do. They’re stuck in their fate.
But he does do something about their fate: He deliberately lets Jason die. Does this make him kind of a villain?
I think he’s a hero. Jason was incredibly reckless and led the town down a pretty bad path. It’s not like Theo murdered him. He kind of let the bullet just do its thing.
Right, Kerry’s the one who shot him. Speaking of which, that mother-son twist made everyone barf, not just Kerry…
Oh, you didn’t think that was hot? [Laughs.] I’m just kidding.
How did that twist come together, and what did you want to show through that relationship? That Jason’s not important at all in any way?
One of the highlights [from the writers’ brainstorming session for this season] was that Jason’s partner, this woman who is almost his Lady MacBeth, is also his mother. That’s one of the cool things we get to do with Wayward Pines. Because of the suspension pods, we get to play with time in a way that no other show really does, so we wanted to make use of it.
My takeaway from [the relationship] was it was a larger lesson [on how] they’re on a flimsy lease on life. They shouldn’t be there. When you play around with time, when you cheat evolution, you run into situations like this. It’s another repercussion of cheating time.
Another repercussion of cheating time: not being able to grow crops. At the end of the episode, we get a quick shot of something growing in the soil in CJ’s greenhouse. Can you talk a little bit about what that means? Did the humans go to sleep too soon?
I think it’s like that scene from Jurassic Park. “Life finds a way.” Even in the face of everything, there’s a shot of green coming up through the soil in CJ’s greenhouse, and it’s the idea that life continues, and as bleak as everything seems, is there a way forward? It’s a question. That shot was not an answer.
Now, for the past few episodes, we’ve seen Abbies gathering near the fence. Why didn’t they attack in this episode? What was Margaret intending to do?
What we’re trying to show is that Abbies are aware, and not just a few stray Abbies. Margaret has sent Abby scouts far and wide to tell their species that there is this species living in this valley who shouldn’t be here. That was the thrust of what we were going for.
And now they’re all waiting for what the unwelcome species does next.
Yes… I think what happens next will have to remain to be seen if we’re lucky enough to continue this story.
If you do continue the story, where could Wayward Pines go? Would we even see the same characters again?
When we made the first season of Wayward Pines, the truth is I don’t think any of us fathomed that we would be doing a season 2. We had all the episodes wrapped up and in the can the year before the show premiered, and it was truly intended to be an event series… If we’re lucky enough to have a third season, I think it’s possible for characters to return and to have new ones as well.
Just in terms of where the story goes, Wayward Pines has always been about man’s final hours, and I think that’s what Night [Shyamalan, Crouch’s co-executive producer] and I were brainstorming when we were hemming and hawing about whether to push forward the series. One of things that we kept coming back to was this idea of man facing his own extinction. What does that look like? Mankind would be the first self-aware species to go extinct. The last saber-tooth tiger didn’t know it was the last saber-tooth tiger, but the idea that man knows he is in the sunset of his species is fascinating material to play in. And I think in a way, we push through season 2 to get to have that discussion in a potential season 3. What are those final hours, what are those final moments like? Are we resilient and brave? Are we afraid? We’re probably all of those things. What does that mean for art? Does art still matter then? It’s a bunch of really profound philosophical questions just about the nature of being, and so that’s the space we could play in.
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As the author of the original books, what is it like working on two different versions of your idea? How do you wrap your mind around how the show has adapted your work but veered away from it, too?
Well, part of that is just the nature of the business. Adaptations are just that — they inherently change the story, because you’re playing in a completely different format. We burned through a lot of the plot of the first three books in season 1. What came from the books for season 2 was a little bit of the ending… I’m not precious about my material. I want it to be done well, and if they can continue to give it a life beyond the books, go for that. Wayward Pines is a huge universe to play in, and I’m thrilled at what we’ve done.