Nov 20, 2019
Wayward Pines: The Crying of Plot 33
We open with the town in flames. We know it’s Wayward Pines because the hotel sign tells us so and we saw the carousel. Pilcher is looking around at the aftermath. Flashback or flash-forward? We’ll find out or guess soon enough, but it would have been nice to get more than a teaser, especially as much of the episode consists of Pilcher telling Ethan what we already knew or could have figured out for ourselves.
The helicopter with Ethan, Nurse Pam, and Pilcher flies above the town. As this is probably not that common an occurrence, a little girl stares up at the sky in wonder. The copter lands on a high mountain summit. From there, they take a rickety sky-bridge to Pilcher’s lair, which is carved into the side of an even taller mountain. Like God, he runs things from above.
Inside, it’s a stripped down version of what we might imagine Google, Facebook or any secretive tech giant would be like, but without the views. There are worker-bees buzzing, some glass-walled shared offices, and open office space. But as Ethan gets into the guts of the place, it turns out to be even eviler than Apple. He passes by Marcie, who is not another aspect of Pam. She’s on the phone, telling some poor new arrival that she can’t do anything about his not being able to reach his wife. As Pilcher talks about cryonics, Ethan realizes he’s in the warehouse where peepcicles are stored until ready for use. For extra creepy, there’s an abbie screeching in a cage and who knows what kind of experimentation going on behind closed doors.
While Pilcher fills Ethan in, we cut back to town where there are two storylines likely to merge. The first involves Teresa, who is investigating a strip of land that hasn’t been developed, Plot 33. Henrietta, the real estate agency secretary who’s miffed she didn’t get Peter’s job after his “retirement,” warns Teresa not to look into it and tells her that her predecessor thought it was a way out.
The second storyline features Kate and Harold, who, along with the deliveryman from the local version of UPS, are involved in a secret plot to blow something up and get the hell out of town. We don’t get many details, but Peter was also part of it, so maybe there’s a Plot 33 connection. Having unsuccessfully searched Peter’s home for some McGuffin they need, they now have to look in the next logical place—his office, where Kate is sure it (whatever it is) will be sitting in an unopened box by his desk, which is now Teresa’s desk. Given that there’s not a whole lot for anyone to do at their jobs, you’d think Teresa would have gone through that pile of boxes by now, especially as investigating is her thing.
Kate stops by the real estate office and tells Teresa they should talk. This is a ruse to get her away from her desk so the deliveryman can find and retrieve the mystery box—although how that’s going to happen with Big Bill hovering is an even greater mystery. The gals go over to the coffee shop where the waitress comments on their being there together. Kate tells her they go back a long time. Does she mean into the past they’re not supposed to talk about on pain of death? But the phones don’t start ringing all over town when she says it. Instead the waitress just comments that that makes sense since she’s seen Ethan with Kate and all. Perhaps it’s Teresa’s rage that keeps her from noticing how Kate’s hair could have grown six inches in the four months since she caught her with Ethan, or how she looks so much older, or how she could have settled in with her husband in the five weeks she’s been missing. But that pesky time discrepancy thing never comes up.
Speaking of Ethan, where exactly do the townsfolk think the sheriff is? Hiking the Rocky Mountain trail? Maybe without someone from upstairs calling with orders, the townsfolk aren’t all that bloodthirsty.
At home the littlest Burke, Ben, is wondering about his place in the universe. Teresa reacts to her son’s philosophizing exactly as we’d expect her to, by immediately asking if “that girl” has anything to do with his thinking thoughts Mommy didn’t put in his brain.
Not much more on Ben this week, other than the way too obvious device of his looking in the mirror while having a flashback of the foot stomping/candle scene from last week just in case we missed it, or didn’t see it on “previously on,” or got hit on the head real hard and have amnesia. The mirror moment happens when Pilcher is lecturing Ethan about how children are the future in his brave new world.
Which brings us back to Pilcher. Maybe he failed to convince people there was a problem because he’s such a boring speaker. The character is meant to be so bland he blends, and that touch of the nebbish is not just a persona he puts on for his victims the townsfolk.
The whole thing made me long for Lost. I get it. Ten episodes is different from six leisurely seasons. They don’t have time to tell everyone’s story (let alone to tell it in Korean). But what they’ve come up with instead—mini-flashbacks packed with awkward exposition—isn’t a solution. Last week, The Truth worked because Hope Davis delivered and we were hungry for answers, but the extended monologue interwoven with other storylines is a device best used sparingly and not twice in a row.
This week Pilcher tells Ethan what Megan told the students last week, that nobody listened to his warning. He narrates his flashbacks, showing people laughing at him and not listening. Hey, show, here’s a hint: flashbacks are supposed to surprise us with stuff we don’t already know!
We also get some backstory on three of his followers. Pam is his sister and was a drug addict. We know this because Pilcher calls her his “ex-drug addict sister” in a flashback while complaining about how nobody listens, after we’ve just seen nobody listening.
Another early recruit was Megan. She was a true believer from the start. (Big surprise!) Arnold Pope’s story sounds too much like one we’ve heard before, too many times to count, and includes poverty, a single mom who dies, foster care, trouble at school, and jail, but then he turned his life around sort of. He wasn’t a cop but a parking lot attendant/cop-wannabe, who lived with his dog, ate too much ice cream and watched sports. Seeing Terrance Howard as this pathetic, defeated schlub feels wrong. In addition to turning the character into a walking talking cliché, we’re getting Pope’s story through Pilcher’s eyes, and Pilcher is a narcissist who doesn’t really “get” people. Howard is good though, and he’s credited in more episodes, so maybe we’ll see him in the center of a one-hour story, pretty please, preferably one involving the fire with flashbacks within flashbacks, if that isn’t asking too much.
It’s not only that we’re told the same stuff we were told last week; it’s that we’re told what to think about it. Pilcher makes an explicit reference to The Allegory of the Cave, just in case we didn’t get there on our own. Everyone knows the first rule of using the cave trope is never refer directly to the allegory! Besides, Wayward Pines isn’t even a good example. The point of the original is that the prisoners—except for an enlightened few—don’t realize they’re prisoners, or that there’s a world outside the one in which they are chained. While some residents of Wayward Pines have accepted and even thrived under imprisonment, everyone knows they’re trapped in a crap-hole where you can’t even get cable, let alone decent Chinese take-out. It’s not that they think ignorance is bliss. It’s that they know knowledge equals death.
The only excuse for his making the analogy was that it was a round about way to clue us in on how far removed from reality he is. There are plenty of other hints as well, like the ornately decorated cave he lives in. It’s the kind of place Dr. Evil might call home. He actually believes the ignorant souls under his control are better off not knowing he kidnapped them and everyone they knew or loved has turned to dust (unless he kidnapped them too).
Okay, he might have a point there.
And he has reason to believe too much reality would be a catastrophe. He tried it. The big reveal is that Ethan and everyone he knows are part of “Group B,” Wayward Pines 2.0. Pilcher told the first group everything. The result was what we saw in the episode’s opening. It also mirrors the story Megan told the students about the boy who told the truth, which was probably a fable, the children’s version, with a much lower body count.
Somewhere in this mess, there is a plot moving forward. Ethan agrees to continue on as sheriff (as if he had a choice) and work to make Wayward Pines a better place, but he’s clear that the executions, surveillance, and other shenanigans have to stop. Pilcher warns him there’s a plot a-brewing to take down a fence and escape, so preventing that without violence or telling everyone might be tricky. Pilcher doesn’t know who’s involved, but the audience does. We also know that Kate and Harold both expect to find the world they knew even though they each might have a different idea about what year it is.
So now that Ethan knows what’s at stake, what’s he going to do? Who’s he going to tell? And do we really know the whole truth or is there more to be revealed? There could be a reason we only saw five seconds of Wayward Pines 1.0.