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TV REVIEW: Wayward Pines Goes from Fun House to Horror House in “Our Town, Our Law”

By on May 28, 2015

Matt Dillon as Ethan Burke. Co. Cr: Liane Hentscher/FOX

“What I saw tonight was just evil.”

Well there, Ethan. You took the words right out of just about everyone’s mouth.

The previous episode’s final moments shifted Wayward Pines from creepy side show to living nightmare in one fell swoop, and the series wasted no time building on that rapidly rising tension with this week’s “Our Town, Our Law.”

As the episode opens, Sheriff Pope declares that not every community is as fortunate as Wayward Pines because there they “protect each other.” It’s a declaration that should surely raise an eyebrow, and more than a few questions about Pope’s understanding of the English language. Specifically, the definition of fortunate.

Whether it’s the giant electric wall surrounding the town, the pin hole cameras in every nook and cranny or the phones that can’t go unanswered, nothing about this place is idyllic. Its first impression is such a juxtaposition from its reality that watching feels like a bad acid trip through Pleasantville.

Most importantly, for a place that prides itself on (forcibly) generating a sense of security, Wayward Pines is looking like the least safe place on Earth Ethan can be right now. That’s a notion that makes the episode’s revelation — that getting comfortable may be Ethan’s only option for now — all the more scary… and frustrating.

With the agent he came to Wayward to recover now totally unwilling to join him on his second escape mission, Ethan dodges the eyes of big brother and heads out into the woods. It lands him back at the shack where he first discovered the body of agent number two, now replaced by Beverly’s bloodied and wilting one. Her will drives him to keep going, however, and he manages to spy a food truck that will get him his new pass out of weirdsville.

With his ticket out of dodge, Ethan makes his way into the vehicle by nothing but the sneakiest of means. The trip leads him through a weird warehouse that appears to be the innards of Wayward. While in the process of uncovering all the secrets, Sheriff Pope shows up to ruin the party and eventually, threaten Ethan’s life.

Meanwhile, Theresa and Ben are tracking Ethan’s whereabouts and opening up old adultery wounds. The irony is that he did leave for and is with Kate, but she’s a changed woman and so are her dynamics with Ethan. That tension is still boiling right beneath Theresa and Ben’s surface, and as a result their happy reunion is short-lived before they too must face Pope.

In the end, Ethan once again wins with the help of a car and Ben, but uncovers a wild reality about what’s behind Wayward’s wall. For now it seems that Ethan is stuck, but despite what he’s seen, will he try to get out again?

This week helped us get that much closer to unraveling the big secret. It also threw a few unexpected twists and stakes raisers at viewers while establishing a clearer idea of who the good and bad guys are. All in all, “Our Town, Our Law” was a successful balance between character and plot development by way of organic relationship tension and believable plot turns.

Pictured: Kate (Carla Gugino, R) and Ethan (Matt Dillon, L) -- © 2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.

Pictured: Kate (Carla Gugino, R) and Ethan (Matt Dillon, L) — © 2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.

With Ethan separated from the rest of his family, but most of the interesting action happening in Pines, the role of Theresa and Ben was beginning to come into question. While other series may have dragged out their discussions of extramarital affairs and whether they should go after Ethan, this show ran with it just long enough to spur its characters into action. This is a perfect example of how well timed and paced Wayward Pines is.

It is very easy for writers within this genre to overextend their material with lots of build up and late payoffs. Wayward Pines is avoiding that altogether, making for a significantly better viewing experience. This goes for Pope’s death as well. With names like Juliette Lewis and Terrence Howard attached to your series, it seems unlikely that you’d kill them off. They are part of your major week-to-week draw after all. “Our Town, Our Rules” solidified that no one in this community is safe — even award winners.

After the big mud fight and the death of Pope, we got a glimpse at actual hope before that too got dragged away into the unknown. The series is playing with its own genre and it works rather well within the established plot. Wayward has become horror on top of already being a drama, mystery and thriller. That reveal, of something scary on the other side of the wall, addresses the question of whether the wall was meant to keep people in or something out. As we are learning, it’s actually both. S0 does everyone in the town know what’s out there? Did Beverly know what possibly awaited her? If not, why? That would be enough to keep people wanting to stay inside the wall, right?

As for our lead, Ethan is playing smarter, but it is increasingly unclear whether the eyes and ears of the city have a hand in that. Kate first notes his second chance, which leaves the audience to question Ethan’s value to the town and the people who run it. On a similar note, with everyone so afraid — to the point that they are willing to be complicent participants in a murder — it seems hard to believe that whoever is watching doesn’t see him doing all of — well, everything. With such strict rules and aggressive enforcers, why would they be comfortable with Ethan snooping?

In the process of Ethan’s attempted break out, we saw how Sheriff Pope helped “integrate” Theresa and Ben into the community. Add this to the weird warehouse where the powers at be are collecting the property of Wayward’s forced inhabitants, and you’ve got a bigger mystery than any of us expected. The best part about this reveal, however, isn’t what we saw but how knowing the artistic minds behind the series may give us our answer to the largest mystery.

M. Night Shyamalan is known for delivering a solid twist, in some cases much better than others. Some of his best work has come from The Village and The Sixth Sense, where there are usually two sets of evidence that lead audiences to two possible answers. The most obvious and least visible answer is always the actual twist. The other answer is simply a decoy.

Watching Pope’s process for bringing in Theresa and Ben gave us part of the answer as to his role and degree of awareness about the town. He knew far more than others, but how do you continuously orchestrate that knowledge separation and question suppression so well both inside and outside of your walls? No one on the inside asks where people are coming from and on the outside no one cares where they are going?

Furthermore, Ethan pushed back against the rules of the town, in large part to get back to his family. So Theresa and Ben’s arrival was in no way an accident, so much as it was an appeasement. It, in some ways, also felt like a replacement. There are only a certain number of houses and “roles” in that town and they seemingly don’t care who fills them, just so long as they’re filled.

And while the rest of the Burke family made it to Wayward in an almost similar fashion as Ethan, we still don’t know how they actually made it in. Ethan woke up in the forest, they were brought to the hospital. We’ve still never seen anyone physically entire Wayward Pines.

Even with all these questions and so few answers, Wayward Pines is still pleasantly satisfying for the third week in a row. “Our Town, Our Law” was a solid addition to the story and further proved on multiple fronts that this series is worth sticking with.

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