I’m not really sure how ‘Wayward Pines’ got renewed for a second season. The show was promoted as a one-time “Limited Event” series last summer. Although it ended on something of a cliffhanger, it frankly wasn’t compelling enough to justify another run of episodes. Nonetheless, I guess it must have done well enough in the ratings, because here it is again.
Season 2 premiered a couple weeks ago, but I’ve only just caught up with it now so I’ll consolidate my thoughts on the first two episodes into one post. I make no promises about following through with recapping the whole season. Honestly, it’s just not good enough to bother.
As those who watched the first season will recall, the isolated and sealed-off town of Wayward Pines was revealed to be the last vestige of human civilization following an apocalyptic event. A genius madman named David Pilcher (Toby Jones) had abducted and cryogenically frozen hundreds of unwitting test subjects to be thawed out 2,000 years in the future in order to restart the human race. Our primary hero, former Secret Service agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon), led a rebellion against Pilcher’s totalitarian rule, but died in the season finale. Pilcher was killed as well. The season ended with a mind-screw twist when Ethan’s annoying teenage son Ben awoke from a coma three years later to discover that Pilcher’s followers, a bunch of young douchebag preppies called the “First Generation,” had taken up his mantle and reset everything in the town back to where it started with a new batch of unfrozen survivors (“Group C”).
All of those revelations about the true nature of the town were slowly unveiled over the course of the season. With the cat out of the bag, the new season quickly recaps all the pertinent details at the very start of the premiere.
Episode 2.01, ‘Enemy Lines’
It’s now the year 4032 AD. Our new hero is Dr. Theo Yedlin (Jason Patric), a Group C abductee who was taken while on vacation in Hawaii with his wife. He’s thawed out and wakes up very confused, finding himself in an unfamiliar town that appears to be under military martial law. He’s told that his services are needed urgently and is rushed to the local hospital to treat a gunshot victim. No one will tell him where he is or what’s going on, no matter how much he asks (and he asks a lot).
Eventually, Theo is introduced to Jason Higgins (Tom Stevens), the young twerp who’s in charge of everything. Higgins claims that the town is part of a secret government study on the effects of war trauma on civilians, and that all the residents volunteered to take part. Theo doesn’t buy the story but performs the surgery anyway. He’s the only real doctor in town. The rest of the hospital staff are inexperienced kids with no proper medical training.
It turns out that Theo’s patient is Kate (Carla Gugino), one of the leaders of the resistance. Higgins needs her alive so she can tell him where Ethan’s son Ben – who’s apparently now the head honcho of the resistance – is hiding. All of his effort to save her is in vain, unfortunately. As soon as she’s stabilized, Kate steals a scalpel and slits her own throat rather than talk.
Despite his aspirations toward Nazidom, Higgins is a weak, ineffectual leader. Desperate to restore some order to the town, he offers amnesty to any members of the resistance who turn themselves in. When none do, he publicly executes a rebel. Before he can kill another, Ben surrenders. Higgins arrests him, and also Yedlin too, because he thinks the doctor is a troublemaker.
Rather than bring them anywhere to be detained, the truck transporting Ben and Theo deposits them outside the electrified wall protecting the town. The truck is quickly attacked by “Abbies,” the mutant monsters that are now the dominant species on the planet.
Episode 2.02, ‘Blood Harvest’
The Abbies are less interested in Theo or Ben than in getting over the wall. Waves of them deliberately plow into the electrified barrier, killing themselves but piling higher and higher so that others can climb on top of them. Higgins and a group of his soldiers are able to stave off the invasion, but Higgins’ girlfriend Kerry (Kacey Rohl from ‘Hannibal’) is badly injured in the attack.
The kid doctors at the hospital are totally useless, so Higgins sends some soldiers outside the wall to retrieve Yedlin. Once he gets back, Theo demands answers about what’s really going on. Higgins reunites him with his wife Rebecca, who was unfrozen three years earlier and has had time to adjust to the new world. Higgins blurts out the truth about being in the year 4032, but Theo thinks the story is preposterous. His wife urges him to save Kerry and to accept a job as the town’s chief doctor. He acquiesces, under protest.
Once he begins seeing patients, Theo realizes that many of them are malnourished. The town is running out of food. Because the soil inside the wall is used up, the town’s chief farmer/badass mercenary named Mitchum (Djimon Hounsou) had to plant this season’s crops outside the wall. That makes harvesting it very difficult. (I’d imagine that planting and tending to the crops were equally difficult, but that part never comes up.)
Equipped with flamethrowers to defend them from Abbies (somehow, it never occurs to anybody that playing with fire around their only food supply isn’t exactly a brilliant idea), Mitchum leads a team of soldiers to collect the harvest. Geniuses all, they do this in the middle of the night, for seemingly no other reason than to make the fire from the flamethrowers pop more when it illuminates the darkness. Miraculously, they’re successful.
During the harvest, Ben, who’d been hiding in the fields, approaches one of the soldiers and begs to be let back inside the town. The soldier refuses and leaves him outside, whereupon Ben is promptly attacked (and presumably killed, hooray?) by Abbies.
Once the food’s all brought inside and the town is saved from starvation, Kerry (who survived her injury, obviously) has more good news for Higgins. She can’t find any Abbies at all on the surveillance cameras outside the walls. They’ve finally gotten the message and gone away… unless, of course, they’re actually smarter than assumed and are plotting a new form of attack.
In addition to Carla Gugino, the first couple episodes also work in cameos for first season cast members Terrence Howard, Toby Jones and Shannyn Sossamon. Both Howard and Jones were killed off previously, but appear again in flashbacks and video recordings. Sossamon survived the first season and is still hanging around to be an annoyance. Also returned (in a larger capacity) is Hope Davis as the evil schoolteacher Megan, currently in a wheelchair but still brainwashing the town’s youth into obedience and servitude.
Right off the bat, the new season has some very serious problems I’m not sure it can overcome. Perhaps the most severe is that the new lead, Dr. Yedlin, is a total drip. There’s just nothing interesting about his character at all. He’s boring, and he’s kind of an asshole. That combination is not very appealing.
I think it’s a huge mistake to introduce this new character and then put him through the exact same journey of discovery that Matt Dillon had in Season 1. With the big post-apocalyptic plot twist no longer a secret, we in the audience are always ahead of the character and know more than he does. That makes his constant moaning about wanting the truth just kind of annoying, especially after he hears it and then stays in denial and refuses to believe it for a long time. You just want to give him a good smack and tell him to get with the program already.
Even worse than Yedlin is Higgins. Someone with so little charisma or personality can’t possibly be the season’s big villain.
At this point, I don’t know if I’ll actually make it through the whole season. I just don’t see any compelling reason this show needed to come back.