Fox is about to get a whole lot creepier, thanks to the upcoming debut of its twisty new thriller, Wayward Pines. The limited series, starring Matt Dillon and Terrence Howard, premieres on the network this week, and it’s already drawing frequent comparisons to David Lynch’s cult classic Twin Peaks.
It’s easy to see why. Based on the bestselling series of books by Blake Crouch, Wayward Pines was also filmed in the Pacific Northwest and combines elements of noir, sci-fi and horror to tackle the tale of a small town with secrets.
The 10-part drama stars Dillon as Secret Service agent Ethan Burke, who travels to the idyllic city of Wayward Pines in search of two missing agents, including his former partner Kate Hewson (Carla Gugino). But he soon finds himself trapped in the scenic town, where things are not quite as serene or peaceful as they originally seemed.
The show boasts an all-star team, both in front and behind the camera. In addition to Dillon and Gugino, the series also features Terrence Howard (coming off his hit starring turn in the network’s Empire) as the creepy town sheriff, Arnold Pope; Melissa Leo as the oddly cheerful Nurse Pam; and Juliette Lewis as barkeep Beverly, who warns Agent Burke that “the more you see, the less anything makes sense in this town.” Cue the weirdness.
Aside from its star-studded cast, Wayward Pines boasts another notable name in M. Night Shyamalan. The project marks the small-screen debut of The Sixth Sense director, who serves as an executive producer on the series and also helmed the show’s pilot.
With such an acclaimed team on board, it’s not surprising to see that the show is generating mostly positive reviews. Still, some critics have been quick to point that while Wayward Pines may boast Twin Peaks-like elements, it doesn’t quite live up to Lynch’s ABC hit.
“Wayward Pines does have more than a hint of Twin Peaks, but it’s not nearly as weird and imaginative,” The New York Times review reads, adding: “A small town can be sleepy, but the mystery that binds its residents shouldn’t also be soporific.” Meanwhile, Wired was even more blunt, stating, “Sorry, Wayward Pines, you’re no Twin Peaks — nothing is.”
One major issue? Wayward Pines may give its viewers an entertaining and well-acted eerie ride, but it’s a slow one — too slow. Suspense-building is to be expected from a show like this, especially since Shyamalan has already promised a big reveal halfway through the season.
But it’s one thing to be suspenseful and another to be what the Times calls “a slow, ritualistic and gloomy death march.” That’s a label no new series wants to get. After all, the reveal may be awesome, but what does it matter if no one’s still around to watch it?
Still, despite its problematic pacing, critics seem to agree that Wayward Pines is good at being what it is — not another Twin Peaks, but a moody and stylish genre mystery thriller. The intrigue starts early on, and Dillon’s leading performance has been dubbed “likable, dynamic, and intelligent.”
Plus, the story’s inherent spookiness plays right into Shyamalan’s strengths, with the filmmaker bringing his signature scary vibe (the one audiences have seen in movies like The Sixth Sense and The Village) to the series. Whether that will be enough to help the viewers overlook the too-familiar premise and keep tuning in remains to be seen.
Wayward Pines premieres on Fox on May 14 at 9 p.m. Eastern.