‘Wayward Pines’ vs. ‘Lost:’ Where Weird TV Shows Go Wrong

It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to say we enjoyed something with M. Night Shyamalan’s name attached to it. With Wayward Pines though, that streak is finally at an end. Leading up to its debut on FOX, there was some fair amount of trepidation as to whether Shyamalan was leading audiences down yet another dead end creatively. His recent work has been less than inspiring, and tries at duplicating the success of shows like Lost and Twin Peaks have largely failed. Wayward Pines on the other hand may be the return to form the much-maligned director has so sorely needed.

We noted leading into the premiere that there were plenty of ways this show could go right, and plenty more that could take it in an unfortunate direction. After just a few episodes, we can say that at least for now, things are moving in a positive direction. The general premise of the show goes as follows: Matt Dillon plays a Secret Service agent sent to Idaho to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents. After a truck careens into his car, he wakes up in a small town where everything seems… off. Eventually he finds out that he literally can’t leave (it’s rule #1 of Wayward Pines), and that attempting to escape is punishable by death.

So far, the show has set up a ton of secrets that we have no way of knowing the truth behind. Some people in the town think they’ve been there only a year, despite the fact that over a decade as passed. Others think they’ve been there longer, despite less time having passed. Meanwhile on the outside, it’s clear that our main character has been set up by those close to him, and that he’s part of a larger plan. All in all, it’s really, really weird in the best sort of way.

Wayward Pines - FOX
Source: FOX

The moment of truth for Wayward Pines has yet to arrive though. Any show can build a world with a mess of difficult-to-understand secrets. It’s an entirely different thing to provide an audience with answers. Lost, despite its deep mythos and devoted fanbase, never truly managed to satisfy people with its “big reveal.” Similar shows that have followed like Flash Forward and Revolution saw themselves hit cancellation early thanks to this same problem. You can only yank people’s chain for so long before they get bored and move on to something more straightforward. In the end, Wayward Pines will be made or broken on its ability to follow through on the intrigue they’ve built up until now.

That being so, there groundwork has been laid for a satisfying conclusion. Because the show is running as a single-run 10-episode miniseries, there’s no long game here. There are no future seasons to worry about, and no need to prolong things past their expiration date. Instead, it’s 10 episodes and we’re done. That’s it. If the story doesn’t wrap up for whatever reason, the showrunners have to know that no one will leave happy. The last thing they want is a 3-month build-up to nothing; if Lost has taught us one thing, it’s that writing yourself into a corner is a dangerous proposition.

Wayward Pines has managed to intrigue at least for the time being. There’s plenty of time left for things to go south, but if all this builds to some answers (think The Prisoner), then it’s safe to say that M. Night Shyamalan may have found a comfortable place in television. For now, we wait to see if this shows itself as a miniseries with a plan, or one that lacks in direction. Let’s hope for the former.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest

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