Get lost in FOX’s Wayward Pines

FOX

FOX

May sweeps are a nifty time for television right now. But not necessarily for the season finales that offer their frustrating cliffhangers for mass consumption.

More so, May sweeps debut new tastes and obsessions for viewers. One interesting contribution is Wayward Pines, the easily-slipped-into mystery/drama featuring the brusky Matt Dillon, an actor I was first introduced to in 1980’s terrific My Bodyguard.

Wayward Pines is one in a rash of so called “event series” presentations. It’s a short 10-episode attention-grabbing fling that could very well lead to something more. (Other recent — not to mention successful and well-received — event series shows that have made the grade include Gracepoint, American Crime and Secrets And Lies, all of which are worthy of a look if you haven’t yet done so.)

In the opener Dillon, supine, battered and bloodied, is found in the midst of forest greenery. Dazed and confused, he rises and stumbles into the town of Wayward Pines where we discover he is Secret Service agent Ethan Burke who is on the hunt for two missing fellow federal agents. Here starts the interesting events of a mystery that immediately pulls you into its left-of-center intrigue.

Sprinkled throughout the show’s first hour we discover hard facts and (possible) soft tidbits not only about Burke but the townies and other players who make up whatever Wayward Pines actually is. We get backstory on Burke, we and the hairs on the back of our neck are introduced to the town sheriff (somewhat obtusely played by Terrence Howard), we’re witness to a delicious introduction to the nutso Nurse Pam (played with aplomb by the terrific Melissa Leo) as well as a seemingly balanced and refreshing turn by an attractive (!) Juliette Lewis. And that’s just a taste of some of the actors gracing Wayward Pines.

Automatic conclusions and nods are drawn about the show … tweet

… especially (but not exclusively) to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. But it’s not the obvious as with lead detective Burke’s comparisons to Kyle MacLachlan’s Agent Cooper from that ground-breaking series. (Side Note: There are tons of TP references ingrained in Wayward Pines: Food, electronics, clandestine situations, more.) No … it leans more on the side of the quirks and beguiling natures of everyone you come in contact with. Sometimes it’s their appeal and attractiveness (the yummy Carla Gugino and the dapper Reed Diamond), during others it’s the seemingly sinister qualities of the players (Toby Jones, Melissa Leo). As well, there are the obvious questions how some fit into the grand scheme of things as displayed in Juliette Lewis, Terrence Howard and, obviously, Matt Dillon who may or may not be playing an unbalanced role.

What grabbed my eye about the show initially? All those actors. When you get that many high-profile names thrown in the mix, a show had better produce. If it doesn’t, more often than not you get a jumbled mess. (Speaking of actors, another draw to this show for me is the inclusion of Homicide: Life On The Street alums, in this case, Leo and Diamond. There seems to be a nice little list of programs out there — this one being the latest — having multiple pairings from that outstanding, beloved series.)

But, no matter how many characters, work the story and weave those characters effectively into it and there’s the greatest possibility of satisfying reward. tweet

And that’s exactly what showrunner/creator Chad Hodge (The Playboy Club, Runaway) has promised: a fresh, well-rounded tale with a definitive ending to the 10-episode run. Added bonus? At least one chapter directed and produced by the sometimes brilliant, sometimes boneheaded M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable). In that alone there’s mystery. Can Shyamalan work his magic into Wayward Pines as he has with some of his other projects? Or will his contributions muddle things? I’m willing to bet he’ll have a positive influence.

I’m hooked and curious and good to go with this show. And the good news for the skeptical viewer (and the attention deficit contingent) is the fact Wayward Pines has a relatively short run, easily accessible without a season’s worth of commitment.

Come on … take a chance. With a guaranteed wrap-up, this is the perfect show in which to devote real-time effort.

Wow. A definite conclusion. What a novel idea.

Editors note: You can catch a repeat of the first episode Thursday, May 21 at 8:00 PM before episode two airs at 9:00 PM. Wayward Pines is also streaming on Fox.com, the Fox app, and Hulu.

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