Okay, so it’s way too little, probably way too late, but “Wayward Pines” might rally into mediocrity. This episode plays like the first episode after a pilot, meaning the first three episodes of the season, with the movie stars and former movie stars, were just the setup. Now we’ve got the actual show, which seems to be about Matt Dillon, wife Shannyn Sossamon, and son Charlie Tahan living in the weird town, “Wayward Pines.”
Even though the sheriff tried to kill them and there’s a giant electrified fence around the place, it still takes Sossamon and Tahan a while to realize they’re in a strange place. Though Tahan never really groks it. Tahan was sixteen or seventeen during filming, and they never mention his age, but he comes off like a complete doofus. Or he’s just got PTSD from last episode, which is possible too.
This episode’s about Dillon becoming the new sheriff, Tahan going to school, and Sossamon confronting Carla Gugino about the affair Gugino had with Dillon. It was five weeks ago for Sossamon, Dillon, and Tahan and twelve years ago for Gugino. Thanks to these plot developments, Gugino all of a sudden starts giving the best performance on the show since she’s got some very layered emotions to essay.
There are still some problems, of course. Melissa Leo is still bad. Though not as bad as before. The episode’s got a new writer, not series creator Chad Hodge; instead, Steven Levenson gets the credit, and he’s an immediate improvement. And Zal Batmanglij is back directing, which is fine. Until the finale, anyway. After an unbelievably strong episode, they try to flush all the stakes down the toilet, then cliffhang on the swirl.
The supporting performances are better, too, with Hope Davis as Tahan’s creepy school teacher and Barclay Hope as her husband, the mayor. Hope tries to warn Dillon about the town instead of forcing him into compliance. It’s more effective.
The main guest star is Justin Kirk, who appeared briefly last episode as a realtor setting Dillon up with his new house. Kirk’s a social malcontent—something the previous episodes suggested was impossible—and Dillon’s got to protect him from the ominous forces at work. And Leo, who wants Dillon to slit his throat in town hall because Shirley Jackson doesn’t exist in this universe.
It helps seeing the ordinary people around town; it helps having Sossamon there to balance Dillon out. They really shouldn’t have drug out the pilot to almost two and a half hours. Or at least gotten M. Night Shyamalan to direct all of it so the badness could’ve been more uniform.
There’s a good scene or two for Siobhan Fallon Hogan, as Dillon’s secretary at the sheriff’s office, and Sarah Jeffrey’s decent as Tahan’s new, high school love interest. Unfortunately, Toby Jones seems entirely lost in the plot at this point, and Reed Diamond doesn’t have enough to do, but… this episode’s from a far better show than I ever thought “Wayward Pines” was going to be based on the first three.
It’s actually possible—albeit unlikely—it won’t be a waste of time now.