blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Wayward Pines (2015) s01e08 – The Friendliest Place on Earth

Tim Hunter directs this episode, which is notable for a couple reasons. First, it means he’s been directing Matt Dillon for almost as long as Dillon’s wife on “Pines,” Shannyn Sossamon, has been alive. Hunter directed Dillon in 1982’s Tex (but also wrote Dillon’s 1979 Over the Edge); Sossamon was one when Edge came out.

Second, Hunter knows how to direct actors, which is kind of new for “Pines.” Shame it happens eighty percent of the way through the season, but better than never? There’s a terrific sequence for Melissa Leo, who’s seemingly no longer in Nurse Ratched mode.

Leo’s got one of the episode’s subplots; more and more paranoid and less and less compelling Toby Jones has her interviewing the surveillance team to see who’s giving aid to the insurgents in town. Anyone with any melanin in their skin seems to work in surveillance and not get to repopulate the planet, instead of leaving Hope Davis to cultivate the white stock of the future.

Davis has a little to do in Charlie Tahan’s recovery subplot, trying to turn Tahan against dad Dillon. She wants Tahan to tell Dillon to start executing the insurgents, something Dillon doesn’t want to do. Tahan might be recovering from a near-fatal explosion, but he’s still a dim bulb; still so’s everyone else on the show. It’s part of the conceit.

However, when Tahan confronts Dillon, Dillon tells him a teenage football anecdote because he never talks to his kid. So, it’s not like the material isn’t there for Tahan’s character arc; the show just doesn’t know how to do it. The episode’s got three credited scripters: Patrick Aison, Rob Fresco, and source novel author Blake Crouch. Apparently, none of them thought Dillon needed a father arc.

He spends most of the episode trying to find Reed Diamond, who’s still on the run after last episode’s terror attacks. He and a red shirt (maybe Toby Levins) are going to break through the wall in a stolen dumpster truck; it takes a good while for Dillon to find out about the stolen truck (he’s then chasing that lead), which suggests “Wayward Pines”’s omnipresent security systems only operate when a particular scene needs contriving.

The other big subplot is Carla Gugino sitting in her jail cell thinking about the past, including her relationship with Jones, who posed as her therapist for years. It’s a not-good shoehorning of an existing character relationship; the subplot culminates in a showdown between them, where Gugino’s able to reclaim some acting mediocrity since Jones is so inert.

What else… Shannyn Sossamon is just playing concerned mom, waiting around the hospital with Tahan. Though she does find out why Dillon had to have an affair with Gugino—Dillon needed someone with classified clearance to make his sads go away. It’s a really lazy finish to a nothing-burger plotline. And then short scenes for Siobhan Fallon Hogan and Teryl Rothery, who gossip about what’s going on in town a couple times.

The cliffhanger’s pretty good and, even though Dillon’s a lousy investigator, his performance isn’t his worst. As usual, Diamond seems comfortable getting through hacky material; maybe he should’ve been lead.

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