This season finale has four credited writers. First, there are the Duffer Brothers, Matt and Ross, who certainly haven’t been credited on the show’s worst episodes. Then there’s show creator Chad Hodge, who has been credited on the show’s worst episode. And finally, there’s source novel series author Blake Crouch, who’s had some credits and is below the Duffers but nowhere near the Hodge drecks.
It’s funny because most of the episode is action. It’s either technology suspense action with Melissa Leo realizing brother Toby Jones is going to feed all the people he doesn’t like to buff Gollum monsters, and she’s got to try to get the security system back on. Michael Crichton action, basically.
Or it’s suspense monster action with Shannyn Sossamon and Charlie Tahan hiding from a monster in a dark hospital.
Or it’s bang-bang monster action with Matt Dillon and Carla Gugino shooting at the monsters.
Lots of writer credits for a string of very basic action sequences.
Tim Hunter’s back directing and not great at any of it. The suspense action is fine, but when he gets to the sci-fi stuff (cryogenics and whatnot), he’s lost. Some of it’s the show’s production design looking good for 1982, but some of it’s Hunter.
The episode’s got a big twist ending coming after killing off many regular cast members. Less than halfway through, and it’s clear lots of opening credits names and frequent special guest stars won’t be back for another “Pines.” The character farewells range peak at middling, though none are terrible. The second twist ending changes the impact of a few of them. Not a great way to finish out the season.
Gugino and Leo give the best performances. Not Gugino’s best in the series, but closer to it than lately, and probably Leo’s best. The show did a successful character rehab on Leo, one of its few accomplishments.
Unfortunately, the four credited writers can’t come up with very many good excuses. Given the circumstances, one of the main characters who isn’t coming back goes out in a particularly nonsensical manner. Though there’s a deus ex machina in the form of a falling brick; it’s not like “Wayward Pines” tries very hard.
What’s particularly strange is the disconnect between how characters act and how other characters talk about them acting. It feels a little like some actors shot their scenes before the rewrites came in. Or the writing is oblivious, or the actors are failing. Or flailing. Though no one really flails this time, which is nice. Not many people get an arc—not even Jones, who’s full Bond villain now—and, if they do, it’s an action arc. The show’s ostensible protagonists, Dillon, Sossamon, and Tahan, are indistinguishable action movie tropes.
There’s some good acting from Barclay Hope as Hope Davis’s reluctantly concerned husband. Davis does have an arc this episode, actually. It’s an incredibly narratively problematic one, not dissimilar to how the show treated the last regular guest star, Terrence Howard.
After ten episodes, “Wayward Pines” has fewer stakes than a commercial for a disaster movie. But maybe next season’s acting, writing, and directing will be better. It’s going to be an entirely different show, the finale promises; pretty please, give us another try.