What would you do, were you in Ethan Burke’s shoes?
It’s a timely question, given that much of this week’s episode is dedicated to convincing Ethan of the noble intent behind the experiment of Wayward Pines. David Pilcher repeatedly asks him to consider the necessity of what’s been done, but Ethan isn’t buying it. It’s fate that creates the circumstances we don’t choose for ourselves, he argues, not other people. But Pilcher continually cites the countless ways that life in the 21st century wasn’t free from such meddling, either. “Others have always made choices for us. Think of the millions drafted into wars decided by their leaders, the causes of which in retrospect seem utterly meaningless,” he points out. A fitting analogy, given that Ethan compares Pilcher to Stalin shortly thereafter—another person who “spied on his citizens and executed them.” It’s a biting comment—but ultimately an inaccurate one.
Pilcher is frantically trying to save the human race. To do so, he ripped countless people out of their lives, re-awakening them 2000 years in the future, into a world that came to pass just as he predicted. He stole them, against their will, or at least ignorant of it. Yet, as Ethan inevitably realizes, what’s done is done. No one can get their lives back. All that’s left is to try and give humans some semblance of a life in the present. And that means protecting them—not only from the Aberrations, but from themselves. Because Ethan’s whole “tell people the truth” campaign was Pilcher’s very first idea, too. And it nearly ended in the destruction of humanity.
Unfortunately, history is repeating itself, and it turns out, Marx was wrong: It’s a tragedy every time it happens, not a farce. Peter wasn’t working alone; he was part of a cabal that contains at least three people that we know of: Kate, Harold, and Ted the delivery guy. The reveal of their plan to blow a hole in the wall and see what’s outside is perfectly timed to maximize the tragedy of what will happen, should they succeed. Two weeks ago, this would have been an exciting and welcome development, a way to fight back against the oppressive surveillance and terror of Wayward Pines. But knowing what’s going on behind the scenes turns their tenacious resistance into an imminent disaster. Ethan has gone from being their best potential ally to arguably the strongest possibility of stopping them.
In a sense, Ethan really does stand in for the viewer this week, as Pilcher and his sister Pam (nice reveal there, too) walk him through the mountain facility, essentially turning his character into a massive info dump repository for the duration of “Choices.” Which would have been a drag, had the information not been invested with a serious debate of the moral and philosophical implications of Wayward Pines (both the town and the show itself). Learning about the hibernation chambers, seeing the extent of the resources, watching the more than 200 people hard at work, all of whom have devoted their lives to this arguably most just of causes…Ethan is appalled, but also maintains his wits. Pilcher is right: Ethan is the person Wayward Pines needs, because he’s dedicated to a cause more important than preservation Pilcher’s experiment. He’s dedicated to protecting human life from whatever threatens it. Even if that threat clams to be acting in the interest of the greater good.
This week’s flashbacks did more than just help us understand how the town came about. It showed Pilcher’s transformation from a frustrated idealist, watching his civilization amuse itself to death, to a committed radical, taking whatever steps were necessary to ensure the success of his dream. Pamela was the one who got him to think big. Mrs. Fisher impressed upon him the gravity of the situation, and the need to act regardless of others’ wishes. Pope, the disillusioned security guard, gave him the manpower to begin his dream. And with these pieces in place, the larger puzzle of Wayward Pines began to come together. Think of them as Pilcher’s elite: the essentials, the ones so important they awoke prior to the project’s inauguration in 2014. The ones who oversee everything. The ones who first sedated, then brought back, citizen #000001. They gave a disgraced doctor a second chance. They just didn’t ask him whether he wanted one.
And if these elites are that confident in their vision and purpose, it’s surprising they aren’t keeping a closer eye on Lot 33. Theresa does some digging this week, and turns out to have a keener mind than anyone in town suspects, especially her boss, Big Bill. Her uncovering of the maps, and sneaking suspicion that she might have stumbled onto something important, makes for an intriguing element to her storyline, and gives her something to do besides sit around worrying about her family. We don’t yet know if Theresa was able to pick up on the deeper layer of meaning in Kate’s explanation to her, but given how quickly she’s putting together the elements of this mystery, I wouldn’t put it past her. Also, if Bill smacks his hand on her desk like that one more time, I hope Theresa jumps out of her chair and punches him.
With only four more episodes left to go, there’s a sense of profound urgency to even the most minor of events. Pilcher and Ethan have no idea just how right they are about the faction trying to take down the fence. Nor does Ethan realize what it will take to ensure nobody gets killed. There’s a reason the public executions began in the first place, I suspect—and it had everything to do with scaring others from joining in any resistance. Ethan wants to stop the surveillance and the killings, but what can he do to stop people from wanting to be free?
Now that Pilcher has revealed what we long suspected (this isn’t Wayward Pines’ first go ’round, there was a Group A who were told the truth and it destroyed them), Ethan will have some tough choices. And with a ticking clock—well, a spinning music box, anyway—he may soon run out of options. Turns out, choices only look like choices from a certain angle. But fate, or the actions of others, can turn choices into necessities. At that point, you don’t act because you choose to. You act because you have to.
- How convinced were all of you by Pilcher’s arguments about fate? Ethan brought up many of the same points I would have, but there’s a sense of inevitability at work. Once someone else has acted, there’s not much value in agonizing over whether it was the right or wrong move; you just deal with the consequences.
- Ben’s conversation with Theresa was fascinating. You can see him struggling with the right course of action, but Theresa’s protectiveness is keeping her lips sealed, as well. They’re both trying to do right by keeping the other in the dark—and the weird thing is, neither one is wrong.
- Speaking of Ben, he looked like he was really struggling to hold it together. Are we sure it’s only older people’s minds that can’t handle the truth?
- I know a lot of you called bullshit on the whole “their minds can’t handle it” theory, but now that it’s been proven demonstrably true in the show’s universe, it’s exciting to consider the possibilities as regards how Ethan can possibly salvage this fragile situation.
- Ted’s journey into the realty office to pick up the package containing the necessary element for Harold’s bomb was just the right amount of awkward and ambiguous. Big Bill is dumb, but not that dumb.
- Pamela Pilcher started to come more into focus as a character this week. That jarring gesture of camaraderie at the end of “The Truth” feels more acceptable after watching her patch up Ethan. She’s fiercely devoted to her brother and his vision. When Ethan was just another citizen to be kept in check, she treated him as inferior; but as someone in the know, she can let her guard down.
- “You didn’t think Wayward Pines ran itself, did you?”
- Most importantly, we learn that Pilcher didn’t just rescue the human race. He rescued us from having to see Toby Jones wearing that wig in 4028. Yikes.