To sleep, perchance to dream. Hamlet’s famous musing has now become the plan of action for Wayward Pines—but unlike the bard’s troubled protagonist, they don’t actually want it to end in death. The Aberrations’ death, sure, but not the citizens of David Pilcher’s dream community. The form of suspended animation (a kind of living death, really) provided by the cryopreservation pods is actually a way of getting out of their dire predicament. It’s an escape from these troubles, a way to start over, free of the menace of the Abbies. And, as CJ gently assures Lucy, sometimes you even get to dream. He would know.
“Walcott Prep” presents a potential endgame for the unexpected season two, and it’s more of a reset button. Putting everyone—or, more accurately and unsettlingly, 571 out of the thousand-plus residents, thanks to some non-functioning pods—into cryosleep for however long would offer the town a chance of survival. And, more importantly, provide a way for the series to do whatever it wants going forward, should M. Night Shyamalan’s hoped-for third season actually happen. But it’s a tough needle to thread: The end of season one was an appropriately dark punchline, a leap forward in time suggesting everything just gets worse—a fitting Twilight Zone-esque twist for a show that, at its best, embodied everything fun and thoughtful about speculative fiction. To pull a similar stunt risks dulling the impact of that kind of time jump. But the series has to give us some sort of closure—a cliffhanger ending would just be irritating, not to mention presumptuous.
But this week’s best reveal came not from the Abby-escaping plan put into motion during the town assembly, but from Jason Higgins and Kerry Campbell’s sudsy personal revelations. The discovery that Jason is Kerry’s son is a deliciously ridiculous twist, worthy of the soap opera Wayward Pines sometimes threatens to become. Kerry not only isn’t a First Generation, but Pilcher took her child, and put him into a pod without telling her, to become Jason Higgins, the leader of Wayward Pines he then groomed since birth to take over. Unfortunately for both Kerry and Jason, however, they began a relationship. Yuck. (Hat tips to both Oedipus and the ill-fated hero of Oldboy.)
The reveal was enjoyable, if sometimes clumsily executed, and the struggle between Jason and Kerry exploited both of their suspicions in just the right way. Theo had prepped Kerry to be on her guard, lying about Jason saying he would cut her from the pods. But she didn’t really believe him, at least not until after she and Jason had exchanged “I love you”s and shared a moment. Then, he pivots, accusing her of lying, and using what he learned from her confidential file to break down her defenses. Credit where credit’s due: Dr. Theo Yedlin is surprisingly good at getting what he wants. And Jason’s right, Kerry should be proud of that Walcott Prep education. She managed to kill a guy with his own gun.
With that fun little twist revealed, the big source of tension going into next week’s finale is CJ’s discovery of the non-functioning pods. All the townsfolk are gathering outside the mountain, and it’s going to be a disaster when (and let’s be honest, it’s a “when,” not ”if” scenario) they learn there aren’t enough bunks on Noah’s ark for all of them. The argument between Theo and Jason established the stakes nicely: Yedlin, the eternal liberal humanist, making the case that nobody gets to play God, and Jason, the hard-bitten pragmatist, ready to make the life-or-death calls that ensure the survival of the human race. It’s all a bit portentous, but then again, if a conversation about whether the future of the species should be handpicked or left to chance can’t be a bit overly dramatic, nothing can.
And Jason’s plan doesn’t do anything to quell Theo’s urge to insurrection. Recruiting Xander to overthrow Wayward Pines’ little Napoleon was very much in keeping with his character, but having to have his ex’s baby daddy remind Theo he might need an actual plan felt forced. Dr. Yedlin is nothing if not always trying to think a step or two ahead; he constantly rubs people the wrong way, and doesn’t know when to learn more by staying silent, but he’s almost always working one angle or another. It may just be that he was hoping Xander would have something in mind for toppling Jason Higgins from power, an understandable tactic when dealing with someone you’ve only known for a very short time. But Jason ends up handing Theo the rope the good doctor needed to hang him, by presenting a plan to weed out the “defectives,” a category that includes Kerry.
And yet, Jason’s not entirely wrong: Certain people will be needed when they all wake up, especially those like Yedlin, who possess invaluable skills. The flashbacks with Pilcher this week acted as a smart counterbalance to the discussion of the future of the town. Whether it was the first young pregnant girl oddly capable of reciting the end of Animal Farm from memory, or his talk with a loquacious Kerry, pondering the nature of identity, his scenes in “Walcott Prep” made for an ironic comment on his mission. Kerry’s point about identity—that we’re all forever doomed to retain our past, having it shape our future without exception—was the very thing from which Pilcher believed he could rescue her, by offering a leap forward in time. It was the beginning of his rules, a way to not discuss the past, in hopes it would stop impinging on the future. But the past is never not the past, and will always return, with worse consequences the more deeply we try to bury it. And a secret buried so deep, only a few people know it? That kind of secret—the kind Jason Higgins unearths from the bottom of a stack of personnel files—can have deadly consequences.
Next week’s finale promises to again unleash chaos on the town, much as it did in the season one conclusion. But this time, we’ve got a new understanding of the Abbies. Far from mindless monsters, they’re intelligent, protective, and capable of leveling the town, so great are their numbers. Margaret is saved by some rudimentary but effective medical work, and it’s unclear what the result will be. She’s demonstrated an aversion to killing the innocent or non-threatening, but it might not be enough to keep her clan (herd?) from taking out every human they can find. Margaret made a few unsteady alliances with humans—Adam Hassler and Theo—but she’s no wilting flower. The life of everybody in town is in her branded hands.
- My big question to you all: Do you think Jason was planning to kill himself when Kerry walked in on him? That kind of realization is pretty shattering, and cocking your gun when no one else is in the room feels like a clear indicator you’re planning to shoot the only person present.
- Pilcher’s response, upon Kerry reminding him the meek shall inherit the earth: “I think that’s still open to question.”
- Arelene manages to say something not insane this week! No bananas for her tonight!
- Man, even when he’s eating ice cream, Jason can’t help but be creepy. Choosing a young woman out of a catalogue of personnel to be your sexual partner? Gross, Jason, very gross. At least he backed off when she initially recoiled at his foot touch.
- What a fun opener, playing Skeeter Davis’ “The End Of The World” with the images of birds and bees cutting right to the girls at the prep school (subtle!). And then bringing it back at the end, as Jason lay dying on the model of the town…this is not a show for people who dislike big honking symbolism.