Djimon Hounsou (Credit: Sergei Bachlakov/Fox)

At this point, season two of Wayward Pines is shaping up to be the television equivalent of an entry in the Mission: Impossible film franchise. Each of those films featured a different director, and as a result—despite increasingly maintaining the same ensemble surrounding Tom Cruise—each installment has its own specific style and tone. It’s recognizably the same universe with every subsequent film, but there’s a new flavor to each one, a distinction that makes them stand out, for better and worse.

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This is not the same Wayward Pines we know from last year. The Twilight Zone-esque mystery that drove the series has been replaced by a darker conceit about authoritarianism and apocalypticism—elements that were obviously a key part of the narrative before, but have now moved front and center. A show about discovering the truth has become a show about survival, a bleak militaristic story founded on the “small band of survivors against the world” premise found in everything from films like Day Of The Dead to series like The Last Ship. In making this transition, the series has also jettisoned much of the oddball comic tone that animated season one—though, as “Blood Harvest” shows, there’s a chance it could replaced by a different sense of humor. A jet-black humor based in a near-nihilist sensibility, to be sure, but hey, it’s a start.

This episode was an improvement over last week, if only because it efficiently cut through any lingering table-setting that needed to happen and established the main relationships and central conflicts of the season. Theo Yedlin came alive as a character because he stopped merely reacting to events and asserted himself as a personality and presence that couldn’t just be dismissed out of hand. (Or sent beyond the wall to die—even post-surgery Kerri seemed ready to slap Jason for that boneheaded move.) Jason Patric invested Yedlin with some actual sass this week, and it couldn’t have been more welcome. The First Generation are doubling down on Pilcher’s worst tendencies, and all of us who watched last year’s events are going to need an audience surrogate who can express all the “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me” viewpoints on our behalf. Theo should fit the bill nicely, especially if he keeps up acidic rejoinders like the one to Jason about who the town’s leader thinks could possibly take over Theo’s skill set: “Maybe one of your pregnant 12-year-olds?”

Despite Rebecca’s warning, Jason says ”screw it” and tells Theo everything, and after some initial refusals to accept reality, he comes around—his wife’s confession that she’s been living here for three years is exactly the glass of cold water to the face Yedlin needed to move forward and admit his circumstances. It allows us to decisively break with the format of last season and get down to business: The arc of this year is Wayward Pines’ struggle to survive in the face of a rapidly changing Aberration menace. The creatures’ evolution bookends the episode, first in their self-sacrificing behavior to build a pile of bodies allowing them to clear the electrified fence, and second in the confrontation with fire sending them into hiding, completely dropping off the town’s security system. It doesn’t bode well for the last people on earth, but the new developments in the Abies are the most intriguing narrative element thus far.

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The other welcome presence this week was Shannyn Sossamon, who despite not having much to do beyond yelling, “Find my son!” and being put under house arrest, nonetheless provided a much-appreciated sense of continuity. Her appeals to the First Generation revealed the uneasy alliance holding the young people together. Everyone seems to agree it’s super shitty of Jason to have violated the fundamental rule against harming a fellow member of the First Generation, and even though they’re not acting on those feelings yet, Jason would do well to drop the insecure Napoleon complex and start listening more closely to others—Kerri in particular, who has a better grasp of human psychology and Machiavellian machinations than Megan Fisher’s all-or-nothing “clear and severe” nonsense.

While it was great to see Hope Davis doing her thing (as I noted above, the fact she could utter the words “abie cadaver” without the slightest bit of hamminess in her performance is a minor miracle), the scene with the abie corpse in the classroom only makes sense if all of this is geared toward revelations about the aberrations. Much as before, they’ve also caged three Abies, and Fisher’s assurances of safety were barely out of her mouth before they sounded like ironic foreshadowing.

This week also introduced us to Djimon Hounsou’s CJ Mitchum, referred to as “one of Pilcher’s proteges,” and seemingly tasked with securing the food supply in Wayward Pines. From him, we learn the chemical levels in the soil within the town have changed, necessitating the growing of crops outside the wall. He’s a bit of a cypher thus far, outside of warning Jason about the dangers of trying to control fire; for now, the character is more of a cautious blank slate than anything.

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More effective was the development of both Kerri and Jason, whose home life seems like a precarious relationship largely dictated by Kerri’s willingness to put up with Jason’s blockheaded nature. While she has some genuine moments of emotion (she looked legitimately pissed that Jason exiled Ben), she also has a tendency to exude Lady Macbeth vibes, the demeanor of a woman doing her best to secretly control the man in charge of things. “He’s not a threat if you control it,” she tells Jason in reference to Theo, and it’s obvious she hopes he’ll realize “control” doesn’t mean ”threaten.” Don’t hold your breath, Kerri. They’ve both interpellated Pilcher’s ideology deep in their marrow: They truly believe that dissent equals destruction, the end of humanity, and are willing to make the hard choices to prevent that from happening. The rebellion stemmed in part from the disappearing supply of rations, and if Wayward Pines can’t forge a more lasting food supply than sporadic harvests, there will be more dissent to come. And Jason’s crew of fresh-faced soldiers are going to need all the help they can get when those Abies—wherever they are—return.

Stray Observations:

  • Okay, most important thing first: Did we just watch Ben get eaten by Abies? I’d say it was a certainty, but Megan Fisher somehow survived, so I’m not ready to call time of death just yet. Still—a gutsy move, show.
  • “Why wouldn’t I be paranoid, here?”
  • Arlene, like Megan Fisher, feels like she wandered in from last season, with her strange attitude and electroshock-aided mentality. Her weirdness would be endearing and fun if it weren’t rooted in such a depressing source. But I’m glad she’s once more our receptionist.
  • Rebecca and Theo’s relationship is so tentative! I’m curious to see what they do with this—it feels a bit like warmed-over Ethan/Theresa uncertainty, but having Rebecca be three years in to her tenure in Wayward Pines helps give them a footing the Burkes always lacked.
  • Slaps across the face should always be followed up with, “Did that feel real?”

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