Read enough of Biff Bam Pop and you likely know that I’m a big Twin Peaks fan (I wrote a book and all), so whenever I read or hear that something is inspired or influenced by the series, I’m always willing to take a look. That’s how I cam across Josh Williamson and his excellent Image series, Nailbiter. It’s also how I discovered Blake Crouch’s novel, Wayward Pines a few years back.
I don’t exactly recall how I heard about Wayward Pines; perhaps it was after FOX optioned it for a tv series and cited its Twin Peaks colours. Regardless, as soon as I heard about the book, I downloaded it from Amazon for my iPad’s Kindle App. The story is about Special Agent Ethan Burke, who arrives in the town of Wayward Pines looking for two missing FBI agents. As he wanders around the seemingly idyllic locale, Burke quickly realizes all is not as it seems.
As a novel, Wayward Pines really worked for me. Crouch was clearly working in Twin Peaks territory (he admits it in the book’s afterward), and I thought he delivered. So, you can completely understand why I would be interested to see the book translated to a multi-part tv series. Except, that is, for the fact that attached to the series as a producer was M Night Shyamalan. No offence to MNS – he’s created some great films; The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village. But I’ve avoided his lesser films – when people are slamming The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth, I don’t feel the need to discover how bad they are for myself. MNS’ work, most agree, has faltered over the past decade. But maybe moving into the realm of episodic television would be a good thing for him.
Then there was the cast for Wayward Pines – Matt Dillon, Juliette Lewis, Toby Jones, Melissa Leo, Shannyn Sossamon and Terrence Howard. They’re all big names, right? How could this series not deliver, right?
And then I watched the first episode. Directed by MNS, ‘When Paradise Is Home’ opens as though it wants to be Lost 2, with a close up on the eyes of Ethan Burke (Dillon). As the show progresses, you certainly get the whole Twin Peaks vibe going on. A small town, some quirky characters (most notably Leo’s Nurse Pam and Sheriff’s secretary Arlene, played by Siobhan Fallon Hogan) and an air of mystery – it’s all there. However, unlike the Twin Peaks pilot, a classic piece of television, the premiere of Wayward Pines is saddled with some absolutely atrocious acting, from almost everyone involved. I didn’t believe or buy any of the characters – I’m not sure how much of that comes from the script by Chad Hodge, who developed the series for FOX, or if it’s just that the actors themselves are simply not into it. Matt Dillon seems to be sleepwalking through the role; Terrence Howard is just awful as Sheriff Pope, who in theory is supposed to be the series bad guy. I don’t buy Sossamon as mom to a teenager, and I’m a fan of hers. The only performances I enjoyed at all were from Leo, who plays it over the top, and an understated Juliette Lewis, who is a bartender and appears to be the only other person in town who Burke can trust.
Believe me, I wish I enjoyed this episode WAY more than I did. Part of my issues could also arise from the fact that I know the secret of Wayward Pines; perhaps reading the book simply ruined the series for me. I don’t think so, though. I think that, sadly, the premiere episode is another in a line of poor showings from M Night Shyamalan. Does that mean I won’t watch the next episode? No, not quite. I’m willing to give it another episode, maybe two. But I can tell you that at the end of the first 43 minutes, I was severely let down by Wayward Pines.
One thing is for sure: the television adaptation of Wayward Pines is definitely not Twin Peaks. Not even close. Here’s hoping it can be something else.