Way­ward Pines

Bark­ing mad

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - View screen -

De­but­ing in 126 coun­tries around the world, in 33 lan­guages, on ex­actly the same day, Way­ward Pines is one of the big­gest tele­vi­sion launches in his­tory. If only the show de­served such a lofty pedestal. Based on Blake Crouch’s book and adapted by Chad Hodge, the “event se­ries” marks the tele­vi­sion de­but of mys­tery man M Night Shya­malan. While search­ing for two miss­ing Se­cret Ser­vice agents, fel­low suit Ethan Burke ( Matt Dil­lon) is in­volved in a car crash and wakes up in the pe­cu­liar moun­tain town of Way­ward Pines where ev­ery­thing is a lit­tle… off. The hos­pi­tal has no pa­tients, hid­den speak­ers pump out the sound of crick­ets and the town’s in­hab­i­tants are al­most all ag­gres­sive and un­help­ful. What’s worse, tele­phone calls go nowhere and all roads out lead straight back to Strangeville. Burke is trapped, but the big ques­tion is: why?

To its credit, the first episode rat­tles along, un­leash­ing what feels like a full sea­son’s worth of plot in 45 min­utes. And if you’ve read Pines you’ll know the show’s not likely to dis­ap­point as the 10- episode sea­son goes on ei­ther. It’s got a darkly comedic tone that blends laughs and mo­ments of sur­pris­ing vi­o­lence well and cru­cially Matt Dil­lon is su­perb as the surly agent stuck in a night­mare town, even if the rest of the cast are of­ten a lit­tle too quirky for their own good.

The prob­lem is it does noth­ing mys­tery- driven Amer­i­can dra­mas haven’t been do­ing for 10 years. Take the open­ing shot – an ex­treme close- up of an open eye be­long­ing to a bat­tered, bruised and be­suited man ly­ing on the floor, sur­rounded by tall trees in the mid­dle of the day. Yep, it’s all but iden­ti­cal to Lost’s open­ing mo­ments, and it’s hard to tell whether it’s homage or sec­ond rate knock- off. There are even flash­backs and hints at pseudo- su­per­nat­u­ral weird­ness go­ing on.

Twin Peaks, The X- Files, The Prisoner and more re­cent fair such as Per­sons Un­known and As­cen­sion have all done a very sim­i­lar thing ( in most cases bet­ter) but the real test will come in how it han­dles the tale’s later twists and turns. For now it’s hard to see the wood for the trees. Jor­dan Far­ley

Matt Dil­lon dis­cov­ers that they don’t sell New­cas­tle Brown ei­ther.

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