Strug­gles to find its way

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That dif­fi­cult sec­ond sea­son.

UK Broad­cast Fox, fin­ished

US Broad­cast Fox, fin­ished

Episodes Re­viewed 2.01-2.10

How do you con­tinue an “event se­ries” af­ter you’ve blown the big se­cret, killed off the lead, and offed the an­tag­o­nist? This rather tricky sit­u­a­tion was ex­actly the one fac­ing Way­ward Pines’ in­com­ing showrun­ner. Un­for­tu­nately few of the so­lu­tions de­vised for this sec­ond run work all that well.

Not seen the first se­ries? Then clear off and catch up – it’s well worth watch­ing, and it’s im­pos­si­ble to dis­cuss sea­son two with­out spray­ing spoil­ers. Still with us? Then you’ll be aware that half­way through sea­son one it was re­vealed that the tit­u­lar small town is all that sur­vives of hu­man­ity hun­dreds of years in the fu­ture, home to both vol­un­teers and peo­ple ab­ducted and placed in cryo­genic sus­pen­sion against their will – like Matt Dil­lon’s Se­cret Ser­vice agent Ethan Burke.

With sea­son one’s fi­nale dis­pos­ing of both Burke and the town’s cre­ator David Pilcher (Toby Jones), sea­son two de­frosts a new pro­tag­o­nist: sur­geon Dr Theo Yedlin (Ja­son Pa­tric). Thank­fully, the show doesn’t waste time mak­ing him play guess­ing games for long, with the re­al­ity of Way­ward Pines laid out for Yedlin in episode two by Pilcher’s young heir Ja­son, who now rules the town with an iron fist – but al­ways with tears welling up in his eyes, be­cause hey, fas­cists can still be sen­si­tive and dreamy, right? This boy-band Oswald Mosley seems like a trans­par­ent at­tempt to in­ject the show with teen ap­peal, and makes for a pretty im­plau­si­ble ruler. You keep hop­ing Yedlin will clip him round the ear and send him to his room.

With no mys­tery to solve, how to keep the view­ers oc­cu­pied?

Of­ten seems to be strug­gling to find a rea­son to ex­ist

Well, flash­backs come in handy. On the plus side, this means more Toby Jones – al­ways a good thing. But they tend to an­swer ques­tions no one par­tic­u­larly cared to ask, such as “Who was the ar­chi­tect of Way­ward Pines?” Other char­ac­ters left stand­ing at the end of sea­son one – like Burke’s wife, his son, and for­mer col­league Kate – also re­turn, but are briskly dis­pensed with. Who knows whether the be­lated com­mis­sion­ing of a sec­ond sea­son meant ac­tors had al­ready com­mit­ted to other projects, or whether on be­ing of­fered the gig they splut­tered, “Write me out quickly, this sounds pretty point­less”… but you wouldn’t be too sur­prised if it was the lat­ter.

That yawn­ing nar­ra­tive gap is also filled by jam­ming it full of soap. So Yedlin has to deal with the fact that his wife has found a new lover, while other char­ac­ters dis­cover they’re gay, or – in the sea­son’s most bat’s-arse de­vel­op­ment – find out that they’re re­lated. You may find your­self sar­cas­ti­cally im­i­tat­ing an EastEn­ders cliffhanger drum roll.

The one path taken which has some success is ex­pand­ing the show’s mythol­ogy by tak­ing a closer look at the so­ci­ety of the mu­tated “Ab­bies” who live out­side the town’s walls. Af­ter a rarel­y­seen fe­male Abby is cap­tured, it’s dis­cov­ered that she’s a leader, is in­tel­li­gent, and has tele­pathic abil­i­ties. But ul­ti­mately this story thread doesn’t re­ally go any­where. Sim­i­larly, while Yedlin’s char­ac­ter dark­ens to­wards the end, this evo­lu­tion comes about too late to be ex­plored in any great depth.

It all makes for a sea­son which is in­ter­mit­tently en­ter­tain­ing, but of­ten seems to be strug­gling to find a rea­son to ex­ist. Next time the alarm goes off for hu­man­ity to awake, maybe it’d be best to hit the snooze but­ton. Ian Berri­man

And it looked like such a nice neigh­bour­hood.

More re­li­able than Spinal Tap’s.

No won­der it says “Dan­ger” on the door.

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