Wayward Pines, Ep. 1.02, “Do Not Discuss Your Life Before”

Wayward Pines, Season 1, Episode 2, “Do Not Discuss Your Life Before”
Written by Chad Hodge
Directed by Charlotte Sieling
Airs Thursdays at 9pm (ET) on Fox

If “Where Paradise Is Home” suggested that Wayward Pines operates by a code of conduct different from the rest of the world, “Do Not Discuss Your Life Before” removes the ambiguity from that by printing that code out and plastering it in every public building in town. The rules are simple, yet highly restrictive: Do not try to leave. Do not discuss the past. Do not discuss your life before. Always answer the phone if it rings. Work hard, be happy, and enjoy your life in Wayward Pines! By the end of the episode, Ethan has broken one rule, seen Beverly violate two others, and witnessed how adherence to the fourth turns this placid community into a veritable lynch mob.

The further establishment of how dangerous Wayward Pines is helps “Do Not Discuss Your Life Before” be a step above the pilot. While last week’s episode presented a broad approach to the weirdness surrounding Ethan, this week narrows it down by giving him one goal: get the hell out of this place. In narrowing the focus, “Do Not Discuss Your Life Before” interestingly allows the audience to become more rooted in the town itself, witnessing the mechanics by which Ethan will have to get out of there and the means by which the residents will try to thwart his efforts.

Placing Ethan back in the role of investigator also works to make him more of an active character. His earlier hallucinations and confusions are dialed back from the pilot—albeit not entirely gone, as a glimpse of Theresa and Ben on stretchers gets in the way of his hospital jaunt—and putting him in a principally lucid state means that the strangeness of Wayward Pines itself comes into clearer relief. Pope’s disconnected way of law enforcement now transitions into orders masquerading as threats, raising both the danger of Ethan’s work and the question of why he doesn’t follow through with promises to lock him up. Similarly, his identification of the counterfeit bills all around town is a great detail in keeping with his Secret Service background—that organization being originally created to investigate financial crimes—and makes for another nice building block into how far gone Kate is.

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“Do Not Discuss Your Life Before” also makes the smart choice to further develop the pairing between Ethan and Beverly, as both are in a position where an ally is a necessary thing. Yet while Beverly helps him fill in some of the blanks about what happened to Evans and the methods by which the town tracks its residents, it’s still in the vein of asking more questions than it answers. Her loss of time implies any number of possibilities, any one of which is plausible in the world that’s been set up: She might be brainwashed, she might be lying to confuse Ethan, or the whole town might be unstuck in time Trafalamdore-style. If not all of Wayward Pines’s questions are landing, Chad Hodge is at least being clever in adding enough of them that eventually one will demand an answer.

And one of the biggest questions about Wayward Pines is answered in particularly brutal fashion: with a cast this talented and prolific, how reticent will the writers be to kill one of them off? The answer is not at all, as an escape attempt following dinner at the Ballingers ends in tears for Ethan and Beverly. Directed in excellent fashion by Charlotte Sieling—proving that M. Night Shyamalan’s pilot-established structure can be replicated and not require his involvement full-time—all of Wayward Pines answers their phones as they should and assembles a massive posse to hunt her down and drag her to a public execution in the town square. It tightens the psychological noose on Ethan, with every single resident proven to be complicit in whatever grand plan is holding things together.

It’s all so arresting in fact that it only further highlights how much of a drag the show becomes when we have to travel outside city limits to spend time with Ethan’s wife and son. All of these scenes have the feeling of filler material, as if the writers know that they can’t have a full episode of Matt Dillon reacting to things and Wayward Pines residents can’t have significant screen time without ruining the early element of mystery. Even as it’s moving pieces to put the two of them in closer proximity to Ethan with a road trip to Idaho, none of that material is as much fun to watch as Pope or Pam making veiled threats or even Kate keeping up her Pleasantville facade with no concrete evidence of her true loyalties. Here’s where killing Beverly off may prove to be a mistake, as the scenes where she’s nervous around Nurse Pam and Arlene or skittish in the Ballinger restroom offered the potential to expand her role on the show.

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That is, if Beverly’s even dead. Dramatic benefits aside, it seems hard to believe that the creative team would recruit Oscar and Emmy-nominated actress Juliette Lewis and kill her off after only two episodes. (Even The Firm gave her more to do than this.) Given the conflicting reports about how exactly Evans died—as well as all the other things Beverly seemed to have unclear information on—it raises a glaring question about how much of this evening was deliberately constructed for Ethan’s benefit. Was she playing along to give him a glimpse at freedom that could be snatched away? Or, on the other side of the equation, was it an actual death and Dr. Jenkins has some way to stitch her back up again? We’ll have to wait and see, but Wayward Pines has in its first two episodes established the most important part of a mystery-driven show: making the audience want to play along.

The Points Beyond The Pines:

  • No indication what flavor of ice cream Pope was enjoying today, but he once again enjoys rubbing his favorite dessert in Ethan’s face. (Metaphorically, at least.)
  • One of the most interesting deliveries of the night was the way the barista was taken aback when asked about Kate: “I don’t know her. How can that be possible?” It raises an interesting question of how much of the town’s docility is due to some type of conditioning, and further validates Ethan’s decision not to undergo Dr. Jenkins’s treatments.
  • Nurse Pam is quickly turning into one of the best things about Wayward Pines, both thanks to the bad dream quality of all of the hospital scenes and the relish with which Melissa Leo bites into every one of her lines. The best of those comes when she sarcastically talks about how much Ethan must miss his wife: “I bet when you two get back together you’re gonna bang her brains out.”
  • “I didn’t get the wedding invitation.” “We kept it intimate.” “So did we.”
  • “You ever try to suture your own nose, Arlene?”
  • “We cannot tolerate people who do not play by the rules.”
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