Wayward Pines, Season 1, Episode 4, “One Of Our Senior Realtors Has Chosen To Retire”
Written by Steven Levenson
Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Airs Thursdays at 9pm (ET) on Fox
After two weeks of twist after twist, “One Of Our Senior Realtors Has Chosen To Retire” steps back from some of the crazy of Wayward Pines. In its place, there’s a lot of bureaucracy, as the Burkes’ decision to wait it out for the time being in Wayward Pines means they have to contend with the town’s rules in a less dynamic fashion than trying to stage some grand escape. Things are still creepy and unsettling, but it’s a different degree of creepiness than we’ve grown accustomed to, this one getting deeper into what daily life is like in the town. It makes for a less compelling installment of the series, though it does set the table in an intriguing fashion with developments on how Ethan, Theresa and Ben will deal with their changed circumstances.
Chief amongst those developments is the fact that whatever strange organization/power/board of shadowy figures that controls Wayward Pines is able to react to fatal circumstances with no hiccup in the town’s service. Operating on a similar logic to the world of Banshee, with Sheriff Pope dead the position of sheriff falls on the new guy in town, and the fact that he killed the old one apparently doesn’t matter. It’s one of the more broadly comic sequences Wayward Pines has indulged in to date, Ethan trying to sneak into Pope’s office only to discover that it’s his office now, greeted with a cake and a handshake from the mayor and a photo for the front page so rapidly you’d think it came from a Zucker brothers film. (Matt Dillon’s gobsmacked expression for the photo in particular is pretty great.)
But interestingly enough, Ethan doesn’t recoil from his new position: after one beat he segues into how he’s surprised but ready to get to work. It’s interesting to see Ethan finally play along with the laws of Wayward Pines—at least on a surface level—as it brings new things out of both Matt Dillon and the rest of the townsfolk who’d previously treated him as an interloper. He takes to his new role easily, both in pushing the previously unseen mayor for answers and tossing veiled threats toward the town’s mysterious overseers in an informal public address. His single-minded determination was an important part of his early character development, but given that the structure of the show means he can’t leave Wayward Pines anytime soon, it’s good that Chad Hodge and company have allowed him to explore the windmills rather than simply tilting at them.
And he gets the first test to his position early on with the first resident of his jail, Justin Kirk’s realtor Peter McCall, now on his third strike and slated for a Reckoning. Here’s where the accelerated pacing of Wayward Pines winds up hurting the narrative, as the introduction of Peter as this Orwell-spouting outcast (“He propagates propaganda,” Nurse Pam spits out) doesn’t mesh with his introduction in “Our Town, Our Law.” As set up in the previous episode, Peter felt like part of the Wayward Pines machinery, a creepy presence there to smugly tell Ethan how effective his new house’s security system was. His malcontent role here comes out of nowhere, there to function as a plot device for Ethan to come to terms with what being an authority figure rather than a malcontent himself means.
However, if Peter must function as a plot device, he helps get a lot of plot out on the table. His is one of many steel files that Ethan finds in his office, a collection of records that proves while “do not discuss your life before” is the law that doesn’t mean those lives aren’t being chronicled. His story of being drugged on a conference (by a Pam who who somehow appeared much younger) and waking up in a hotel room that wasn’t his own raises further questions about Wayward Pines’s criteria for selecting residents. And while the answer of what Ethan was going to do about the Reckoning was one that everyone could guess based on a three-episode track record, his refusal to kill Peter and his reaction to the other man’s suicide cements what sort of sheriff he’ll be—or could be if he didn’t try to leave town via clifftop in the closing minutes of the episode.
As for the rest of his family, they’re also finding ways to play along with the town’s warped interpretation of everyday life. Theresa begins conducting her own investigation, one that leads her directly to the toy store and a decidedly awkward conversation with Kate. Theresa’s resentment of Kate has not been a compelling part of the character—even if it was the impetus that drove her to go looking for Ethan—and while the interaction between the two is one of the episode’s flatter scenes, it at least helps keep Theresa as an active agent in her own fate. (More interesting is Kate, who’s the most rattled that we’ve seen her all series, and who’s now giving a lot of lingering looks at Ethan that betray her commitment to keeping her head down is beginning to falter.)
Ben’s side of the story doesn’t tell much more about his character—other than he’s a typical teenage boy who’s willing to exaggerate his social standing to impress a girl—but his new status as a Wayward Pines Academy student opens up a new corner of the Wayward Pines universe. With Terrence Howard and Juliette Lewis gone from the show (theories on clones or doppelgangers aside), Hope Davis takes one of the vacant high-profile acting slots as teacher and former hypnotherapist Megan Fisher. As with all the actors on this project, Davis is clearly having fun with the material, her sunny projections not yet betraying a steely conviction in the way Pope or Pam do. There’s a carefulness to whatever games she’s playing with Ben, asking him questions that chip away at his conviction in the subtlest of ways.
And all of the school stuff gives the impression that this is going to be very important going forward. The academy is cast in an uneasy light from the beginning—Ben’s entrance greeted by half a dozen students staring at him Children Of The Corn-style, Megan’s increasingly invasive questions and the mayor’s veiled warning to Ethan that in this town, “It’s all about shaping the mind of the child.” The action of “One Of Our Senior Realtors” moves Wayward Pines to its next act, one that starts slow but maintains the creepines and mystery that distinguished the series so far. And given that the title of next week’s episode is “The Truth,” viewers may not have to wait that long to find out the mystery’s answer.
The Points Beyond The Pines:
- One major gripe about the episode: for a town purported to be under surveillance in every way, shape, and form, there’s a lot of ways to get around it. Music boxes, showers and faucets, conversations in cars or even outside—Ethan and Theresa have no problems planning behind their overseers’ backs, or coaxing information about past lives out of other residents. Either the surveillance tech is as old-fashioned as the rest of Wayward Pines appears to be, or whoever’s behind this is willing to let Ethan think he’s in control.
- Despite the regard everyone at the Reckoning seemed to hold him in, Sheriff Pope appears largely unlamented by the residents of Wayward Pines following his “retirement.” Arlene’s the sole exception, although she’s bitter that her “ice cream cone-eating bastard” of a boss left without saying goodbye.
- Dr. Jenkins mentions that his hobbies include cross-breeding pine trees, which may not require much attention but he still worries about. One wonders if his genetic knowledge and curiosity extend beyond horticulture and has something to do with the strange thing glimpsed in the last seconds of “One Of Our Senior Realtors.”
- “We don’t really like nosy nellies around here.”
- “The mountains, the pine trees, the look of fear in everyone’s eyes.”
- “Perhaps the biggest things in this world require the biggest sacrifice.”
- “I’m not gonna do that.” “I know you’re not. That’s why this town needs you.”