Wayward Pines, Season 1, Episode 5, “The Truth”
Written by Blake Crouch and The Duffer Brothers
Directed by James Foley
Airs Thursdays at 9pm (ET) on Fox
Well. That was a thing, wasn’t it.
If an episode called “The Truth” built up any expectations by virtue of its title, it met all of them and then some. This is the best episode of Wayward Pines to date, a tightly crafted hour that answers the show’s biggest questions and does so in the most satisfying manner possible. The phrase “game-changer” is one that gets thrown around a lot, but “The Truth” earns that honorarium easily by irrevocably changing Wayward Pines into a different show than it was when the episode started. Questions of escape, of loyalty, of secrets being kept—all of them are thrown out the window in the face of the horror that Wayward Pines was constructed in opposition to.
Right before taking a bullet to the head in “Our Town, Our Law,” Pope warned Ethan that the truth was far worse than anything he could ever imagine, and it turns out this wasn’t the idle threat of a dying man. As Megan illustrates to Ben and two of his classmates in the Wayward Pines Academy orientation, this town is special for the simple reason that it’s the only town left in existence—in the year 4028. Every resident has been in a cryogenic sleep for centuries, selected as the contingency plan of Dr. Pilcher—now revealed to be the true identity of Dr. Jenkins—to save humanity from a genetic collapse that leads to the creation of aberrations, or “Abbies,” which are now the dominant life form on the planet.
The reveal is about as far out of left field as could be imagined—a hybrid of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, M. Night Shymalan’s own The Village, and any number of Twilight Zone episodes—yet it’s nowhere near as hokey or contrived as you might expect. Largely this is because once it’s revealed, it immediately answers so many of the questions that Wayward Pines has asked in its first few installments. The strange time shifts that Beverly and Kate experienced weren’t the result of drugs or brainwashing, they’re the results of being unfrozen at different points in time. The layers of dust on the recovered cars in the secret bunker were there because the cars had actually been sitting there long enough to accumulate all that grime and then some. Megan’s questions to acclimate Ben to the idea that he didn’t miss home were there to gauge how ready he was for the reveal, not as some form of brainwashing. And Dr. Jenkins’s interest and concern in Ethan’s well-being weren’t part of a malicious scheme, it’s legitimate because his utopia needs all the help it can gt.
More than anything though, the reveal is fascinating because it entirely subverts what Ethan has been working toward for the first four episodes. All he wanted was to escape from Wayward Pines, and now that he’s done that the first thing he learns is that there’s nowhere to escape to. For a show—even a limited series—to torpedo its entire premise halfway through is the ballsiest of storytelling moves, and the unexpected nature of its finality makes it hit home brutally. There’s the chance this is yet another misdirect, but Megan’s conviction in delivering this lecture—Hope Davis absolutely commanding the screen for every one of her scenes—and the unbridled carnage of the Abbies is so upfront and direct that it’s hard to imagine there’s something else they could steer towards. As horrifying and implausible as this new reality is, it’s a reality that makes perfect sense in the world of the show.
A huge portion of the praise for the execution of “The Truth” belongs to director James Foley of Glengarry Glen Ross fame. Foley, whose television credits include Hannibal’s “Sorbet” and Twin Peaks’s “Wounds And Scars,” does an exemplary job of setting the tone by the way he balances the stark white cleanliness of the orientation room with the lush greenery of the Idaho woods. Megan’s recitation of the history of the world comes to us at the exact same time Ethan’s witnessing it, the barbarity of the Abbies and the ruins of a Boise abandoned for an untold amount of years. It builds considerably on Shyamalan’s work from the pilot, going from the paranoid claustrophobia to the dread of being completely and utterly trapped.
While “The Truth” changes many things about the world of Wayward Pines, it smartly keeps the focus on the town’s newest residents to see how they react to this reveal. Ben, now indoctrinated into the “First Generation”—literally so, in a ceremony that appears more like a cult ceremony than a welcoming party—has something he’s always secretly wanted in this new sense of belonging. With his normal sense of teenage isolation exacerbated by his parents’ decision to keep him out of the know, how is he going to react to the fact that he knows something, something so major that it’s led previous families to kill themselves? It establishes an interesting flip of the power balance, one that makes Ben a lot more relevant to the story than he was as the stock teenage son Ethan’s trying to protect.
And turning to Ethan, his reactions are even more uncertain in this unprecedented circumstances. Given both the reality that he’s faced with, and the degree to which Dr. Pilcher/Jenkins is apparently willing to be honest with him, how does he react to this future? Will the fact that he’s been reunited with his family in these circumstances—something so few of Wayward Pines’s residents are lucky enough to have—be enough to change his mind about helping the community survive? Or will this knowledge transform him into a malcontent like the late Peter McCall, determined to pull the wool away from everyone’s eyes regardless of the consequence? There’s always been a steadiness to how Ethan’s conducted himself even at his more unstable moments, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can hold himself together and become the Rick Grimes of Wayward Pines: not the lawman they deserve, but the one they need right now.
When Wayward Pines started, it was easy to make a snap judgement about the show based on Shyamalan’s name attached to the project, the immediate dread that there would be stupid twists that would destroy the things that worked. The twist has come, but the stupidity and the dread is absent—in its place is a deep curiosity about what the next step is. Wayward Pines takes a major leap in “The Truth,” both in quality and in its story, and skyrockets expectations for the second half of the series.
- All of this and we didn’t even mention Theresa, who has her best plot all series as she takes on the role of realtor and grants a house to Wayward Pines’s latest resident. It’s interesting to watch her help Wayne Johnson out, both because of the ways she manages to work around the surveillance equipment in the house and also because of how Foley’s direction keeps Wayne’s perspective at the forefront. The audience knows that Theresa’s one of the good guys, but if we didn’t know that she’d seem as untrustworthy as Pam, playing with Wayne to see how he’ll react.
- There’s plenty of great directorial touches from Foley in the early part of the episode: the cross-cuts between Ethan and Theresa as they end and begin their days, her job invitation giving way to his map.
- The reveal of the coin is a terrific way to build to the future element of the story: first by shading it as an artifact, then by exposing it as a quarter, then revealing the date that’s simultaneously the future and the past to Ben and his classmates.
- “You look like you could use a nurse!” Nurse Pam as a commando is the best thing ever and augurs so much possibility for the second half of the series.
- “You’re just sitting around the house hoping that things will magically get better, but they never do.” What a cheerful kid Ben is.
- “I need you to take this house, and I need you to take it with a smile on your face.”
- “And he knew Mother Nature would do as she always does, she would evolve. She would change the equation. She would change us.”
- “My advice is don’t think too hard, sweetie. It’s not becoming.”
- “It’s up to you to steer the ark to shore.”