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Wayward Pines, Ep. 1.09, “A Reckoning”

Wayward Pines, Ep. 1.09, “A Reckoning”

Wayward Pines, Season 1, Episode 9, “A Reckoning”
Written by The Duffer Brothers
Directed by Nimród Antal
Airs Thursdays at 9pm (ET) on Fox

Ever since the true nature of Wayward Pines was revealed back in “The Truth,” the idea of sacrifice has hung over all day-to-day routines of the show. In order to save humanity, Pilcher, Pam, Megan, and every member of the support team had to give up their lives as they knew them. In doing so, they gave themselves the authority to force the sacrifices of countless other individuals, those they deemed necessary to ensure humanity’s future. Upon awakening, those individuals are forced into a conveyor belt of personal sacrifices, giving up their agency, their liberty, their right to know what’s going on. And should they chafe too heavily at those losses, the town literally sacrifices them to make a point.

The question of sacrifice and its efficacy is front and center in Wayward Pines’s penultimate episode, as “A Reckoning” draws the conflicts between Ethan, Pilcher, and Kate’s resistance to their highest boil. Conditions in the town have been deterioriating since the show began, and in “A Reckoning” we see how far deep the rot goes, how far Pilcher is willing to go to extract it, and Ethan desperately trying to straddle between the two to keep this world together. It’s an episode that says and does things that can never be taken back—taking strides that are definitive even by Wayward Pines standards to demonstrate the bleakness of this world and set the stage for a finale sure to be even more combustive.

With the threat of abbie intrusion postponed for another week—in a particularly cool action scene where Ethan and his shotgun swoop in on the chaos “The Friendliest Place On Earth” and turn the truck into a makeshift barricade—Pilcher’s doubling down on his efforts to keep things quiet, this time urging Ethan in a return to Reckonings. Matt Dillon’s stoicism and Toby Jones’s well-intentioned yet craven pleas have formed the spine of the latter half of the series, and the clash is particularly vivid as Pilcher throws the events of the Easter bombing back in his face. Both men are convinced the other has failed (“What you’re doing isn’t working anymore,” Pilcher says in the throes of cognitive dissonance), and the more it’s clear things need to change the more entrenched they become in their positions.

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The impression that change is coming regardless is one that Wayward Pines makes clear, as we’re introduced to a graduating class of Academy students. This is the first major exposure we’ve had to the first generation outside of classes and Amy’s flirtation, and the end result is truly disturbing as we see what Megan’s teachings have wrought: students showing up in Children Of The Corn unison to clap and wait for Ben to deliver a message. Her zealous interpretation of Pilcher’s rules has twisted the message that the children have received, and it turns out many of them have taken it too much to heart. Seeing themselves as the saviors of the world and guardians of the town, they’ve turned into a group of entitled little shits who think their knowledge makes them superior to the adults. Even more than Pilcher’s extremism last week, this is the clearest sign that his world is more dystopia than utopia.

Nowhere is this made more clear than the scene where Jason and his classmates storm the Wayward Pines sheriff’s office, determined to Reckon the co-conspirators themselves. It’s a scene as nail-biting as the show’s other fine moments—the last stand of Pope in “Our Town, Our Law,” the truck down Main Street in “Betrayal”—and even more than those moments it proves the Wayward Pines commitment to raised stakes. It would be the expected thing for Ethan to show up at the exact right minute, much as he does in the episode’s cold open, and diffuse hostilities. That’s not what happens here. Harold and the other rebels are executed—brains literally splattered on Kate’s face—and Ethan’s forced to kill a teenager not much older than his son, as Pilcher watches the whole thing unfold. Once again, Wayward Pines is willing to go the distance, and the end results justify that decision.

Amidst all of this chaos, the x-factor turns out to be the last person anyone would expect. Pam’s decision to point Theresa towards the true nature of Lot 33 is the most clear-cut betrayal of Pilcher’s intentions we’ve seen, yet still one that keeps her true intentions uncertain. Melissa Leo has thrived as Pam has moved from creepiness to complexity, personifying Wayward Pines’s fondness for creating characters who layer motivations like onions. Is this a power play against Pilcher to take over the town’s leadership herself? Is she hoping to maneuver Theresa into a position where she’ll be taken out as a way to disorient Ethan? Or does she merely want to be an agent of chaos in these uncertain times? Even this late in the series, any could be the option, keeping her as the most fascinating part of the cast.

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The move also finally shifts Theresa into the know about what Wayward Pines truly is, with the reveal of a bunker seemingly left over from the first incarnation of the town—loaded to the brim with video journals of groups who went beyond the fence. One of the more obvious sticking points of the series has been the blasé way that both Kate and Theresa reacted to the disclosure of their new reality, so it’s a relief that the show finally moved them both into the know, cementing the alliance that’s been toyed with for the last few weeks. And it’s gratifying to see that it’s a reveal that mushrooms out from there, as Ethan tricks Pilcher into calling a Reckoning for Kate and he uses the place of authority that ritual grants to spread the word even further.

Ethan had to expect that Pilcher would react unfavorably to this, but the level of reaction he goes to is one that finally strips bare the image of savior that Megan still can’t let go of. All of Pam’s various manipulations and redirections of her brother appear to be defense mechanisms, because when his power is challenged true colors come out. Previous reviews have talked about how Pilcher doesn’t appear to have the charisma and passion to be a visionary figure, and when faced with betrayal it’s clear he’s not. He’s the control freak Ethan brands him as, a petty figure who can force the town to make sacrifices but can’t bring himself to make the same.

As the last moment of “A Reckoning” makes clear, as the power goes down and hands start to scrabble at the fence, the truth is clear: Pilcher will sacrifice the entire town rather than let it slip away from his vision of it. With one episode left to go, it remains to be seen if the rest of the town has enough left after all their own sacrifices to fight back.

The Points Beyond The Pines:

  • Like the return of the Easter bombings in the narrative, it’s a little surprising to see Adam Hassler return to the picture. However, Wayward Pines did a better job of keeping him front and center with the amount of present-day scenes early on and Kate’s comment from “Betrayal” that a message from Adam helped her keep her wits about her starting out. His return in the video journals also provides a template for how Wayward Pines can expand in a potential second season, introducing new outposts and new groups Walking Dead-style.
  • Amy’s headache from last week turns out to be Chekov’s headache as she suffers a cerebral hemorrhage, survival uncertain. One more wedge introduced between Ben and his family, and we’ll have to see if threat of abbie slaughter is enough to mend those ties.
  • While Wayward Pines has moved past most of these comparisons as it’s gone along, the shot of the buffalo head and Arlene playing solitaire in the station is a very Twin Peaks image.
  • Theresa punching Megan to shut her up was all kinds of awesome.
  • “What do you think that is? Think it’s a leg or an arm?”
  • “There is great strength in unity. It will carry us through any storm, no matter how fierce.”
  • “Someone’s gonna kill me. I’d rather it be you.”
  • “You may not like it. But you have to accept it.”
  • Season finale next week! Who will survive and what (if anything) will be left of them?
[wpchatai]