Why I Don't Care How 'Wayward Pines' Ends

Photo: Fox

Rilke says, "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your own heart, and try to love the questions themselves." Questions can frustrate, but their very existence offers a type of promise. The questions are almost always more satisfying, more intriguing, more true than the answers. Attempts at answering are the reason for every groan-worthy twist ending and every disappointment when a promising, complex set-up devolves into a simplistic conclusion. It's easy to ask the provocative questions, but harder to find deserving answers.

When I began watching Wayward Pines, I purposefully didn't read any reviews, not so much because I wanted to avoid spoilers, but because I wanted to have my own experience of it. And so I have. The 10 episode series, currently midway through its run, focuses on the sinister and idyllic town of Wayward Pines, a place where people wake up after car crashes and other accidents, only to find it's a bit harder to get out than it was to get in.

There is a sheer pleasure to the mysteries of Wayward Pines, played out overtly and for full dramatic effect. The mystery is really the only thing about this show, as episode after episode revels in the dreamy, illogical and inexplicable. I have a bad feeling the conclusion of the series is going to disappoint, but I don't care—in a good way. I'm loving the questions because they're truly enough.

Is it the future, the past, some kind of vortex, a dying dream? I don't care! I just like this creepy town, the fog, the rain, the serendipity, the love triangles, the overt danger in every frame, the watchful surveillance. I like Matt Dillon running around in the woods with a map and Juliette Lewis tending bar. I like how everyone whispers the truth just outside the camera's range.

What does it mean to be stuck somewhere? Why do we let it happen? Are we ever really that isolated and helpless? Are some things for our own good? Must we give up certain freedoms in order to be safe? Do we really want what we claim to long for most? Questions, questions, questions.

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I recently went on a trip into the deserts of Central Nevada and the small towns within. In each new place, shimmering mirage-like at the horizon and then appearing fully, I yelled with delight and mild trepidation, "It's Wayward Pines!" Granted there weren't pine trees after we got through the mountains, but there was some similarity, mainly the distinct sense that we might get trapped in these places, and that others before us had.

We searched for ghost towns, the kind that are marked with signs and called such on the map. But we soon realized that it was the real towns where people still lived that seemed even ghostier. These former boom towns had lost most of their inhabitants long ago. I started to wonder why some people had stayed. Or why I always think escaping is better.

I grew up in the country. I spent a great deal of my adolescence writing the age-old narrative of escape to the big city. But I'm not a city girl in my heart. Or maybe I am, accidentally, these last 15 years finally taking their urban toll. The remoteness of these places in the desert struck at some anxiousness I didn't know I possessed. I glanced from time to time at the silent, useless artifact of my cell phone. The roads stretched forever, dried lake beds running alongside. There was nothing and no one. It was gorgeous, vast, and unsettling.

Who thought to stop and live here once upon a time? Gold was the answer long ago, but why now? Why have people stayed? One town had a graduating high school class of five, we read in the local paper.

Wayward Pines almost seems like a nice place to live. It's welcoming, small, untouched by contemporary concerns, perhaps even a safe haven from some terrible alternative. And isn't that so often why we stay somewhere, for fear that leaving would only bring more harm?

These days, we are weary of our connectedness, our constant stimulation. People pay to have their phones taken from them. What if we lived in a place where our calls never even made it out, as when Matt Dillon calls and calls his wife to no avail? I had a similar feeling in the desert, no signal for miles. How rare it actually is to be truly disconnected. How quiet and strange it gets, our brains and bodies reacting, first in rebellion, and then in relief.

In Ellen Meloy's The Anthropology of Turquoise, she describes a kind of knowing she calls "indirect and sideways," one especially inspired by being in the desert. Her book begins with a W.G. Sebald quote that describes the colors of duck feathers as "the only possible answers to the questions that are on my mind." Color, texture, and profound sensory experience as the answer, as the reflection of our humanity no less, those are the kind of answers I want. I want there to be multiple realities laying side by side, some full of zombie devolved humans that Matt Dillion can't escape, some that open up into the eternity of the desert, some that are our own inexplicable, inconclusive, beautiful, mournful lives.

One of my favorite scenes is when Matt Dillon tries to escape the town initially, and just drives in circles. It makes me think of the perfect adult lives we curate for ourselves, lives we think we want, only to be entrapped by them so easily and tell ourselves that this is it. But, of course, the idyllic is in fact often the nightmarish, what we think we want is not at all what we want. We are so willing to police and limit ourselves. Warpaint's Shannyn Sossamon, as the brand new real estate agent, offers a free house to a dazed and newly captive townsperson. Just smile and say thank you, she whispers to him, while out of range of surveillance. And he does.

Wayward Pines is a nice dark mythology for these crowded, connected and surveilled times. We create the reality we live inside. We adhere to it so completely. We are not as stuck by geography or even by time as we imagine ourselves to be. Our lives are made of endless questions and thin, ever-changing attempts at answering them.

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Wayward Pines is everywhere, in any city or former boom town that someone cannot bring themselves to leave. Matt Dillion is all of us, bellowing that he wants to escape, but perhaps not so sure he really does, running to the edge, expecting to see one reality and finding an altogether different world instead.

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