Wayward Pines has effectively been building to “Cycle”‘s explosive conclusion since the beginning of the series, and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t impressed with the climactic, action-packed showdown that makes up the basis of most of this episode’s hour. Let’s face it – we came to see what happens when the Abbies are let into Wayward Pines, something that’s been hinted at ever since Ethan nearly let some into the compound, and the show delivers on all fronts. We finally get to see a town decimated by its own internal struggles, something that’s already happened once before and was bound to occur again.
That idea of cycle comes to fruition quite a bit in this episode, too. The event itself, where the town, driven apart two opposing factions unsure whether to believe newcomer Ethan or to rebel against a governmental system meant to keep them in the dark, happened in the first stages of David Pilcher’s post-apocalyptic town, and the ruination occurs again because he didn’t learn anything about how to protect his people from opposing his Orwellian rule. That’s the main cycle of Wayward Pines, the central plot of this season, but this episode also draws a number of interesting parallels that have been present from the pilot.
Ethan has again become the main savior of the town. First, he used his governmental training to resist the overbearing voyeurism of Pilcher’s town, but after he learned the truth, he became a guardian of Wayward Pines in much the same way his job afforded him when he was an investigator working on terrorist threats. That cycle continues to his son Ben as well; as Ethan sacrifices himself in an elevator shaft to blow all of the Abbies to smithereens, he passes on his dedication to protection to Ben, urging him to protect his mother and the town in the process.
But the best cycle in Wayward Pines is also the most disturbing. Though “Cycle” rarely stops to breathe before another attack sends everyone screaming through town, the episode makes room to explore the bigger picture and the themes that Wayward Pines as a whole wants to impress. In a way, the show is a metaphor for history repeating itself, carrying out the same mistakes every generation. For David Pilcher, he changed his ways from the first generation of Wayward Pines to the second, but he was still unable to gain the trust of his people before they revolted. It leads to the destruction of the town but not the people in it, who could rebuild after eradicating the Abbie threat.
But when Ben wakes up from unconsciousness after getting hit in the head, he realizes that things have reverted back to the way they were before the destruction. The people did in fact rebuild Wayward Pines, but they’re stuck in the same rut, following the deceased David Pilcher’s rule. This time, they’re led by the kids of the school cult, who believe Pilcher had the right idea when he attempted to enforce strict authoritarian rule. The cycle completes, and things go back to normal in Wayward Pines. It’s a terribly un-cathartic moment for the show, but one that truly makes sense – it’s an unhappy ending, but what could be in the face of an unsolvable dilemma?
For some, the payoff might not be worth the season-long diversion. In truth, we end up in much the same place that we began, with little to mention besides Ethan’s forward momentum. But for a season that only took up about ten hours of time, I find it a fitting conclusion – history repeats, and even though it’s 1000 years in the future, Wayward Pines slips into the same mistake. That cyclical thinking is what led to the end of the world, and the residents of the town are still unable to break free. I’m just hoping the show won’t pull an Under the Dome and attempt to pick up where this arc left off.