As Wayward Pines moves into its series (season? sequence?) finale, it sets itself up for the residents’ climactic choice: do they want to live in a town with enforced security 24/7, or do they want to risk their lives outside the walls not realizing the kind of danger that exists out there? The show has focused on the aspect of choice throughout the season, with its protagonist Ethan Burke even questioning it specifically when given the chance to discuss the background of Wayward Pines with its creator David Pilcher. “The Friendliest Place on Earth” and “A Reckoning” are about giving choice and free will back to the people despite its potentially disastrous effects, and they’re both fast-paced thrillers that bring the story to its penultimate conclusion.
We’ll start with “The Friendliest Place on Earth,” which picks up directly after the truck bomb explosion that put Ethan’s son Ben in the hospital along with his girlfriend Amy. In general, the episode is an extension of last episode’s search to find all of the insurgents hoping to break free of Wayward Pines’ confines, and Ethan’s given even more incentive to catch Harold before he blows something else up because his son blames him (thanks to the smooth talking of teacher/psychotherapist Megan Fisher) for his injuries.
It brings up an effective comparison between events in the future/present and the ones that led Ethan to cheat on his wife. The Easter bombings hinted at in the first episode of the show were Ethan’s fault because he let the terrorist go based on orders from higher-ups, and he’s blamed himself ever since. That guilt, and the choice of whether to follow orders despite his gut feelings, comes up again in “The Friendliest Place on Earth” and “A Reckoning” because he’s caught in the crossfire of Pilcher’s orders and his own feelings of right and wrong.
That kind of leads us right to “A Reckoning,” since “The Friendliest Place on Earth” works more as rising action for that episode anyway. Megan’s manipulation of the children, and her obsession with Pilcher’s work, causes some of the older kids to seek out vengeance on the insurgents who tried to escape the town; they’re Funny Games-esque teens who see in black and white, wanting vengeance for crimes that seem rebellious of what Wayward Pines stands for. While “A Reckoning” introduces these characters quickly and without much development, the saving grace of the episode is its surprising moment of execution, which is chilling with the sole line of high-pitched feedback as sound.
It is a luckily-found video that changes Kate’s mind, though. As the leader of the insurgents, she worked to try to break free of Wayward Pines’ cell, but when Ethan shows her the state of the world outside the walls, she quickly changes her tune. It’s an important theme in the show, about allowing people to make their own decisions and see for themselves; the people rebel because they’re monitored without a reason why, and as Ethan makes a statement to the entire town about Pilcher’s use of cameras, security, and the enforcement of reckonings as a method of “clear and severe” punishment, the town begins to realize that it’s not really escape that they’re looking for but the ability to decide for themselves.
Wayward Pines, then, has drawn comparisons to the common man in society, given little choice over the things they’re able to do. It’s a series about free speech, the freedom to have choice, and the impact of a dictatorial government on society. Those are obviously veiled within the futuristic framework, but the theme is still crystal clear. It works so far, and in the series finale, we should see the uprising of the lower class against the powers that be. It will be interesting what kind of effect that has on Wayward Pines, whether it leads to salvation or destruction, because that will ultimately be the defining characteristic of how Wayward Pines sees structured civilization.