So, be warned. There is a big spoiler in this review.
A really really big spoiler.
Bigger than you can potentially imagine. (Assuming you haven't read the books.)
Ready to be spoiled? Don't care? Good. Here we go.
(Please note that I haven't read the books. So I neither know nor care if the TV series follows them or not.)
Tonight's episode basically changed the whole premise of 'Wayward Pines'. At the halfway point of the show's first season, the basic concept of the show has been laid out. Science fiction comes charging to the front.
Simply put, the Wayward Pines that we know is roughly 2,000 years in the future. Humanity has changed into primitive aberrations, or "abbies." One scientist, David Pilcher, foresaw what was happening and created an ark for humanity, chose people to carry on, and then sealed them away in the town of Wayward Pines. After having not-so-accidental accidents, the chosen specimens were brought to Wayward Pines, put in suspended animation, and brought out slowly but surely in the year 4028. The children are told the true stories, but adults can't handle it so they're kept in the dark while the Children become the First Generation, set to go out and repopulate the planet.
Most of this is revealed via an exposition dump by Hope Davis, the town's school principal. However, wisely, the producers interspersed this with scenes of Ethan escaping the town, being hunted by the abbies, and finally locating the ruins of Boise. At which point gentle Dr. Jenkins arrives by helicopter and reveals that he's Pilcher.
Theresa also finds out some of the story as she greets a newcomer to the town. He saw the hibernation pods when he was in one himself., and passes that information on to Theresa. If/when Ethan tells Theresa what he's learned, she'll be able to confirm some of it. Meanwhile, Ben has become a member of the First Generation and is sworn to secrecy, so he won't be telling his parents anything.
However, the "explanation" we're given here doesn't explain everything. For instance, there are apparently two Jenkins and two Sheriff Popes: one in 2014 when they talked to Adam and sabotaged Theresa's car. And the ones in Wayward Pines in 4028. Or maybe they were the last to enter hibernation after they had collected everyone Pilcher wanted for his ark.
Also, Megan tells Ben that he'll never see Pilcher. However, Pilcher is apparently alive and well and will be explaining a lot more to Ethan.
There are also questions like who is ordering the reckonings. Jenkins seemed ignorant of Peter's reckoning last week until Ethan told him. But here he commands a helicopter and an armed trooper, and has Pam with him. Has the town gone so out of control beyond what Jenkins wants or anticipates that he wants Ethan to take over as sheriff and enforce his rules. Rather than the rules that the unguided human residents have created for themselves since they emerged from hibernation.
Performance-wise, there's not a lot to analyze here. Kevin Dillon, for instance, doesn't have much to do except trek through the wilderness and look astonished. Shannyn Sossamon does well as not just a housewife but a woman who anticipated joining the Secret Service and knows a full things about covert ops.
The big star is Hope Davis, who is stuck with a ton of dialogue and pulls it off. She brings a religious zealot's attitude to her orientation speeches, and she's probably the creepiest character on the show right now.
There's also the question of... where does the show go now? They'll need another episode for Jenkins to bring Ethan up to speed. And the whole 4028 scenario may be some kind of scam. But any explanation that they can come up with for why it was necessary has to be at least as wild as the 4028 fake story. Someone will try to kill Ethan in a couple of episodes, so as I suggested above, apparently not everyone is on-board with Jenkins.
But it should be fun finding out. 'Wayward Pines' has already been several steps above the average summer fare. They're not shy about making weird yet entertaining decisions, and I look forward to seeing the remaining five episodes.