Great Episodes is a series of blogs on my all-time favorite episodes of, well, everything.
Wayward Pines hasn’t been on television in two years. I know this because it was cancelled back in February, after being off the air for nearly 18 months. The fact that there was still need to officially pull the plug after the show was largely forgotten showed there was a group of people still holding out hope for a Season 3.
I was a member of that group. During one of my extra gigs in 2016, I fangirled over a background performer who told me she’d been on the show. One of the best sets she’d ever been on, she’d said, as I discreetly pushed to ask how she’d gotten the role (she wasn’t interested in divulging).
I stumbled upon Wayward Pines, dismissing it at first as probably too dark and eerie for my taste, but curious after reading the show’s big secret online. Even though I had advance knowledge of the key spoiler, the reveal was nonetheless jaw-dropping, flawlessly executed by Hope Davis (Megan) in Season 1, Episode 5, “The Truth,” to a small group of schoolchildren.
I won’t reveal the spoiler, but it’s central to one of my favorite episodes of the series, “Time Will Tell,” (Season 2, Episode 7).
There was great anticipation of Season 2 after the first installment wrapped, and you could say it went off the rails, but we’ll never really know because the story isn’t finished. M. Night Shyamalan said it was a three-season story, and Season 2 ended on a cliffhanger that might never be resolved. We can’t even go to the books to find out, as Blake Crouch’s trilogy was used up by the end of Season 1.
That said, there were some moments in Season 2 that were extraordinary, offering key insight into fully formed, fully developed and compelling characters that drove a clear but still surprising story. (Westworld, take note). One such moment was the experience of C.J. in Episode 7.
When I first had the idea to blog about my favourite television episodes, I started with this one. And left it at this one. So it’s been revived from my long-stagnant other blog, so we can spread a little bit of the Wayward Pines love.
Originally posted July 25, 2016
Anyone who stuck around for Season 2 of Wayward Pines knew C.J. was important, mysterious, powerful and good. But it was not until this flashback-heavy episode that we learned a little bit about what he’d experienced and why he seemed at once worried about the town’s direction and so embedded in its leadership circle. He was someone who was trusted, even if he seemed, at times, unwilling to trust.
It was C.J. who, over the span of 2,000 years, awoke for 24 hours every two decades to dust, gather media, play chess, talk to apparitions, collect soil samples, converse with the rapidly-declining humans and wrestle with the implications of what this massive project was designed to accomplish. He was the one link of semi-continuous memory that connected humanity’s demise to its rebirth.
At this point, it’s hard to tell if C.J. was ever a true believer. Anyone who stuck around for the rest of the season discovered he was close to David Pilcher and probably, even if he was initially a hired hand, excited about the man’s then-idealistic, soon-to-be-crazy and ill-conceived, vision.
When C.J. has a revealing and tearful conversation with a woman from his past — an imagined conversation, one would assume, unless spirits were visiting C.J. in the concrete bunker where untold numbers of humans were sleeping through humanity’s destruction — she reminds him he’s doing his job. But viewers of Wayward Pines know people ended up in those chambers one of two ways: they were recruited or kidnapped.
It’s hard to believe C.J. was simply hired, and viewers know for certain it took him far less than 100 days of awakenings over the span of 2,000 years to have his doubts.
The world of Wayward Pines requires a great deal of suspended disbelief on the part of viewers. It’s a lot to accept, especially in a world with our rules. This is not a sci-fi fantasy; it’s a drama that asks viewers to believe that, in 2014, the technology existed to suspend human life for two millennia, and that someone had the money, organization, time and skill to pull it off and keep it secret.
Wayward Pines, even in its frustrating moments, ultimately works because of the 42 minutes or so given to each of its characters. When we discover Rebecca was not only Theo’s wife, but the town’s architect, she becomes richer and more compelling, a woman with incredible power she uniquely knows how to yield.
C.J., in “Time Will Tell,” teaches us the depression, loneliness, wisdom and fear that comes from extended contemplation. Few actors could sell it as well as the brilliant Djimon Hounsou, who in a moment made me crave the smell of “to-MAT-oes in the summer.” C.J. was awake for 100 days, a full 24 hours each time. One hundred waking days in a row, entirely alone, to think inside the bunker, to momentarily escape beyond its walls, and to reflect, wonder and have second thoughts about a plan that might not end up being as foolproof as it had once seemed, 2,000 years — and 100 days — before.