I caught the finale of the Fox Miniseries “Wayward Pines”, another entry in the interesting genre of the dystopian future. The series began with solid characters and an air of mystery–FBI agent Ethan Burke wakes up after a car accident, to find himself in the hospital of a small Idaho town. He wanders around this sleepy locale which has the veneer of a lovely community, but something sinister lurks just beneath the surface. He quickly finds that he can’t seem to leave–all roads circle back toward town. A heavily fortified fence surrounds the valley, beyond which are heard unearthly howls, and we see glimpses of menacing creatures. What is going on with this creepy town and its fearful residents?
Spoilers here: Stop reading now if you plan to watch the series!
Flash forward 10 episodes, and we have our answers. We have learned that the town is really the brain child of a visionary scientist, who foresaw the end of humanity and created the town as a fortress and humanity’s last refuge. The town’s residents were all cryo-frozen in 2015 and then reawakened 2000 years into the future. The rest of humanity has meanwhile evolved into cannibalistic monsters (referred to as “aberrants” or “abbies”) that hunt and kill anything on feet.
In the final episode, the scientist, David Pilcher, reveals that he isn’t done playing God. He doesn’t like it that Ethan Burke has “outed” him and his operation to the rest of the townspeople. He has decided that it is time to pull the plug on this “batch” of humans by turning off the power to the protective fence. Like many a screen villain before him, he listens to opera music in his opulent mountain lair and watches the progress of the cleansings. His own henchmen turn on him and he is killed, but not soon enough to end the destruction he has unleashed. The mutants swarm in and kill most of the town fairly quickly in a set of fast paced scenes that seem reminiscent of zombie apocalypse movies like “World War Z”. Ethan Burke rescues some of the townspeople, who make it into the fortified complex that overlooks the city. Ethan blows himself up in an elevator shaft to kill many of the “Abbies” and saves the others. His son is conked on the head by debris, and awakens from a coma three years later.
Ethan’s son finds that things have come full circle to where they were at the beginning of the series. The town seems to be back to normal, but this is illusory. In fact, a cadre of cold-blooded fanatical youth have also survived, and managed to overpower the adults. Everyone who survived the mutant apocalypse has been put back into cryo-freeze and a new batch of humans is living in terror under the malignant reign of these fanatical youth. A statue to David Pilcher stands in a park where the bodies of three people dangle, hanged for trying to leave Wayward Pines.
I have to admit that I was left a bit crestfallen by the final twist at the end. Did Ethan really sacrifice himself only to have the “Hitler Youth” take over? If this is the fate of humanity, is it worth saving? These are the interesting questions that have theological implications as well. Even as we humans show brilliance in the face of hostile natural forces, using all of our cleverness and ingenuity to survive and thrive, we nonetheless remain our own worst enemies. Despite the spark of divinity–that “image of God”–that is imprinted upon us, we are fallen creatures. “Wayward Pines”, like Holy Scripture, doesn’t give an optimistic appraisal of our fortunes, when we are left to our own devices. The final questions for humanity remain open: Will we destroy ourselves? Will we play God, or rather seek the real one?