Yowza! Wayward Pines‘ Season 2 premiere certainly cut deep. (See what I did there?)
Kicking off three years after the Season 1 finale, Jason Patric’s Dr. Theo Yedlin — a recently woken member of Group C — found himself in the titular town after encountering Terrence Howard’s Sheriff Pope on a Hawaiian vacation meant to fix his marriage to next-level gorgeous but indifferent Rebecca (Nimrat Kaur).
No, Frank Sinatra’s “High Hopes” playing in the car as Theo was driven to the Wayward Pines hospital didn’t make his baffling circumstances any less creepy, prompting him to jump out of the moving vehicle before being quickly detained on what looked like a firing-squad zone by austere Carrie.
Turns out, Theo’d been roused/summoned by surly beast Jason Higgins, who’d risen up to lead Wayward Pines/all of humanity in the face of a rising rebellion bristling beneath his authoritarian rules. Heading said resistance? Ben Burke (son of Matt Dillon’s late Ethan) and double-agent Xander, along with Carla Gugino’s Kate, who’d been detained with a gunshot wound gone septic. Theo’s mission (whether or not he chose to accept it): patching up the injured insurgent so she’d be interrogation-ready.
Jason didn’t really think Kate would give up her comrades, did he? For his trouble, Kate dropped a little knowledge on his uniformed head: “You think you want to preserve life. All you’ve been taught is to control it — and you can’t.”
Thus, we came to Jason’s “short-term pain long-term gain” strategy — which involved rounding up suspected turncoats (including young mom Ruby) in the town square, announcing an amnesty and encouraging the rebels to surrender, and then putting a bullet in Ruby’s head when nobody took the bait. Ben (who is actually capable of human emotion) promptly waved the white flag and saved the remaining suspects, but that didn’t turn out too well: He, Xander and Theo wound up being put in a truck, driven beyond the wall and left for the Abbies. Except those Creepy McPasties didn’t go after the fresh meat, instead choosing to scale the wall and getting felled by its electric barrier.
Kate, of course, was the other uncooperative end in need of tying up, and so wheelchair-bound Megan paid her a bedside visit, with designs on poisoning her IV drip. Kate had other ideas, though, wrestling her would-be assassin to the ground, then delivering a monologue about the accomplishments of the human race: the pyramids, man on the moon, The Beatles. “Now it’s your world, your future — and I don’t want any part of it,” Kate said somberly, before putting a blade to her own throat, making a long and deep incision and bleeding out all over a horrified Megan.
Below, incoming showrunner Mark Friedman (The Forgotten, Believe) breaks down Jason’s ruling philosophy, Rebecca’s enigmatic vibe, Karen’s fateful decision and the Abbies’ unexpected mercy.
TVLINE | Talk to me about introducing Jason Patric’s Theo as the lead in an already complex storyline.
The first season was very successful, but it was devoted in a lot of ways to the mystery of what this place, Wayward Pines, is. Once that mystery was out in the open, I knew the one thing we couldn’t do is tell the same story again. You want to reward the audience that made the show successful in the first place; they can’t feel bored. But you also have a new group of people coming to the show — and we lost our lead [Matt Dillon] at the end of the first season. So Theo gave us a way to keep learning this world, bring everyone up to speed and then jump off from there. So the premiere and part of Episode 2, there’s a lot of ground to cover, and from there, we move into a ton of new stuff that’s nothing like what we saw in Season 1.
That said, I always start from the beginning of a series. I mean, is there anyone who jumped into Game of Thrones just this year without binge-ing the prior seasons? [Laughs] If I hear something’s good, I go back and watch from the beginning! Which is why FX ran all of Season 1 last Saturday.
TVLINE | Did you have any goals in mind for how Season 2 should differ in terms of tone or story?
One thing I tried to bring to this season was a little more of an emotional core. In upcoming episodes, people cry. Death means something. And the things that happen happen. You don’t just move on from it. You unpack it. You talk about it.
What happens with Carla’s character, it’s surprising and it’s bloody, but it also comes back to humanity and what makes us special as humans and how that’s being lost. With a show about humanity, I wanted to get past the mystery at the core of it, and make it more about the characters and what it would be like to try to live in this kind of place.
TVLINE | Talk me through Kate’s exit – that was a bold and bloody storytelling choice.
Kate is such a strong character that we wanted her to control her own fate. Once she saw how things were shaking out, she wanted to go out on her own terms. That’s what Carla wanted. That’s what we all wanted. And it also fit with the fact that reckonings are a part of this world: We’ve seen people do it to each other, but we’ve never seen someone opt out. The Group A in the first season could never get their heads around what this place was, but I liked the idea: If you’re gonna take me out, I’m gonna do it first. Carla and I spent a long time brainstorming The Beatles, man on the Moon, the pyramids… figuring out what were mankind’s huge achievements. Of course, then it delolved into these jokey texts back and forth between me and Carla: “Tinder!” [Laughs]
The weird thing about scenes like that is you actually put the big wound on the actor, then you paint it out in [special] effects. So we were having all these sentimental chats on set and Carla’s got this giant throat wound the entire time. These were like the first few days of shooting, because Carla had Roadies starting four days later. We were limited in how much time we had with her. The story was already built around her being wounded — which was our means of getting Theo out of suspension. And then we figured out how to work that to the advantage of our story.
TVLINE | You end on a pretty intense cliffhanger. Why does Jason have Theo sent beyond the wall when he hasn’t really done anything wrong? And also, will all three of them survive?
The decision to send Theo beyond the wall is as much a reflection on Jason Higgins than it is on anything Theo’s done. Jason knows when Ethan arrived, he was someone who stirred up s–t and caused trouble, and he’s wary of other figures who are similarly experienced and might be a threat to his power — not in a way that’s megalomaniacal. But he feels Wayward Pines can only survive if there’s one voice in charge and there aren’t competing factions. This is all of humanity. Jason’s got a sharper edge than Pilcher did, but he’s always doing what he thinks is right for the town — even when he kills Ruby. Kill one to save 100. He has to bring an end to the rebellion: Short-term pain, long-term gain, as Megan has preached to him.
TVLINE | How bad a guy is Jason?
The show flourishes when there are grey areas. Yes, on first blush, the things Jason is doing are harsh, but there’s a bigger agenda he has to keep in mind. If this goes south, mankind is done for.
People say they’d never want to be president — it’s the hardest job in the world. And he’s essentially president of the world. As he tries to control humanity, he reveals himself: Anger, jealousy, all those traits. It’s a thankless job. And the person who raised you to lead this place is no longer there. This was probably meant to have been a much more gradual transition to power, but with Pilcher’s death, he was thrust into it. There’ll be growing pains and mistakes, but strangely enough it all comes from a good place for him — even though that’s hard to see in Episode 1. We will spend time this season explaining why Jason is who he is, what his background looks like, and how he was raised. We’ll answer a lot of questions about Jason, his girlfriend Carrie, all these people.
TVLINE | Back to Theo, Xander and Ben. Will they all survive?
You’ll see what happens to all three people in the car in upcoming episodes — that’s all I want to say — and learn more about what the Abbies are doing in the moment. We see they’re up to something different. It’s confusing. “What the f–k was that?”
TVLINE | They bypass the car entirely and go straight for the wall… that seemed peculiar. Can you tease anything more about the Abbies?
You’ll see in the next episode, that story is concluded and there are new mysteries around it. And we’ll see what happens to the people in the car.
What I would say for sure is in Season 1 we saw the zombie version where [the Abbies] eat and scream and run. We’ve only seen that side of their nature, but obviously they’re evolved from us in some way, and there are probably some residual human traits that may be part of the world. Also the only ones we’ve seen so far are males — I’ll just leave it at that.
TVLINE | What’s the deal with Theo’s wife: Can we trust her?
That’s a big question. She’s not in Episode 1 very much, by design. The last time she saw him was in Hawaii and their marriage appeared to be over. And now he sees her there — and if he does survive in the next episode, we’ll spend more time understanding their marriage, where it is now, and how she is much more centrally involved in the mysteries of Wayward Pines than you might initially believe. Starting in Episode 2, we’ll learn a lot more about Rebecca.