12 Most Shocking Moments From ‘Wayward Pines’

Liane Hentscher/©Fox/courtesy Everett Collection

Fox’s 10-part limited run Wayward Pines series has been a fun summer ride that has been as entertaining as it is been well-plotted. Sadly the ride ends this week as Ethan and company seem to find themselves in a predicament that could be too hard to overcome. Yet before we see how (and if) they get around it, we wanted to look back at some of the show’s best, creepiest and overall shocking plot points. Here are the 12 best moments from Wayward Pines:

Disclaimer: Just a reminder: Spoilers ahead.

Bonus:  The Introduction

Ethan Burke’s (Matt Dillon) introduction to the world of Wayward Pines was probably more jarring for him than us, but that’s also not to say it wasn’t a little bit of a mind trip for viewers. The beauty of the series is that as Ethan learns things so do we as viewers, with a handful of exceptions (that come later on in the series).

Our initial view of the town of Wayward Pines is a curious one. We have no idea what is really going on, but it seems a little too perfect and picturesque. Ethan agrees with that account and so begins our journey. Knowing what we know now it wouldn’t be out of the realm of imagination to want to go back and re-watch the series from the start because it is safe to say we either missed things or would get more value out of seeing them in a different light.

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12. Adam Hassler

Adam Hassler’s (Tim Griffith) has seemingly been the one missing piece even after Ethan learns the truth behind the town. Despite the time jumps, the Abbies and the two-tier society reveals the timeline that Hassler interacting with David Pilcher (Toby Jones) still needed to be flushed out.

Yet in episode nine it begins to make sense. Whatever deal Hassler and Pilcher made resulted in Hassler also coming along on the journey as well. The two clearly have some sort of agenda, but what made Hassler end up outside the walls though is a new mystery that should be solved in the finale. For now though, seeing him in 4028 was definitely a shock and a nice twist.

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11. The Shrinking Cast

Wayward Pines was sold into audiences through a unique premise and a recognizable ensemble cast. What nobody really expected was that a number of the main faces were short-term players.

Over the first few episodes, we seemed to lose a big name actor every week, usually through some shocking means. It wasn’t like the short-lived CBS series Harper’s Island where we knew going in a different character was going to be dispatched on a regular basis.

Yet each character’s death served to move the plot and help mold the story. The exits may have been shocking and brutal, but in each case it introduced a important piece of the overall tale that would play a vital role in future episodes. Plus that short term commitment also helped land an couple of the higher tier stars as many actors will take a role on a short term series, so they can be free to do other projects and not be tied down to a multi-year deal.

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10. The Ballerina Bomb

One of the sub-plots of the series was learning what drove Ethan into the arms of his partner Kate (Carla Gugino) over the arms of his wife Theresa (Shannyn Sossamon). While that nugget could have been just background, it ends up playing into the present day storyline.

It wasn’t that the bomb in the music box was a big surprise — it was the chain reaction that is set off that made it surprising. We learn that history has again repeated itself for Ethan as he learns information about a crime and waits too long to do anything about it, resulting in a tragedy. The difference is this time it impacts him personally. Though it looked like his son Ben (Charlie Tahan) took the brunt of the blast, he does survive and that allows his manipulative teacher Mrs. Fisher (Hope Davis) to further mold him into the First Generationer they want…and use him as a spokesperson to influence the others.

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9. Stepford Kate

While Kate may be “Stepford-esque” when she is reunited with Ethan, we learn she wasn’t always that way. Upon her arrival at Wayward Pines, she was even more determined than Ethan to escape. This led to Pilcher and his sister Nurse Pam (Melissa Leo) having to take matters into their own hands.

The sequence revealing that Kate’ persistence had to be worn down through brainwashing and medication was startling. We as viewers didn’t know what to think of Kate…was she involved in the conspiracy? And her betrayal of Beverly (Juliette Lewis) didn’t exactly endear her to the audience. One thing we learned from the show though is that every action has a reaction and Kate learned quickly the best way to try and escape was to play along until the time was right to strike (even if everyone thinks it’s a different timeframe to start in the first place).

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8. The Rules

It is one thing for people in a mysterious town not to share information…it’s another for them to have a specific set of rules to follow that specifically prohibit that from happening.

The rules of Wayward Pines are a big part of the series and add the mystery and seeing them written out is jarring.

To recap:

  1. Do not try to leave.
  2. Do not discuss the past.
  3. Do not discuss your life before.
  4. Always answer the phone if it rings.

Of course, as in real life, knowing the rules is one thing, but abiding by them can be entirely different and more tricky. The enforcement of those rules has to be equally as impactful and seeing a “reckoning” for the first time is enough to make you want to never see another one, let alone be a participant.

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7. Pope’s Backstory

When we first see the ice cream loving power mad Sheriff Arnold Pope (Terrence Howard), we develop an instant dislike for the man. He’s creepy, he’s sadistic and he loves being in control. The two scenes when he first meets Ethan and Theresa (separately) are stunning to watch and a testament to the skill of Terrence Howard as a actor.

In each, he basically explains he’s in charge and he’s doing you a favor by letting you live here in the Pines. What’s interesting is seeing what he was like pre-Pilcher…a security guard that as showrunner Chad Hodge brilliantly put it “has a past, but no future.” Watching Pilcher explain the vision he has to Pope and Pope’s role in it is as visually stunning as it gripping. The scene is dark and has rain pouring down around the characters. It is a nice table-setter for what’s to come later.

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6. Mrs. Fisher

The guardian of the show’s First Generation is Megan Fisher (Hope Davis) and it is a role she clearly takes seriously.

Watching her first one-on-one interaction with Ben Burke exhibits a range of emotions. An introduction session goes from private counseling to a interrogation and back again really quickly. What’s interesting though is that the brain-washing works and Ben is none the wise his teacher is really that creepy.

As mentioned earlier in the list, Fisher does it again after Ben’s accident and again Ben rallies behind her and in turn rallies the other students behind her as well. It’s very Children of the Corn-esque but it fits in very well with the overall theme and tone of the series. Plus it’s also a great acting job by Davis and Tahan.

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5. The Jailhouse Massacre

What makes the jailhouse massacre scene so riveting is the dramatic tension that builds up. You know what’s about to happen and you know Ethan’s going to ultimately show up…but will he be too late? And yes he is.

Watching the brain-washed psychopaths of the so-called perfect “First Generation” gun down Harold (Reed Diamond) and his resistance fighters was hard to watch, but even harder to look away from. Seeing Kate’s reaction to her husband being brutally killed right in front of her and him miming the words “I love you” before his death was tragic and dramatic and perfect at the same time. Then Ethan makes his grand entrance, but only to see the bodies on the floor and the realization of what happen set in.

It wasn’t predictable but, then again, the show hasn’t been either so why should we be surprised?

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4. Pilcher’s Support Staff

We will get to the Wayward Pines backstory in a bit, but the after-effects of learning that story is also shocking.

Watching Pilcher give Ethan the grand tour of the facility where his “volunteers” keep tabs on Wayward Pines is akin to watching the staff of Jurassic Park keep tabs on its dangerous inhabitants. In both cases the prisoners are not meant to be caged and living like this, but they don’t have a choice and they don’t understand what is going on around them. That is always a bad combo.

Though eventually we learn David and Pam have put a lot of faith and trust in these workers to the point that Pam is floored when David has one executed for a breach that he really had no control over. Pam is David’s biggest support system and this is the first bit of disagreement between the pair and eventually sets the stage for Pilcher’s ultimate act of betrayal and cowardice. In his “taking his ball and going home” moment, Pilcher locks himself in his office and turns off power to the entire town basically opening the door to the Abbies.

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3. The Abbies

Speaking of the Abbies, when we first see them at the end of episode three, we don’t know what they are other than creepy. The deformed and altered descendants of mankind are dangerous, deadly and quick…and a secret to 99% of the inhabitants of Wayward Pines.

The introduction of the creatures was a cool twist viewers definitely didn’t see coming and, as the series went along, the more we learned about them, the more interesting the overall series became as all of sudden there was a new villain outside the walls as well. The Abbies are the ultimate proof that what Pilcher says happened to mankind did happen but, by hiding them from the town, Pilcher makes a huge mistake that continues to snowball throughout the run of the show until the end of episode nine where he arranges for the ultimate encounter.

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2. Orientation

By far the best episode of the series was episode five (fittingly called “The Truth”). This was orientation day at Ben’s school when Mrs. Davis explains the truth behind the town and introduces Ben to the “First Generation.”

What’s brilliant about the episode is that as Mrs. Davis explains to Ben and two of his schoolmates about the town, Pilcher is explaining the same story to Ethan. Both Davis and Pilcher are putting their proverbial cards on the table in as a way to gain Ben and Ethan’s trust…but only Ethan realizes there’s a darker intention.

This is also where we learn why Pilcher hasn’t told everyone the town’s secret though the reasoning is revealed in two separate ways (with Pilcher’s being the more graphic). It makes the same point…adults can’t handle the truth. Yet what’s interesting is the producers were making the opposite assumption about its audience. By revealing the full truth to viewers early it could have given audiences a reason to lose interest. Instead, viewers being more clued in and made them want to come back and see how the rest of the series would unfold.

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1. The Finale

Okay this one’s cheating a bit because the finale hasn’t aired yet and we don’t know what going to happen, but we are reserving this spot because what is going to happen is probably going to be epic. However, the shocking thing about the finale we do know is that regardless of what happens going into it we can declare the show a hit.

When counting time-shifted data, Wayward Pines is the most watched summer series and that is a stunning moment in itself as this was definitely a gamble for Fox. Hodge didn’t have a solid hit show to his name and his partner M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t had a hit in a while, but this project was a win for all involved. Remember the entire Wayward Pines series was an experiment for Fox in limited-run event programming (which is ironic given the entire point of Wayward Pines itself was also an experiment but one in long-term survival).  While we don’t know if Pilcher’s experiment will be successful, though judging by how episode nine ended it doesn’t seem likely, the series itself certainly has been and while a second season is unlikely, it is definitely something Fox has to at least consider.

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Jack Grant