So you’re thinking about watching that bats--t crazy new show you keep seeing ads for, the one with lots of pine trees and Matt Dillon and Lucious Lyon dressed as a sheriff? It’s called Wayward Pines and it’s a psychological thriller about a Secret Service agent named Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) who is sent to the town of Wayward Pines to look for two other agents who have gone missing there. As soon as he arrives, he gets into a massive car accident and wakes up in the town hospital with a creepy nurse standing above him (Melissa Leo). He can’t get in touch with anyone in the outside world. Nobody is helping him. He tries to continue his investigation but nobody will help him, and the only thing he finds are more and more questions. It’s a total mind f--k and I think you should give it a shot. Hey, I gave it a shot back when it was an unpublished book with no real actors and no real pine trees. I tore through that book (Pines) in one day. It gripped me hard and never let go. I instantly knew two things: 1) I had to turn it into a television series, and 2) I wanted to write it immediately. The very next day, I sat down and started writing the script. Four weeks later, I had the first draft.
No? My passion isn’t reason enough? I get it. We all have only so much time on this planet, and there are just so many television shows. So let me help you decide to watch this show. I don’t want to tell you too much before you watch (trust me, you don’t want me to… the ride is much more fun in the dark), but here are three things I can tell you:
1. It’s not the sequel to Twin Peaks. But maybe it feels a little bit like Twin Peaks. That’s because Blake Crouch, the author of the books (it’s now a trilogy) was obsessed with the show when he was a teenager. In fact, in the afterword of the first book, Blake gives a shoutout to Mark Frost and David Lynch and their brilliant series. “Shortly after the show was canceled,” he writes, “I was so heartbroken that I even tried to write its mythical third season, not for anyone but myself, just so I could continue the experience.” He was 13. Twin Peaks always stayed with Blake, and he’s very open about the fact that it was part of the inspiration for the world of Wayward Pines. I fully embraced Blake’s books, so the comparison is very welcome and flattering. But you’ll find that our story very quickly becomes something much different.
2. It’s only ten episodes. With a beginning, middle, and end. What a relief, right? Sometimes it’s really hard to invest in a show that goes on and on and on and on and on and on like this sentence. Especially a psychological thriller that poses big questions and you’re just waiting for answers… forever. Well, my friend, you don’t have to wait forever. You don’t even have to wait ten episodes. The reveals come fast and furious, in every episode, multiple times per episode. I think there’s a certain confidence to the writing and execution of the show because we knew where we were headed. The actors knew what they were playing. M. Night Shyamalan and the directors who came after him knew what was between the lines. And the big “reveal”, which you might expect to be at the end, comes halfway through, in the fifth episode. That was a big decision. But when writing the “bible” for the show — a 110-page document in which I detailed the plot of the first season — it was clear to me that this story wasn’t just about a big twist. It was about a big truth. And writing about What do we do with this reality? became just as interesting as WTF is going on here?!
3. It’s not a movie, but we’ve got movie stars. Matt Dillon. Terrence Howard. Melissa Leo. Juliette Lewis. Toby Jones. Carla Gugino. Hope Davis. Shannyn Sossamon. Now go back and say all that in a movie trailer voice. See? Big stars. Matt was the first actor we cast, and it was a domino effect from there. I think the community (”community” = “agents”) saw the casting of Matt and quickly understood the caliber of what we wanted to do. Still, when these actors all read the script for the first episode, they were just as bewildered as they were intrigued. They understandably wanted to know what happened with their character in the rest of the story, they wanted to know what the truth was behind the town, they wanted to know everything. So I got on the phone with each one of them and walked them through the rest of the series. And THEN they signed on. Night (that’s what everybody calls him) started calling me “The Closer.” The only actor who didn’t want to know anything was Terrence Howard. My phone call with him lasted about five minutes. He wanted to be surprised. That’s some serious trust.
OK, if I say anything more, I’ll be telling you too much. So just watch it. Maybe you’ll really fall in love with it and it will inspire you to write a book. No pressure.
I’d love to know what you think. You can find me on Twitter: @chad_hodge.
Wayward Pines premieres Thursday, May 14 at 9 p.m. on Fox.