Thursday, June 2, 2016

Wayward Pines, Season Two, Episode Two: Blood Harvest

This week, Wayward Pines (read: the fascist kids in brown shirts show) settled into what I think the narrative is going to be for the season.  In episode one, Theo had to be introduced to the series which very much felt like a repetition of Ethan's introduction to Wayward Pines.  Thankfully, Theo's adjustment to the way things are now happened very quickly so as to avoid treading over already explained territory.

Jason in his brilliance decided that it would be a good idea to put Theo and Ben outside of the fence. Though Ben had been leading the rebels for three years, Jason for some reason seemed far more concerned about Theo, fearing that he will become another Ethan.  It's an example of just how unfit Jason is to lead.  Unlike Ethan, Theo has a skill which cannot be replaced and the town is desperately in need of, a fact Theo quickly becomes aware of.

The scenes with Theo challenging Ben were absolutely priceless.  Theo is full of snark and makes it clear that it's okay that Jason doesn't think that he can do his job because he is absolutely certain that Jason cannot do his.  If Jason weren't such an asshole fascist, I would almost feel sorry for him.  He's clearly outmatched in what is shaping up to be a battle between him and Theo and Kerri, who despite her exasperation with his idiocy is doing her best to reign him in.I hope that Kerri steps outside of her woman behind the man role soon. Jason demands the respect he has done nothing to earn and looks more like a teenage boy having a tantrum and someone capable of leading the last of humanity.

Last week, we left off with Jason ordering Ben and Theo to be left outside of the wall.  Luckily for them, the Abbies focus on creating a pile of bodies so that they can climb over the fence.  This is new behaviour for them and a surprise to the leadership of Wayward Pines.  Jason, Kerri and a few men head over to stop the town from being overwhelmed by abbies and in the process, Kerri gets hurt. Just like that, Jason's ridiculous decision to exile Theo quickly becomes a problem.  Jason is forced to order men to find Theo and bring him back into the town in order to operate on Kerri. That's right, just because you put a kid in a Doctor's coat to play dress up, doesn't mean he can perform a surgery.

Theo naturally sees his advantage and presses it, demanding not only to know the truth but to see his wife.  Jason, despite the warning from Rebecca,  goes ahead and tells Theo the truth about where he is and what has happened.  Naturally, Theo does not believe a word Jason has to say, despite surviving an Abbie attack the night before.  After operating on Kerri, Theo heads home with Rebecca, who unfortunately has no food to offer him because she has run out of rations.  It's only when Rebecca explains that she has been in Wayward Pines for three years that Theo begins to relent, though he is still convinced that he is having a hallucination.  Rebecca seals the deal by slapping Theo across the face, pointing out that if he can feel the sting of the slap, then he is absolutely not hallucinating.

Rebecca being awake and aware of what is going on gives Theo an advantage over Ethan; however, the fact that their relationship is certainly far from healthy or happy feels very much like Ethan and Theresa 2.0.  With everything going on in Wayward Pines, what this show doesn't need is relationship angst and I really hope that this doesn't become a focus of season two.

One of the things we learn about Wayward Pines is how hard life is in this town.  Not only is food being restricted (a fact that lead to the three year war) but so are essential items like vitamins.  It seems that Jason has decided not only to ration supplies but remove some people from eligibility, a fact that doesn't go unnoticed by Theo.  Sure Jason has pregnant 12 years to ensure the ongoing viability of humanity but what is the point of birthing babies when they don't have access to the necessities of life? Also, why isn't he taking into account that girls that young are physically mature enough to give birth, especially with their limited medical supplies and professionals?  

This week we were introduced to CJ Mitchum, who was a compatriot of Pilcher's and seems to be in charge of the farming.  Because of the acidic levels of the soil inside of Wayward Pines, they were forced to plant outside of the walls.  Now that the town is basically surviving on next to nothing, it's time to harvest.  This of course presents its own set of problems because the Abbies are sure to launch an attack.  Jason decides that they should use flamethrowers against the Abbies, something they have never done before.  CJ is skeptical and points out that once unleashed, fire cannot be controlled easily.  Fortunately, it works out and the Abbies leave the area after a few of them are roasted like marshmallows. Ben, who is somehow still alive, begs the harvesters to being him back inside the town, reminding them of the first rule - first generation are not to harm first generation.  When this ploy doesn't work, Ben gives a little speech in front of the cameras which streams the feed inside Wayward Pines.

Jason's legitimacy to rule is based in the fact that he is supposedly doing what Pilcher would have wanted but by exiling Ben, he is sentencing him to die in direct contradiction to the rule regarding the first generation.  This makes the residents very nervous, a fact which does not escape Kerri, but Jason has convinced himself that exile means he didn't act directly to cause Ben's death and or injury. He further justifies his decision by claiming that Ben isn't really part of the first generation failing to remember that Kerri's situation mirrors that of Ben.

Having lost Ethan, Theresa is determined to fight hard for her son.  This takes the form of questioning, Jason's first generation soldiers and reminding them of the rules. Clearly this is meant to get them thinking that if Jason could do this to Ben, what will he do to them if they happen to colour outside of the lines one day.  It works to some degree because one of them does leave the sanctity of the walls to find Ben but he is eaten by Abbies for his trouble.  Ben heads towards the scene but the abbies turn on him and attack.  At this point, we don't know whether or not Ben is alive or dead but given that the kool aid sipper Meagan survived, I won't necessarily count Ben out.

What we learned about Wayward Pines this episode is that survival for humanity is precarious not only because of the fascist leadership of Jason but because of food shortages. Sure, Wayward Pines is filled with the typical middle class accoutrement like beauty salons, ice cream parlous, toy stores and homes but it all masks a very deep rot. Though Jason has successfully managed to crush Ben's rebellion and even brought in some fresh food, dissent is clearly alive and well in Wayward Pines.  Jason rules through fear but that doesn't mean he can control the way that people feel and pushed hard enough, people will rebel - a lesson he clearly has not learned.  Jason is so hungry for power, yet he has no real understanding of exactly how precarious his position is.  Sending Ben out to die is going to come back and bite him in the ass, whether or not Ben is still alive.

What's perhaps must interesting about Wayward Pines right now is not actually the character drama itself but the Abbies. For the first time, the Abbies were willing to sacrifice themselves in order to attempt to get beyond the fence.  Though many of them died, others were able to climb up the pile of dead abbies in order to hop over the fence.  This takes not only a willingness to sacrifice but some innate intelligence.  It's already clear that humanity is no longer the top predator on the earth and should the abbies prove to have reasoning skills as well, things are about to get a lot more precarious in Wayward Pines.  It's enough to make me wonder if instead of killing Ben, they took him hostage? Aware and intelligent Abbies could really change the game.

The treatment of women on Wayward Pines is proving to be far more interesting than it was last year. The Kool Aid sipper isn't really fooling anyone with her fanaticism. Even the kids in the school could clearly see that the idea of keeping abbies inside the fence, sedated or not, is not a smart move. Her kind of fanaticism is exactly what is wrong with Wayward Pines.  Then there's Kerri, who clearly is a true believer but unlike the Kool Aid sipper seems to be more rational in her thought process. Kerri clearly treats Jason like a puppet to be manipulated and is behind the only intelligent leadership in Wayward Pines.  She's clearly Machiavellian in her thinking and is an expert in manipulation. Theresa made her first appearance this episode but she did little beyond screaming.  After everything this character has been through, it's time for her to be more proactive. Finally, there's Rebecca, Theo's wife.  At this point I see her as a pragmatic person, just playing the hand that she's been dealt.  I like that as much as she is happy to see Theo, she's unwilling to promise him anything yet.

There are far more characters of colour this season and they largely belong to the first generation.  This episode we were introduced to CJ. With the exception of Rebecca, there's nothing about any of these new faces that distinguishes them from one another.  They all seem to a blank slate waiting to be drawn upon.  I hope that this changes fast.  It's not enough to cast people of colour, these characters need to be given significant things to do.