Wayward Pines is no paradise, but it’s home — home to the only human survivors on Earth. As the sleeper hit of last summer revealed halfway through its first season, the eponymous Idaho town served as a refuge for humanity while the planet’s changing environment caused humans to evolve — or rather, devolve — into aberrations (a.k.a. “Abbies”) that viciously attacked anything and anyone within reach. For thousands of years, survivors slept in pods in suspended animation, waiting for the day they could be awakened to carry on.
It’s an elaborate sci-fi premise that was meant to have concluded with the explosive season finale, during which Ethan (Matt Dillon) sacrificed himself to protect the survivors from the Abbies who breached the fence. And yet, Fox moved forward with a second season for the event series based on Blake Crouch’s The Wayward Pines Trilogy, ordering 10 more episodes of the saga — this time with executive producer Mark Friedman (Believe) running the show while season 1 showrunner Chad Hodge took a back seat.
So with no more novels to adapt (the first season covered the events in Crouch’s trilogy), how do you sustain a story that both killed off its hero and revealed its spookiest secret? It’s simple, Friedman says: Draft a new hero — and come up with even more secrets. “I knew [the show] had been designed as a limited event, but the first thing I realized as I watched the first season was that there are still so many stories that could be told,” he explains. “The best asset that I had was a mountain full of people still sleeping in pods, and that ending was a little open-ended. The story could continue.”
And so it does. When Wayward Pines season 2 begins, viewers meet Dr. Theo Yedlin (Jason Patric, in his first starring role in a TV series), an accomplished surgeon who First Generation head honcho Jason (Tom Stevens, returning in an expanded role) brings out of suspended animation. But Theo isn’t exactly a replacement for Ethan, Patric warns. Though the actor didn’t watch the first season — “My character has no knowledge of anything that’s happened, so I thought it’d be best if I was dropped in the middle the same way,” he says — he teases that the story won’t focus all of its energy on Theo’s journey. “The secret’s out, and there is a larger story to be told,” he admits. “[Theo] is being used against his will. It’s almost as if he was dropped behind enemy lines in the Third Reich or something.”
Patric’s comparison to Nazi Germany isn’t an exaggeration when it comes to the situation in Wayward Pines. Because the story picks up months after Ben (Charlie Tahan) woke up from his years-long coma following Ethan’s death, it’s now the year 4032, and the First Generation has a fascist hold over the small town. There are still the public executions (or “reckonings”) of those who rebel. There’s a headquarters keeping track of everyone’s status inside the fence. There’s even a curfew for the citizens’ own “protection.”
Still, the series isn’t losing its first season’s eerie, what-the-hell-is-going-on touch. “My first day on set, the first thing I see is a dummy hanging off of a stretcher covered in blood,” recalls Nimrat Kaur, who joins the cast as Rebecca, Theo’s wife. “That gave me an idea of what I was dealing with.” She laughs. “Welcome to Wayward Pines!” Besides, there are the Abbies to worry about, too. According to Friedman, season 2 will also focus on the development of the Abbies and how they operate. “We’ve seen the Abbies as these monsters who eat everything and gnaw on animals and scream and jump, but there’s clearly more that’s going on,” Friedman says. “If they’re some degraded version of humanity, what traits of humanity might they still have that we can explore as we learn more about them? If they were human once, what about them might still be human?”
The mythology of Wayward Pines isn’t just about what’s happening in the 41st century. On a sunny April day in Vancouver, the set has been dressed to look like present-day Boston for a flashback scene between Theo and Rebecca. The pair have been struggling with their marriage for a while and are squabbling in their kitchen, neither looking happy to be where they are. Rebecca, an architect, is particularly conflicted about a project she had been working on. “What if you made an error of judgment? What if you made a mistake, but had a second chance?” she wonders out loud. Theo is confused. “What’d you get yourself into?” he asks, before she turns away, frustrated.
Viewers won’t find out what Rebecca had been doing — and how it all ties back (or is it forward?) to Wayward Pines — until later, but the flashbacks and new characters are meant to help fill in the blanks in the town’s deep history. Among the players to pay attention to is CJ Mitchum (Djimon Hounsou, appearing in his first small-screen role since 2004), a Pilcher recruit executive producer M. Night Shyamalan calls “really pivotal.” “He has the best institutional memory of Wayward Pines, if you will,” Hounsou teases, adding that CJ’s task over the centuries has been to keep the pods clean every few decades. “He’s a good guy who is humane, intelligent, skilled, and the only thing is he feels like Wayward Pines has exceeded itself… He’s supporting humanity, but he strongly feels that we have doomed ourselves.”
Maybe CJ’s right about Wayward Pines’ eventual doomsday, but the series isn’t done shocking its fans just yet. Sure, the first season delivered its Shyamalan-approved reveal from the books on why the town exists, but Friedman’s confident season 2 will thrill just as much, even if it’s moved on from adapting Crouch’s novels. (Some characters, including Hope Davis’ Megan, Carla Gugino’s Kate, and Terrence Howard’s Sheriff Pope, will return to help with the transition.) “We may not have the big twist anymore, but I think we have a lot of surprises still to play out in Wayward Pines,” Friedman says. “The one thing is Wayward Pines is a weird place, and we want to preserve that.”
It’s a place Shyamalan admits he didn’t want to let go after 10 episodes. “We made a big, conscious effort [to show that] that wasn’t the end,” he says. “I enjoyed the premise so much that I felt like I wanted to live there.”
Wait, live in Wayward Pines?! “No,” he clarifies, laughing. “I want to watch the characters live in Wayward Pines from the safety of my couch.” Ah, that makes more sense — and we feel the same way.