Watching Wayward Pines is helping me understand Harry Potter. Bear with me a bit. While the celebrated escapist series has at times been dismissed as being about very little other than a rather standard and formulaic coming of age tale, it actually has loads of subtext. And the level that occurs me now is its nostalgia for one of the traditional British sci-fi/fantasy tropes, the Fallen Empire. Rowling’s’ story encodes an imperial and aristocratic past in the always aspirational Voldemort of course, but moreover in all of Slytherin house. The struggle in the series isn’t just between Harry and Tom Riddle (himself a muggle-born non-Pureblood), it’s the egalitarian, merit-based communities of Hufflepuff (kindness), Ravenclaw (intelligence) and Gryffindor (bravery) vs. the elite snobs of Slytherin. When Professor McGonagall has the whole house locked up by Filch before the Battle of Hogwarts, it’s because none of them can be trusted not to aid the Death Eaters massing outside the protective force field. While there is a place for them still in society, the House of Lords cannot be given free reign, the House of Commons (which admits even Muggles and the Muggle-born) and a democratic society represent the true future of the former world power. The Queen is a nod to history, a public relations move more than anything. So while some may miss the old ways (the Blacks and the Malfoys and Dolores), and some may benefit from them (Snape, Sirius, Slughorn), most others have moved on to positions of regret (Dumbledore) and curiosity (the Weasleys) about a less “Imperius” cursed future. Harry (and Dumbledore’s Army) is the symbol (despite his two witch parents) of this catholic point of view. So as we go into season two of Wayward Pines (which picks up almost exactly where season one ended) I’m struck that it too has a compellingly nostalgic subtext. One that is particularly American, not for an Empirical past (our empire was always a democracy, after all), but for a cultural moment of certainty and confidence. That simpler, more moral time conservatives are always trying to convince us actually existed. In a phrase, the abundant and #EisenhowerSoWhite world of 1950s. Surrounded by monsters in a sheltered valley, Wayward Pines is mostly row upon row of similar suburban single family dwellings. The nuclear family is the expected model, and as we saw last season, singles are expected to have productive jobs and to hook up quickly. No big apartment buildings, no or few solo urban dwellers, just temporary hotels and motels for that sort, which would be transient if anyone could ever enter or leave. The downtown shops are diners, bars, theme restaurants, hobby stores, functional and entertaining mom and pop businesses for a sleepy small town. Every need is met within the borders of the town, so much so that the youth only dream of preserving it, without ever leaving its boundaries. Of course, that’s because they know the truth, thanks to the vital continued presence of Megan (the priceless Hope Davis), who somehow survived her brief fellow traveling with rebellion as the Abbies attacked last season. In a wheelchair but otherwise still presumably the school principal, she has both told them the facts of their situation (the year is 4032, human life has ended except for Wayward Pines, monsters patrol the untamed holocaust outside) and somehow indoctrinated them with her zeal for continuing David Pilcher’s vision of waking up the cryogenic sleepers in waves, only as needed, in order to preserve a stable waking society of 2000 or so at any one time. That’s how Dr. Theo Yeldin (Jason Patric) finds himself in the Pines, thinking only one night has passed since his 2000 years old fight with his wife and drunken encounter with Sherriff Pope (Terrance Howard still lives in flashbacks!) that led to his being put into one of those cryogenic pods. He’s been awoken to treat rebel leader Kate (Carla Gugino making a vibrant cameo), who’s been shot and captured. The fascist children who now run things (as we saw in last year’s finale) need her healed for her intel on the rebels, and then send Megan to kill her quietly. If you know anything about Kate (former secret agent), you know going quietly is off the table, leading to the most chilling scene of the episode. And I don’t even mean the bloody bits, I mean her having to listen to Davis prattle on about a false truce: “Hateful words have been said, so many hurtful words. Oh … and deaths, of course.” The real problem is that Pilcher’s idea of paradise is apparently Leave it to Beaver, or maybe Father Knows Best. And yet he keeps waking up people like last season’s Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon), who couldn’t settle into a nuclear family even when they brought his wife and son along, because he was already sleeping with spy partner Kate and his family knew it. To find her already there made everything worse until both basically decent women realized they shared their love for Ethan and formed a united front. But by then it was firmly against Megan and her zealots. Are those our only choices? Moral relativism or fascism? Is some other way of life possible for our embattled survivors of whatever generation? Kate speaks about mankind’s cultural achievements movingly before deciding it will never get better, and Pilcher lived in an elite protected tower ruling over all before his death. Doesn’t look like we’ll have last season’s MVP Melissa Leo back (I think Nurse Pam might be in hibernation again, I hope!), but we may be in good hands anyway. This time they’ve got Dr. Yeldin, played with fitting subtlety by Patric. His expression is mostly blank, but he’s got a similar charisma to Dillon, and seems similarly ready to impose his own moral judgment on a nonsensical world. Last season was a film noir with Dillon’s G-man antics. Now we’ve got a paranoia/fascist infiltration scenario. Yeldin’s one of those Type A surgeons who need to be perfect at everything, which already formed a rift in the past with his beautiful wife (who has apparently already been awakened). When public executions begin in the town square, Yeldin objects, and is thrown with the captured rebels to the monsters outside the gate. Which is to say, the creepy air of dread, threat, cultish zealotry and conformity is alive and well in Wayward Pines. Wayward Pines 2.01 "Enemy Lines"Shawn's Rating3.5Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.