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‘Wayward Pines’ Review: Can Jason Patric Escape Death in Season 2?

Patric replaces season 1’s Matt Dillon, whose character met a very unappetizing end

Welcome to Wayward Pines, where “paradise is home,” electric fences enclose the town and rebellion is nigh.

As the second season of the M. Night Shyamalan-produced series (based on the novels by Blake Crouch) gears up for a second-season summer run on Fox, it’s a time of departures and re-imagining.

Building on what writer-producer Chad Hodge set out in the first season, incoming showrunner Mark Friedman (“Believe”) continues the same creepy, “Stepford”-like tone in which the powerful few have tasked themselves with saving humanity and the rest of the residents had better fall in line. Or else. There are plenty of Easter eggs and Season 1 cast appearances for those who tuned into the show last summer, but thanks to a nifty narrative voiceover by one returning Ben Burke (Charlie Tahan), those coming to the series anew will be caught up in no time.

Gone is Matt Dillon in the leading role of reluctant town sheriff (spoiler alert – his character blew himself up in the first season finale in order to save the town from the abbies, malformed human-type animals that eat flesh to survive).

Replacing him is Jason Patric as Dr. Theo Yedlin, a man who is revived in order to save a certain first season character from imminent death. Judging by Patric’s first episode, both his and Dillon’s characters seem interchangeable at best. Both run from those who seek to hold them captive despite their obvious importance to the town’s survival. Their mannerisms and acting styles are pretty similar. The writers even take it one step further in the way of both characters having faced marital problems before they were “chosen” for the town, and both characters see familiar faces quickly upon being awoken for their respective tasks.

Where the second season differs is that it should take no time at all for Theo to find allies now that the original mystery of what the town is all about has been put to rest. Rather than spend an inordinate amount of time answering that question again, the second season features a rebellion led by the aforementioned Burke Jr., who is fighting the First Generation in order to make the town residents aware of their situation. As such Theo is quickly thrust into the action and made aware that the outside world isn’t quite as he remembers it to be–in fact by the end of the cliffhanger first episode, it’s unlikely he’ll be trying to escape anytime soon.

Meanwhile back in town, many of the same themes present in the first season continue to remain relevant to the show. Hope Davis‘ character Megan Fisher is as always a fan of the “clear and severe” punishment model for those who can’t play nice, while the rebellion serves as the moral backdrop of the ethical questions of freedom and knowledge. These are survival questions that aren’t easily answered, but are constantly present thanks to specific scenes in which framed photos of the now-defunct David Pilcher (Toby Jones) character are constantly looming.

Yet while those themes continue to be important to the core of the story originally put forth by Crouch, the writers used up all their source material in the first season. Now, it’s a large matter of relying on new ideas and fresh mysteries to keep the viewers tuned in every week. Whereas the first season was able to manipulate the storyline by answering questions one at a time and leaving viewers hanging, the second season is more a matter of life or death as the stakes grow higher and the original intrigue becomes less important.

Whether viewers will follow along for that ride remains to be seen, but one thing is obvious: when it comes to a town like this, nothing is ever quite as perfect as it seems.

“Wayward Pines” premieres season 2 at 9 p.m. Wednesday on Fox.

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