The three canonical Wayward Pines books end in a tremendously clear cut way. There’s any amount of peripheral apocrypha, just as there is is with the Wool sequence, but the core work is in and out with brisk efficiency. Then we got the TV adaptation, which choked on the idea of wrapping up the product so definitively, and instead ended on a sequel hook so that they could go on milking the property for a few years.
The upside of this was that Wayward Pines’ second season had the prospect of surprise. The books had ended with everyone taking a two thousand year jump into the future, having answered pretty much all the questions that the books had asked. If you’d read the books, the main interest for the TV show was how faithful the adaptation had been, and how well the TV show handled the withholding and misdirection which Blake Crouch had built into the books. It’s hard to withold some things in TV; the TV adaptation of Iain Banks’ The Crow Road, for example, blows a key twist because it’s pretty much impossible to show a girl throwing herself at an oblivious narrator without the audience seeing it even if the narrator doesn’t. Other withholding is much easier; acting can’t tell you what someone is thinking, no matter what actors might hope to the contrary.
But having killed a big chunk of the headline cast and thrown out a sequel hook of a town where the next generation had set up a police state, the scriptwriters had set up a season where I didn’t know what to expect. Other than my usual expectation of unexpected second seasons, which is that everyone will mark time for fear of running out of plot and having to find honest work somewhere else. Shallow couch-potato that I am, I don’t much care if there’s a plot as long as the characters entertain me from moment to moment. So my uneasy expectation of Waward Pines II was that there would be a Resistance vibe rolling for week after week as baby fascists persecuted cynical older people, aka “How is this different from my actual life?"
Instead things went to hell in a handbasket with impressive speed, as the monsters on the borders horded up something wicked and the humans ran out of food and everything else. There were all kinds of sub plots which looked like they were going to go somewhere, most notably “Oh, look, the monsters might not be the bad guys after all.” complete with mysterious leader spooking everyone out by getting captured just to get a better look at the opposition. And then it all just falls apart, until in the end the survivors pile back into the stasis pods in the hope that if they fast forward for two thousand years perhaps the monsters will have got over their grievances, or evolved, or died out or something.
Which is pretty much the canonical ending, just with ten extra TV hours of faffing about stuck onto it at the front to no very great purpose. We got to see a bit more about how Wayward Pines was designed and planned, and got a different handle on the Abbies, and well, that was about it. Not many new questions, no real answers to any of them, and in the end we’re pretty much exactly where we would have been if the first season had been a completely faithful adaptation of the source text, and the chances of any of the questions from this season still being relevant in a third season are about as high as the chances of there even being a third season.