SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Wayward Pines finale.
After 10 episodes and a summer of time-shifting successes, Wayward Pines came to a bloody and awakening end tonight – literally and figuratively. Or did it? Although picked up as an event series back in 2013 by Fox, the mystery series from executive producers M. Night Shyamalan, Chad Hodge, Donald De Line and Ashwin Rajan based on the trio of novels from Blake Crouch looks both on and off screen like it could be coming back.
Yes, the finale tonight saw the consequences and divisions as the power went out in Wayward Pines, the protective fences came down, and the harsh reality of 4028 revealed as the Aberrations flooded the once idyllic seemingly 21st century town, killing many in their path. After a final and seemingly fatal confrontation with mastermind David Pilcher (Toby Jones), former Secret Service agent and town Sheriff Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) led many of the residents into a fortified bunker to safety. In the process, he was killed stopping the Abbies, and Pam Pilcher (Melissa Leo) unveiled secret cryogenic sleep booths that could house the remaining survivors. That and the final scene with Burke’s son Ethan waking up in an apparently unscathed but heavily controlled Wayward Pines has the scent of continuation.
Having helmed the Hodges-written pilot, Wayward Pines was Shyamalan’s first deep dive into series television. With his latest feature The Visit set to open on September 11, The Sixth Sense director chatted about an idea for more Pines, the shift from the big screen to the small screen and putting on the TV brakes to catch his breath.
DEADLINE: With Charlie Tahan’s character waking up in a rebuilt and seemingly safe town at the end of the finale, it looks and feels like Wayward Pines is perfectly poised for a second season. The numbers are there, the inclination from Fox is there, so are you, Chad and Blake going to head back to Wayward Pines?
M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: We’re super surprised, excited, humbled by the reaction to Wayward Pines, and I did ask Blake to come over to my house, which he did. We did sit down for a few days, and we talked about all kinds of things, and we both felt very good about our time together. We both made a pact saying if we did decide to do something more here that we would approach it with a very high level of integrity and not let the opportunity dictate it because we’re both happy to walk away.
DEADLINE: Sounds like you are diplomatically saying a Season 2 is in the cards, am I picking that up right?
SHYAMALAN: I’m actually not being diplomatic, I mean, I’m being somewhat diplomatic, but I’m genuinely being as open as I can. The one thing I’m fearful of television is its open-ended nature. I’m such an end backwards kind of filmmaker, storyteller, and that’s what I loved about doing these 10 episodes. I knew where I wanted to go. I knew I wanted the fences to come down. I knew where we were heading for the finale and so we could architecture the 10-episodes in that manner.
So, I am happy to walk away, especially with such a wonderful reaction and all that stuff. But honestly, Blake and I do have an idea.
— Blake Crouch (@blakecrouch1) July 24, 2015
DEADLINE: And that idea for a Season 2 is? We now have both Matt Dillon and Toby Jones’ characters dead in the finale but could any of the other major actors from Season 1 return?
SHYAMALAN: We have an idea we’ve discussed. That’s all I’ll say.
DEADLINE: It’s funny to even be discussing the possibility of a Wayward Pines with you being that you seemed to have avoided TV for so long. Having made the leap now and having seen a whole season behind you, how was the small screen?
SHYAMALAN: Yes, I had gone to the altar a couple of times and ran away like a run-away bride. With this one, I had no urge to run away. Truth is I enjoyed it, and totally learned a ton about what it is to have this ongoing live relationship with the audience as the season is going on. It’s really fascinating.
So I guess, if I can still kind of hold this bar of if I know where we’re going, if I believe in the story, then we should say yes to doing more. Then hopefully we can maybe do another show that people like, as well. So, yeah, I’m open to it, for sure.
DEADLINE: Certainly Fox must be hoping you are more than open. Those DVR viewing numbers hit Live + 3 record numbers for a Fox premiere and then there was the 130% lift of the Week 6 episode from Live + Same Day to Live + 7. Coming from the feature world, how did you see those surging digital afterlife ratings results for the show?
SHYAMALAN: I like that part of it (laughs). I like the DVR component of what its implication is for storytelling, because the stickier the storytelling, the more your DVR numbers are going to be, right? The more of an impact it’s having, I think it will change the way people make shows. I mean, so many more people watch Wayward Pines by the time the 7-day window is over. There is still that urgency to watch it, you know, before the next episode kicks in, but everybody has now kind of weekly habits.
This is my first time doing TV, so this is you and me talking, and me a novice, but I believe that the 7-day number is going to become the all-important number one day. I know right now it’s the 3-day number that’s the all-important number, but I’m almost certain the seven-day number will take over.
DEADLINE: With that in mind, if you were to do another season of Wayward Pines or a whole new show, would you direct all of it like Steven Soderbergh does with The Knick on Cinemax or stick to just one episode like you did this time?
SHYAMALAN: I probably wouldn’t do all 10 episodes right now like that because films are still my day job. I really love the one-two of it all. For me, this is an ideal year like this, in the sense that there’s a TV show that I can talk to audiences, and then I can put out a film after that. That was kind of the dream version of this that you can have the relationship with the audience in between the two years it takes to make a movie. It’s an exciting opportunity to continue to tell new stories.
DEADLINE: Did you develop new skills as a TV director and EP that you found differed from doing features?
SHYAMALAN: One of the things that’s really tough about making movies, especially writing and directing movies, and being away from Los Angeles a lot is you really don’t interact with a ton of people. It’s a very lonely profession being a director. This show gave me an opportunity to work with a ton of actors, but also with the directors. I mean, it’s so fun emailing with the directors and talking with them about the different episodes and of course, working with all the different writers, which I enjoyed a lot.
DEADLINE: Was shifting from director of the pilot to full-on EP with Chad and Blake for the duration of the season finding a whole new set of muscles?
SHYAMALAN: Working in TV is so different than what you do on a film. On a film it’s like one vision, and this is my vision of the movie. I get the crew and the cast to kind of help me execute that singular vision. On the show, I’m trying to get them to tell their version of the story. I also tell them what I feel is important about the overall sonnet, but that I want their verse to be very unique. I enjoy that because I love artists, and so it was a totally different muscle.
In the greatest of ways TV is about character, and I could just lean into character with Wayward Pines. I could always just constantly lean into character and film it, and as you probably can tell, character’s not a God of film. Film is a plot driven, a structure-driven medium. So for those of us that love characters, we definitely try to spend as much time as we can with the characters before the plot forces our hand. In TV, there’s so much room for characters, which is such a beautiful thing.
— Chad Hodge (@chad_hodge) July 23, 2015
DEADLINE: Did the emphasis on character surprise you? Did that process cause you to change the way you worked?
SHYAMALAN: I was very tentative at first to impose too much. I didn’t know my role, quite right away, and I think I probably didn’t raise my hand a couple of times. Just learning what writers to pick, and who to select, and that’s like an art form to find who knows how to do this stuff the right way to my taste and to the network’s taste. I was definitely learning on the job.
DEADLINE: How was that relationship with the network for you?
SHYAMALAN: Fox was very, very patient with me, and that is a rare, rare thing.
I mean so much so that I asked them if we could stop shooting for six weeks for me to catch my breath and talk to the writers. That’s a big request and not an easy one and they said yes. They trusted me, and that six weeks turned out to be everything. I mean, it really turned out to be everything. We got our feet under us. I got the writers that I felt could really nail it.
DEADLINE: How far in were you when you hit that brake?
SHYAMALAN: We stopped at Episode four. That’s the thing about TV, it’s like a train that never stops, and it was a beautiful thing to stop for a bit because you just catch your breath for a second and you catch up. I was not ready to deliver that much material that fast, and they were just gracious to allow me to learn.
DEADLINE: Sounds like it was quite the education…
SHYAMALAN: Yes, there’s a million ways this could have gone wrong, and I’m happy for everybody involved that it turned out to be positive.