WAYWARD PINES Finale Post-Mortem: Chad Hodge on 'Cycle,' the Alternate Ending, and More - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

WAYWARD PINES Finale Post-Mortem: Chad Hodge on ‘Cycle,’ the Alternate Ending, and More

July 23, 2015 by  

Credit: Liane Hentscher/FOX

Credit: Liane Hentscher/FOX

[Warning: this post contains spoilers for the WAYWARD PINES finale. Please do not read this post until you’ve watched “Cycle.”]

WAYWARD PINES ended, in many ways, right where it started.

Though Ethan was successful in outing the truth to the town, the impact of David Pilcher turning off the gate (and letting the Abbies into town) took out a great number of people. (And Ethan sacrificed himself to stop the Abbies from reaching his wife, son, and the remaining survivors.)

For a time, it seemed like maybe the sacrifice would be worth it — Pam (who killed her brother, David) and Kate set out to run the town the “right” way.

But it’s WAYWARD PINES, so naturally, things couldn’t be that simple, right?

The event series with an appropriately cyclical conclusion: the first episode started off with Ethan, waking up and then wandering around the town in a daze; the last moments of the finale had Ethan’s son, Ben, waking up a couple of years after his father’s death to find that the First Generation had taken over — romanticizing the work of Pilcher, vilifying Ethan, and putting the people who weren’t FGers back into animated suspension — and the distraught young man wandered around the “new” Wayward Pines.

Will that be the end end of this story? That’s still to be determined. (WAYWARD PINES was originally intended to be a one-off event series, but given its success this summer, a continuation in some form is not totally out of the question.)

To get a little bit more insight into the finale, I spoke with WAYWARD PINES showrunner Chad Hodge about “Cycle,” the changes from Blake Crouch’s “Wayward Pines” book series, what he wishes he had been able to work in, and yes, a possible season 2…

(As a note: there are book spoilers in the following interview. If you haven’t read the series, A) You should. I read all three books when I finished the Fox series, and the event series/books deliciously co-exist. B) The spoilers for what goes down in the books will be put together and designated with a red warning, and then another red note when they’re finished. So if you haven’t read the books yet, skip the spoilery section so you can preserve the mystery for yourself!)

[Book spoilers ahead.]

The entire event series was adapted from the “Wayward Pines” book series, but essentially the entire final book was adapted for the final hour. How was it trying to translate that last book into 40-ish minutes of television?
Chad Hodge: It was so hard, because there was so much great stuff in the books; it was so hard to pick and choose.

Originally, [what happens in] book three was part of book two. But Blake realized it was getting so long, so “The Last Town” became its own book. When I first read an early draft of book two, it included much of what is now book three.

So it was very hard. But it was different. In terms of Pilcher turning off the power and the Abbies invading the town and Ethan telling everyone the truth, it was all the same. But one component of the show that the books don’t have is the First Generation. Of course Ben is a part of the books, and all of that, but the First Generation isn’t a part of the books, so once we introduced that idea in episode four — and when Ben starts going to school — that becomes an integral part of the story. And, obviously, in a huge way, will [influenced] the details of the ending.

The television ending is very different from what happens in the books. In the books, Ethan and the rest of the survivors realize they can’t live in the current world (partially due to dwindling supplies), and put themselves back into suspension…until Ethan wakes up thousands of years later. In the show, Ethan doesn’t make it; Pam and Kate make the attempt to live things the right way, but at some point they’re clearly overrun. What kind of discussions were had with the writers, Blake, Fox, etc., about changing the ending so significantly?
CH: Originally, I had written drafts — with the other writers — of most of the ten episodes before we started to do the shooting. The original ending of the series was exactly the original ending of the book. In fact, Blake and I came up with that, in a way, together. I was writing the end of the series as he was finishing “Last Town.” So they were very much aligned. But then when we were coming up and shooting the tenth episode, and [deciding] how exactly we wanted it to end, it felt the First Generation was such a part of the show that we wanted to incorporate it in a different way. So we tweaked the ending. I love both endings.

That was probably the hardest part for me as we were changing things from the finale from what we had originally conceived, because it’s something Blake and I had come up with together. But of course, the book’s ending doesn’t incorporate the First Generation, and that’s such a key part to the story in the show.

It makes sense why each story ends up at the place it does.
CH: I love how the book ends with everyone going back into suspension, realizing, “We’re not meant to be on this planet at this moment. And Ethan leaves that radio message to anyone who might find them. It’s a really beautiful ending, and then everyone goes back into suspension. And then Ethan, thousands of years later, opens his eyes. Boom [end of book].

The book and the show are clearly their own beings. But is there something you were able to bring to the show that wasn’t in the books that you’re most proud to have your fingerprints on?
CH: I think, for me, it’s the First Generation. The whole concept that the kids are being taught the truth of the town, because, eventually they’re going to be the leaders. Pilcher didn’t want them to be the leaders in the way they are being the leaders now. His original intent was, eventually, the children will be the leaders and there won’t have to be death, and there won’t have to be reckonings, and everything will be fine, and they’ll know the truth and they understand it. Obviously it didn’t work out that way. That concept, of even within this perfect town and beautiful place, that the children are the ones to know the truth, and Ben’s whole storyline — that’s my favorite part I added to the show.

Aside from the ending, was there anything from the books you wish you had the chance to incorporate but you just weren’t able to?
CH: Yeah, truly there is. There’s a couple of things. I really loved the plot in the second book is Ethan investigating the underground group in the way he does in our show. But the whole murder storyline of Alyssa [who is Pilcher’s daughter in the book], and figuring that out. I loved that story, and I was sad to not have it in the show. We crammed a lot of story into ten episodes — you can only have so much.

And then the other thing would be the Adam Hassler on the other side of the fence. You get a tiny glimpse of it in episode 9, but his whole journey out there, figuring out what’s going on on the outside and then returning to Wayward Pines — I wrote that stuff into the original drafts, and we ultimately didn’t have time for it. It’s some really cool stuff I missed. But, you know, can’t have it all, as we learned in Wayward Pines.

[End of book spoilers.]

After Ethan sacrificed himself, we saw Kate’s reaction, and then how it impacted Theresa and Ben. What kind of discussion was there in the writers’ room about who to show first?
CH: That was more of an editing choice. Look, the two of them have a partnership that goes back 2000-plus years. Also, the two of them came together in this episode…Theresa and Ethan have had troubles, and were trying to work them out. And for the last few episodes, they were being honest with each other. It was only really until the end of the last episode when Kate and Ethan — who were former Secret Service agent partners — were able to be honest with each other and trust each other again. And then together, they saved the town. They came back and were partners again. So I think going to Kate first means you know she knows exactly what he just did. Theresa’s reaction as his wife, and partner in life, is emotional and devastated, and she’s horrified and crushed. Kate is all those things, too, but she’s also aware of what he just did to save everyone else.

Pam took the big step to kill her brother. How much of that was choice vs. instinct?
CH: It was absolutely a choice. It was a quick decision, but it was not instinct or something she just did arbitrarily. Pam is one of the most interesting characters to me, and had one of the most interesting arcs in the show from beginning to end. You meet her as this terrifying nurse, and you want her dead. And then it turns out she’s the one that cares about Wayward Pines the most. She’s literally the mother of all the remaining humans on the planet, and she cares so much about it. She loves her brothers, but realizes he has gone of the deep end and is going to ruin Wayward Pines — the very thing she cares about the most. She understands other people and has comparison and cares about all these people, and she’s not going to let him do this — she has no choice, except for the choice to eliminate him.

Did she really think they’d be able to do things correctly? Or in her core, did she have doubts?
CH: I do think she believed that. It’s what she believes more than anything: she believes in the potential of Wayward Pines, even more than Pilcher did.

And then it all goes to hell.
CH: Yep! It’s one of the reasons it’s called “Cycle.” Look, it’s, in a way, a depressing ending — sort of a horrible thing to watch because, my God, it’s happening again, and these kids are in charge. There’s no end to the violence, there’s no end to the craziness, there’s no end to the killing. It’s really a reflection of our world. How many wars do we have to go to? How many people have to die? How many mistakes do we have to make before we go, “Oh, no, no, it should be this new good way”? We always say the world is going to be a better place — world peace, world peace — but it’s really just one cycle that keeps going.

It also echoed that you can kill a man, but you can’t kill his ideas, wrong or right. Pilcher got the infamy/impacted he wanted.
CH: Exactly. The children are the future, literally, and teach your children well, because if you teach them the wrong things, that’s what they’re going to grow up with, and what they’re going to espouse, and the cycle will never break.

In your mind, do you feel there might be some people living in town kind of like Kate and Harold were — putting up appearances, but not buying into everything? Or do you feel it truly is unified sense of peace?
CH: I think in Wayward Pines, anything is possible. And in Wayward Pines, and in our world, there is every type of person. So, of course there’s somewhere there who’s not good with this. [Laughs]

The end was very full circle with the final shots —
CH: Good eye! That’s another piece of the cycle: it’s coming back full circle. Ben wakes up at the hospital, with the nurse above him who says, “Mr. Burke, Mr. Burke!” And of course it’s Amy, now a nurse at the hospital, and he knows it’s crazy. And he escapes and walks to the street in a pretty much shot-for-shot replication of the way Ethan, his father, walks into town: with people staring at him as he walks in the middle of the street. And he sees that Jason is now the sheriff, and the bodies. It’s a tweaked version, but it’s full circle from episode 1. It really was a beginning, middle, and end.

How much of an effort did it take for you to recreate that? Did you guys go back and rewatch/study that opening, or did you feel you knew it in your bones?
CH: We absolutely went back to the pilot, and said, “That exact shot, that exact angle, that exact lighting. That woman walking by.” Oh, absolutely. You can have it in your bones, but when you go to do it, you want to make sure you’re doing it right.

What was the most satisfying/heartfelt moment to write in the finale?
CH: There’s a lot of heartfelt moments. There’s one between Kate and Theresa where Kate is sitting there bandaging Theresa’s hand, and Theresa acknowledges how hard it must be for Kate to have lost Harold. In very few words, they’re there for each other, and they come together. One of my favorite things about that relationship in this show is it’s very easy when you have the wife and the woman her husband had an affair with to have a cat fight or hate each other or be mad at each other or throw a drink in each other’s face. Because of our story and because of who these two women are, and because of the fact it’s been 2000 years since any of that happened, these women are actually able to be human to each other and real to each other, and put those type of things behind them and be friends with each other. I really loved that. That’s probably one of my favorite moments.

It’s probably tied with the reunion between Kate Hewson and Pamela Pilcher, who in episode 8, you saw Pamela drugging her in a padded cell, and now you see the two of them, hopefully, leading the future of Wayward Pines together.

The final episode seemed to be a big hour, stunt-wise. How was the process of filming “Cycle” compared to the rest of the event series?
CH: It was a massive episode, for sure. It took a lot of work. It took more time, and more money, frankly, to shoot this episode than any of the others. But we always knew this was how the last episode would be, and we were able to plan for it.

There is a bit of wiggle room about where the show could go, moving forward. What have you heard about season 2?
CH: There have been no official conversations. There have definitely been preliminary conversations because of the fantastic response to the show, and the overwhelming support and all of that. But as you know, even though the book ending and show ending leave you wanting more, that was always the design. I think leaving the audience wanting more is a good thing. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do a second season. It’s almost as if we didn’t keep you wanting more, the opposite of that is going, “I’ve had enough!” We want to leave you wanting more, but the satisfaction of, “Okay, this had a beginning, middle, and end.” Which hopefully you felt that way. It was always, creatively, designed to have this one season.

Now, there have been some preliminary discussions of a season 2, even though that was not the original intention. But nothing official yet.

Is there anything you want to tell fans?
CH: Thank you, is what I want to tell them. Thank you for watching, thank you for having fun with it, and thank you for telling people about it, and coming along for the ride. It was really fun to make the show, to write the show. Thank you for watching it and liking it!


WAYWARD PINES Post-Mortem: Chad Hodge Teases ‘Betrayal”s Important Foreshadowing
WAYWARD PINES: Chad Hodge on Those Terrifying Abbies
WAYWARD PINES Post-Mortem: Chad Hodge on Revealing Flashbacks, Kate’s Plan, and a Possible Season 2
WAYWARD PINES: Reed Diamond and Tim Griffin on the Big Reveal
WAYWARD PINES Post-Mortem: Chad Hodge on ‘The Truth’

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