Battle Of The Terrifyingly Pleasant Town Creeps
Who's secretly the highest honcho in Wayward Pines: Pam, the rule-loving nurse, or Megan, the school teacher/hypnotist with a love for slappin' palms?
Immediately following the death of Sheriff Pope -- and his body's consumption by a pack of Mystery Monsters -- Ethan is handed the position of sheriff by the powers that be, and, by episode's end, has fled the town he didn’t pledge to protect by climbing a rock face that anyone could have used this whole time, it seems.
Despite all the Ethan's big moves in "One Of Our Senior Realtors Has Chosen To Retire," the stars of this episode are certainly Nurse Pam and the newest addition to the Wayward Pines lineup, Megan Fisher (Hope Davis), the WP Academy teacher/hypnotherapist. Both are deceptively congenial women with (possibly) important roles in the WP machine, but whose balance of sugary sweetness and sour malice is the most effective? Let's find out!
Who's played by the superior actress?
True story: I was under the impression that Hope Davis, not Faith Ford, was Kelly Ripa's co-star in Hope & Faith until a very, very recent Google search. I've never even seen that show, but for years I've been convinced that this actress, who otherwise takes roles in decent-to-good films, sitcom slummed with Kelly Ripa for three years. I'd like to use this space to apologize to Davis, whose work I've enjoyed in American Splendor and Synecdoche, New York for thinking so poorly of her. (Not that Ford deserved to be tied to Ripa either. Corky Sherwood FTW.)
Still, though. It's Melissa Fucking Leo. We, as a culture, need to embrace our great crazy dames. To paraphrase Chad Michaels as Cher: I don't know why she books these chickenshit gigs. She's a fucking Oscar win-ner.
Who's dressing for Wayward Pines success?
It's hard to argue with a classic Nurse Ratched uniform, especially when Pam rocks it while threateningly whispering, "You may have everyone else fooled, but I'm a registered nurse." And living in a perpetually autumnal Idaho allows her to match her Florence Nightingales with some jaunty scarves and coats.
Over at WP Academy, Megan is serving near-perfect guidance counselor realness. It's Urban Outfitters for grandparents meets Nancy Meyers and I love it. I get the impression from her pashmina palette that her office is a closet, but she's decorated it in a way that makes everyone describe it as "cozy, but not claustrophobic, ya know?" Her clipboard, most likely detailing the blood types of each student in case she needs to extract someone's blood at a moment's notice, transforms her earth mother aesthetic into an earth mother with authority.
Who's higher up in the Wayward Pines hierarchy?
Hard to say! Four episodes in, we still don't know what Pam's deal is. She has no obvious position of authority, but she's more committed to militantly following the WP bylaws than anyone else in town. She citizen-arrests Peter, the Orwell-quoting graffiti interloper and titular realtor played by Justin Kirk, and demands that Ethan "reckon" him in the streets. We also learn that Pam, as a younger sadistic nurse/honeypot, seduced Peter the night before he woke up in WP. So, she's maybe a time traveler/Highlander.
Megan is in charge of acclimating new children to WP with her powerful skills of hypnosis. This may seem like only a midlevel evil position, but consider that she's also married to the WP mayor, Brad Fisher (Barclay Hope). Brad stresses to Ethan that WP is "very focused on the children," which might make Megan more important than we initially realized. Although, Brad is obviously less into the WP shenanigans than Megan, so maybe being married to the most important political figure in town isn't that much of an advantage.
Who would be more fun to get blasted with at the Wayward Pines beer garden?
First off, it's hilarious that the Wayward Pines drinking hole is a "beer garden" and not just a regular bar/pub. Every time someone said "beer garden" during this episode, I giggled like a schoolboy. I like to think that a staff writer, desperate to make some sort of contribution, suggested during the editing process, "Make it a beer garden! Stephen King says the key to good writing is specificity." This, combined with the coffee shop run by that fur-vested pixie, and the Ballingers' vintage toy shop, proves that the Wayward Pines hipster community is booming.
Anyway, the Wayward Pines beer garden is packed when the Burkes join the Fishers for a get-to-know-you dinner. And why not? If you have to be trapped in a town without anything but the state of Linda's peonies to talk about, you might as well spend the majority of your time inebriated. Nurse Pam enters to find Arlene, the sheriff's assistant, taking out her sadness about Pope "leaving town without saying goodbye" on a pint of...I don't know, pilsner? I take Arlene for a pilsner gal. It seems like Pam is the clear choice for drinking buddy. She offers Arlene a comforting word without turning the evening into a sobfest, and her unhinged cheerfulness mixes well with the local drunks, even when she's sober.
Megan doesn't seem like she'd be a poor party partner, per se, but her measured responses to Ethan's attempts at conversation ("So, what does everyone think of the public executions?") suggest that she might be incapable of letting loose. I want someone who will down five or six ales in the corner with me and then cackle about how Linda's peonies are suffering because her marriage is a sham.
I'm picking Pam on the condition that her toast to Ethan, in which she pontificates that "great power comes with great responsibility" (where have I heard that before?), is a one-time thing.
Who's doing a better job at controlling the Burke clan?
Pam and Ethan have always had a contentious relationship -- she threatened to force him to go through waking surgery and he slammed her face into a glass door -- but now they mostly doff their imaginary caps at each other when they pass in the streets. She's never able to convince Ethan to kill Peter, though Peter ends up killing himself anyway by running into an electric fence so that Ethan can continue to be sheriff.
Megan, meanwhile, is making bigger strides with her Burke charge. After only two days at Wayward Pines Academy, she's hypnotized Ben into forgetting why he needs to escape the town. We shouldn't give her too much credit for accomplishing this, though, because Ben's a grade-A moron with floppy #teen hair and boring #teen problems. He couldn't even remember that his mom was picking him up from school! I could probably hypnotize him with a shoelace and a marble. Still, her Burke hasn't escaped WP yet, and that's more than Pam can say.
Who's better at being unnervingly pleasant?
Leo and Davis received the memo explaining what a dumb show this is that Shannyn Sossamon missed, so they're both acting appropriately batty. I'm particularly fond of high five-loving Megan. She acts like one of those educational professionals who works in high schools but can't tell a sixteen-year-old from a six-year-old.
However, nothing beats Pam, cradling a rando newborn while three candy stripers stand silently by, winking at Ethan and saying, "Aren't you lucky that one of the best houses in WP freed up last night. Prior occupant had a sudden sore throat, if you know what I mean." Pam's the only one who can get away with making such a hack joke about a woman being gutted in the street.
Hope Davis is a nice addition to the cast, and an able replacement for the crazy Terrence Howard was serving, but no one in town comes close to Nurse Pam in the wily villainess category.