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Page to Screen: Wayward Pines

Updated on July 28, 2015


I actually did a recap of this series as each episode came out if you were interested. Otherwise, this page is different, taking the whole of this series and comparing it to the whole of the book series, which was better or worse in my opinion, as well as individual differences between the two. Enjoy!

The Show

While Blake Crouch finished his novels, he was approached by M. Night Shyamalan and his offer to adapt his series. Crouch said it was fine so long as not everyone turned out to be dead in the end. Thus, both the book series and the show wrapped up plot-wise about the same time, taking cues from one another as they went. Thus, they're a little different from each other but largely follow the same premise with slight changes in big events of the town.

The Books

Author Blake Crouch created a trilogy (with other writers contributing side stories in their own books) of a surreal town of mysteries complete with numerous twists as the stories go along. Once main character, Ethan Burke, discovers the secret behind the town, he decides whether he must protect or expose it, choices that surely don't come lightly. The books were published from 2012 to 2014 before being adapted a year afterwards and the author admits to being inspired by 1990's Twin Peaks.

Books in chronological order
Books in chronological order | Source

Differences Between Novels and Show

The School and Its Children
Now, I'll finish up the ending later on, but to start off easy the reader in the books never experiences the inside of the school, only knows about it from 12 year old Ben's confession that the school teaches that Pilcher is their father and savior and that they're not to tell any adults about the town. There's certainly no cultish kid militia as there was on the show.

Sheriff Pope's Death
The treatment of this character is largely the same until the episode of his death. Rather than getting hit by a truck and shot by Ethan as it happened in the show, Pope is left behind by Pilcher when they pick up Ethan outside the town. The only reason Pilcher gives to leaving behind Pope is that the old sheriff was 'ambitious.' It's kinda abrupt.

Dear goodness what happened here? To be fair, both the first book and the show share the same character, an older nurse woman who is incredibly creepy, indifferent to (or desiring) others's pain, and connected to that 'Big Eye in the Sky.' Then, after Burke becomes Sheriff, everything drastically changes, splitting Pam into about three different characters.

The show reveals that Pam is a sister to David Pilcher and is far more sympathetic to human life. She gives far more mercy to the townsfolk and disobedient employees than any other character. She even takes a stand for those she feels are being wrongly persecuted. Oh, and she used to be addicted to drugs (although this is just a passing reference in a flashback).

The book series seems to warp her character from creepy older woman to constantly fit, sadistically horny (she talks about doing Ethan a time or two despite his clear resentment of her), bloodthirsty, constantly paranoid, horrible reflection of a human being. She helps kill David Pilcher's own daughter, desires to kill Ethan's family only for him to find them before capturing him and torturing him for as long as possible. She's strong enough to survive outside of the town and in it by herself during the Abbie invasion as well, only being killed by a returning Adam Hassler (more on him later) unceremoniously. This version too used to be addicted to drugs, only she was fourteen and found by Pilcher after one of his many collegiate talks about the end of the world.

Basically the show turns her into a benign figure while the book sequels seem to make her more active and sexual (something that jars you when you imagine the woman as an older nurse as I did when I first read the first novel).

Alyssa Pilcher and Her Dad
There is no 'Alyssa Pilcher' in the show. Within the book, Alyssa is David Pilcher's daughter, one of those who work in the Mountain Complex, and volunteered to investigate the insurrectionists undercover. Ethan finds her body naked in the woods covered in stab wounds. Pilcher then tasks him, as the new sheriff, to investigate who killed her, believing them to be an insurrectionist. After Ethan realizes Alyssa was beloved of the insurrectionists and that she was actually helping them (removing their chips and telling them about the cameras but nothing else), he investigates people in the Mountain, discovering that it was a combination of both Pamela and Pilcher by a tape of them strapping down the woman before repeatedly stabbing her and draining her of blood. Pam drops off the dying Alyssa in the woods so that Ethan would find her in order to persuade Ethan to confront the insurrectionists.

The 'Insurrectionists'
Both the show and the book propose the existence of these rebels as something foreboding, dangerous, and capable of shattering the fragile peace in place. Only the show follows through with this promise, having the group build bombs as a way of breaking through the fence to rediscover the outside world and to go back to their old lives. They're very gung-ho about it and willing to risk everything for a chance at escape. Ethan has to track them down, interrogate various members, and arrest them in an attempt to contain them.

In the book, not so much. They Insurrectionists simply discard their chips, head to an underground bunker, and party. They have no grand design of rebellion or breaking the way things are, only an honest bunker where everyone can speak freely and people can relax without Big Brother watching them. When Ethan goes up against them, he submits himself to be taken as a prisoner and then welcomed with open arms. Based on the descriptions in the book, it might have been nice to see these converted for the television screen.

Adam Hassler, Burke's Boss at the Secret Service
Hassler serves only as a loose end in the show, helping Pilcher kidnap Ethan and his family into Wayward Pines and showing up as a scout outside the wall in a recording. That's the character's contribution.

In the book, it's far more complicated. Hassler gets rid of Ethan so that he can be together with Theresa in Wayward Pines because of his undying love for her. After apparently annoying Pilcher enough to be exiled, he's sent on a several year scouting mission, which is basically suicide. Against all odds and the promise of being back with Theresa, he survives and brings back pointless information (the Abbies are building a city, but the books does absolutely nothing with this info). Eventually it's revealed to Ethan that Theresa and Hassler had a multi-year affair (in the belief that Ethan was no longer among the living), Hassler and Ethan nearly kill each other, only for Theresa to pick Ethan and Hassler somewhat going along with Kate when they both nearly commit suicide.

The Ending
The Endings, as you might have guessed by this sub heading, are vastly different from one another. In the show, we see Pam shoot Pilcher, Ethan blow himself up to kill the rest of the invading Abbies, his son goes into a coma and wakes up to see that the children have taken over.

In the novel The Last Town, Ethan doesn't die and manages to capture Pilcher before the town decides to run him out to fend for himself against the Abbies. The schoolchildren, as mentioned above, are not so consequential to the plot. Instead, while everything seems to be working with the survivors in Wayward Pines, Ethan discovers that they're running out of food. The town takes a vote on whether they should stay and starve or try to chance it out in the wilderness with the Abbies and grow food there (nobody brings up the idea that they can eat the Abbies but oh well). The vote isn't revealed until the finale pages where the town has an exodus, only for everyone to put themselves back into stasis for another 1000 years.

Closing Thoughts

Man, this one turns out to be a hard one to evaluate. I started the first book a week before the show starts and finished book 3 about the time of Episode 9 so I experienced both stories about the same time. There's a bunch of smaller changes that turn out to mean a big deal.

For instance, Pam. I think I enjoyed the show's version of her better, mainly because she wasn't a raging psychotic 100% of the time after the first act of the story. Still, the change from wanting to let Ethan suffer without anesthesia early on in the hospital rings truer with the book's version than the show. Still, the show's Pam was more of a character than just a force of nature with the semblance of actual thoughts.

While I'm glad they did away with Adam Hassler in the show(I figured he was going to matter more in the third book), I was sad they got rid of Alyssa's character. Alyssa's case and murder reveal marked the moment that Pilcher's god-complex started to shine and everything fell into chaos. I never felt we got to see Pilcher's actual craziness erupt in the show, only simmer. I do wish I got to see the old-style party that the insurrectionists were hosting on the screen. It was described well in the book.

Finally, I've come to the ending. Which seemed to make better sense and was executed better? Personally, while I think how they dealt with Pilcher was better, the running out of food annoyed me in the book. Could they not eat the Abbies? Had they not planned on growing their own food? Not only that, but this was an issue without any foreshadowing at all. However with the schoolchildren on the show, we got to see the real threat behind the brainwashing of the school. The kids were fanatics and knew exactly what to do when everything fell apart. While I'm a little remiss in not seeing how the youth out muscled the adults and employees in the mountain (sure, they showed us a glimpse of the Ark but that was it), it felt more like the show was leading up to it. The book's ending felt more like a cop-out without any kind of resolution at all. Sure, it was a bad ending for the protagonists in the show, but it was resolution.

Books vs. Show

For those of you who read the books and watched the show, which did you prefer?

See results

Further Reading

I mentioned it before, but if you want to review my recaps to refresh your memory about something in the show, or maybe you missed an episode and don't feel like watching it, you can check out my recap list to find exactly what you're looking for.

Also, you can read more Page to Screen adaptations if you click here.


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