M. Night Shaymalan has come to television, and his upcoming Fox series is just as mysterious as you dreamt it would be. Wayward Pines, which debuts Thursday night and stars Matt Dillon, Melissa Leo, and Terrance Howard, takes us to a town in Idaho with a dark past. Is Wayward Pines a real place? I don't believe it is. The show films in British Columbia. There is no Wayward Pines in Idaho, or elsewhere in the world as far as I can tell from maps. Maybe that's just what they want me to think. Still, I'm not surprised (and I'm a little bit thankful) that the town is fictional. No place is that weird, right?
According to the official Fox synopsis of the summer series, while the Idaho town may become sinister and strange, it starts out as deceptively familiar. Matt Dillon's character Ethan finds himself trapped in the Idaho town while investigating a missing person's case.
Imagine the perfect American town, beautiful homes, manicured lawns, children playing safely in the streets... Now imagine never being able to leave. You have no communication with the outside world. You think you’re going insane. You must be in Wayward Pines.
The show, and Blake Crouch's trilogy of Wayward Pines novels that she show is based on, joins a grand tradition of fictional small towns with dystopian underbellies. We really do like to think that the most boring places on Earth are anything but, don't we? Here are some other fictional towns
In the James Hilton novel Lost Horizon, the residents of Shangri-La in the Tibetan mountains enjoy limitless youth and tranquility... provided they never leave. If they do, their age catches up to them... which for many means a quick and gruesome death.
This classic utopia that satirized American suburban life and the cult of domesticity is seemingly idyllic, except that the once-successful female residents are slowly being replaced by robots.
The town in Buffy The Vampire Slayer sat atop a Hellmouth, which is exactly what it sounds like. That gateway to the underworld was the explanation for all the weirdness that seemed to pass through the otherwise normal California town.
Speaking of Hellmouths, after six seasons of Lost, I've found it best to compare the island that Oceanic Flight 815 crashed on to Buffy Summers' home town. They're both magnets for the unknown.
For the podcast crowd, we only hear about the goings on in this surreal supernatural town with the help of the Welcome to Night Vale radio show. Beware the glow cloud!
A more recent example, the Once Upon A Time town in Maine was first populated with fairy tale characters who didn't know their true identity. It's often been difficult to enter and exit the town, depending on what curse is afflicting it. Also, there are giants and dragons.
The cult David Lynch series has already been compared to Wayward Pines. It also involves a federal agent who comes upon a town while solving a murder. However, Wayward Pines seems implicitly creepier, and there are plenty of differences that set the fictional towns apart.