Dark Matter Fans Should Watch This Underrated Sci-Fi Series

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Summary

  • Wayward Pines
    brings mystery and suspense with a
    Twin Peaks
    vibe, showcasing themes of human evolution and the struggle against nature.
  • Fans of
    Dark Matter
    will see similarities in themes and storytelling between the two shows, as both focus on average men trapped in unknown worlds.
  • Despite
    Wayward Pines
    falling into relative obscurity after two seasons, it deserves a renaissance as viewers appreciate Crouch’s unique style and storytelling.



Apple TV+’s latest sci-fi offering, Dark Matter, has been a hit with both critics and audiences. Based on Blake Crouch’s book of the same name, the show, led by Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Connelly, tells the story of physicist Jason Dessen (Edgerton), who finds himself swapped with a parallel universe version of himself. Now trapped in that parallel world, Jason must fight to return to his world and switch back with the alternate him.

This isn’t the first time Crouch has explored similar themes in his novels. In the early 2010s, he authored the Wayward Pines trilogy, which was adapted into a TV series on Fox in 2015. That series told the story of a man who goes missing from his wife and son while struggling with his own mental health in a seemingly alternate world. Sound familiar? And the similarities don’t end there. Wayward Pines aired just two seasons in the summers of 2015 and 2016, and today lives in relative obscurity. Fans of Crouch’s work will be able to recognize some of his hallmarks in this first television offering, and here’s why Wayward Pines should go on the watchlist of every Dark Matter fan.



Wayward Pines Is an Intriguing Sci-Fi Mystery

Wayward Pines begins with our protagonist, Secret Service agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon), waking up with no memory in the titular town of Wayward Pines, Idaho. He soon recalls that he was sent there by his superiors to locate two other missing agents, yet Ethan cannot remember when he arrived. Something seems immediately off about the town, like everyone there is hiding some secret. The hospital – which has no other patients or doctors besides Ethan and his nurse – tries to convince him to have brain surgery to restore his lapsed memory. When he refuses, they resort to forcefully sedating him before he escapes. The town sheriff threatens Ethan not to leave before he discovers a massive electric fence that prevents anyone from exiting the town.


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Ethan tracks down both of the missing agents he was sent to find, with one as a corpse in a burned-out house and the other stating she’s lived there for 12 years despite Ethan seeing her just five weeks ago at the agency. Ethan soon learns just how seriously the town takes their “do not talk about your life before Wayward Pines” rule, as one citizen is publicly executed for simply mentioning she had a daughter before she came. Before she dies, she reveals that the same fate befell the dead agent. Ethan’s wife and son set out to find him and soon arrive in the town with no memories, just as he did. The big twist comes at the halfway mark of the first season, when it’s revealed what this town actually is and just how Ethan and everyone else got there. There are no spoilers here for any curious viewers.


Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo, and Terrence Howard lead the first season’s cast. Season 2 sees Jason Patric join as the new lead alongside others like Hope Davis and Djimon Hounsou. Crouch brought some sci-fi heavy hitters to the first season’s crew, including the Duffer Brothers, who would later create a little show called Stranger Things. Even twist-master himself, M. Night Shyamalan, was on hand as an executive producer and director.

The Dark Matter and Wayward Pines Similarities


Evidence of Crouch’s style and themes is apparent in both Wayward Pines and Dark Matter. Ethan Burke and Jason Dessen are average family men who have settled into a routine while still wanting more out of life. Both lead characters then wake up in an unfamiliar world with no memory of how they got there, while others believe they may be suffering from head trauma or memory loss. The journeys to the other worlds were nearly identical, as Ethan went to Wayward Pines to find his missing agents and alternate Jason entered the box to locate his company’s volunteers who had entered the box before him.

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They are sidetracked when both are abducted on their way, Ethan while driving to Wayward Pines, and Jason when he encounters the alternate world Jason. Despite the problems at home, Ethan and Jason soon realize they just want to escape their abduction and return to their wife and teenage son (yup, the same family structure). Jason is able to connect with his wife, Daniela, in the parallel world, though he discovers that in this timeline, they were never together.

Likewise, Ethan Burke finds his missing Secret Service partner, though she’s been living isolated in Wayward Pines for the last 12 years, despite the fact he remembers them together just a few weeks earlier. Both men set out for answers when the people in these new worlds have no idea how to help or who they really are. They enlist the help of people on the inside to escape (Jason with his alternate-world partner Amanda and Ethan with fellow town abductee Beverly).

Why Wayward Pines Deserves More Love


Crouch’s stylistic themes of what it means to be human amid the fragility and unpredictability of our reality are evident in both books and TV series. Wayward Pines also explores ideas of human evolution and human vs. nature against small-town America. Speaking of rural, mysterious towns, Crouch admits that Twin Peaks inspired Wayward Pines, and the first half of the first season (before the big Shyamalan-esque twist) reflects that connection.

Wayward Pines was originally planned to be a limited series, with the first season adapting the three books in the trilogy. However, Fox later ordered a second outing that told a new story with a new cast independent of the book series. The second season did not perform as well, and the series was ultimately canceled for good in 2018.


Still, it could be time for a Wayward Pines renaissance. With the heightened attention to Crouch’s work thanks to Dark Matter, it’s the perfect opportunity for his fans to check out Wayward Pines. They’ll find many of the same motifs as the protagonists struggle to discover who they are and return home while trapped in an unfamiliar world. Both seasons of Wayward Pines are currently streaming on Hulu. Dark Matter is streaming on Apple TV+.

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