It seems that all Stephen King needs to to these days is scribble an idea on a napkin and option it for millions. You know it’s more work than that, as in the case of the TV series, Haven, but when the series isn’t very good, you have to wonder. Under the Dome was like that for me. Curiously, Haven was based on a short story by King, whereas this series was based on a novel. By the strength of the stories, I would have thought the opposite was true.
The show has an interesting premise. A small town is suddenly cut off from the rest of America by a mysterious, invisible dome. Where did it come from? Who put it there? How will they survive? The story begins with a nice set up for the main characters, though the sex scene with Junior and Angie was cringe-worthy. It’s not long, and the only one for the season, so if you blink your eyes you can miss it. Their dysfunctional relationship establishes tension throughout the show, so one could argue that the awkward scene was necessary, and it’s not nearly as awkward as Angie seducing Junior later in the show after he keeps her tied up in a bunker.
Both Junior and Angie are key players in the series. They are joined by child genius Joe, brother of Angie, and Norrie, the street savvy girl from Los Angeles and daughter of a politically correct lesbian couple. Filling the rest of the cast is Julia, a journalist who lost her big city gig for bending the truth; Big Jim, the resident car salesman/street drug manufacturer/politician; an insane, drug addicted reverend; religious boneheads aplenty; other quirky characters throughout the town; more knuckle dragging lowlifes than you can find in a prison courtyard; and a man named Barbie, the super ex-military hunkalicious gun-for-hire who romances Julia, whose husband he killed in a fight for not paying up on a debt. What’s not to like about these guys?
Each episode trickles a bit more of the mystery out while allowing the townsfolk to be lousy to each other in a Lord of the Flies-like way. Yet there is enough to the story to keep one coming week after week. The trouble is, there is an inconsistency to the story that started to grate on me, and this is due to the padding of the plot to come up with thirteen episodes. There were too many filler episodes; too many quirky characters who felt fake and chosen to appeal to key demographics; and the population of the town was too fluid.
This is a small town. There are not a lot of people in it. Unless the plot calls for it. You could argue that most people were at home, but the camera shows a quaint population trapped under a dome. Most of the time, the population feels just right, then suddenly it’s “adventures at the thunder dome” for one episode, or hundreds of looters for another. There’s even a small hospital that, like the T.A.R.D.I.S., often feels bigger on the inside. Reality is dictated by the plot. Cool elements show up, like Norrie’s dad actually being alive despite what her mom’s told her. They seem important, but turn out not to be. Will the writers remember to bring it back up? Maybe next season.
As Big Jim becomes more and more corrupt, the kids find a mini dome in the woods protecting a black egg. It speaks to them using the bodies of the dead. It gives them visions. It throws people around like spit balls. This could be cool, but it has inexplicable motivation. The mini dome hurts some people, but not others. Plot, not logic, dictates who can touch it. When the mini dome throws Deputy Linda into a wall, then exposes the egg which is glowing like a bomb about to go off, Julia decides then is a good time to pick it up. Why? Who knows? But it’s a good thing she did, by gum!
Later, in the woods, the group passed the egg around like a dead prop, as if it was some kind of awkwardly hot potato, when Norrie suddenly got stuck with it. She prayed to it, and her dead mom appeared with quasi-religious wisdom to share. All through the series, religious people are presented as simpleminded morons—a Hollywood favorite—but now Big Jim preaches in the church, his dead wife received prophetic visions, and the kids are praying to an egg. So Christianity, not religion, is bad, but alien egg worship is a good thing? This show feels like it’s a bus being driven all over the road by committee.
Episode thirteen ends with a cliff hanger. Will Junior dutifully hang Barbie by the rope for his dad, Big Jim? As the credits rolled, I searched deep inside for the answer and discovered that I didn’t care to know. This show started off with an interesting premise, but became sillier and sillier as the season wore on. If you were a fan of Lost and liked enigmas wrapped in character development wrapped in arbitrary plot twists, you may not care about my complaints and enjoy Under the Dome immensely. However, I won’t be tuning in for second season.
Original Air Dates: June 24 – September 16, 2013 (USA)
TV Parental Guidelines Rating: TV-14
Alcohol/Drugs: 4 (smokin’, drinkin’, and hootin’ & hollerin’ while high on life & stuff the reverend sells)
Language: 2 (typical TV swears)
Sexuality: 3 (there are a few love scenes)
Violence: 4 (people die, Big Jim isn’t very nice)