TV Review: Under the Dome 1.3, “Manhunt”

Rating: I had been thinking that for a town undergoing an unprecedented bit of WTF-ery everyone’s acting pretty chill for…

Joseph Kratzer

Contributor

URating: ★★½☆☆

I had been thinking that for a town undergoing an unprecedented bit of WTF-ery everyone’s acting pretty chill for the most part, except ol’ Shoot’Em Up Officer Paul of course. Teens are going to bridge parties and night-skating, adults are making bigoted statements to complete strangers and complaining about the general lack of bacon. But then Joe’s friend Ben, whom I’m getting pretty annoyed by every time I see this kid’s stupid face – or should I be pissed at the writers for making him say ‘Bro’ so often? (although he did get to be the one to finally mention the Simpsons movie) – clues audiences into the fact that it’s only the second day Miller’s Crossing is experiencing this dome phenomena. That was helpful for me because I was starting to get sort of bored with the goings-on of this community which I could barely tell was going through something pretty messed up.

I was grateful this episode didn’t make us check up on each of the many characters in this series and instead we got to breathe a bit and get to know the main characters better. As people rabbled and threw bottles at the former Officer Paul being dragged into the jailhouse we can see the mob mentality or “frontier justice” bubble up some more and it also illustrates how easily said mob can be quelled when listening to the right speaker, in this case Jim. The man clearly loves controlling things as Linda so awesomely and defiantly points out, but whereas Jim’s public dealings are dark yet debatable, his dealings with his son are just terrible. It seems less mysterious how Junior came to be the type of dude who would quit school to focus on kidnapping and brainwashing his ex.

Despite his obvious and deplorable lack of humanity, however, Junior is humanized a bit through his interaction with Julia who was also fleshed out a bit more with the story of how she really ended up in Miller’s Crossing. Whereas learning about Julia’s past totally makes her more of an actual person I want to root for, hearing Junior discuss his father and seeing Big Jim treat him like crap, while humanizing and effective in terms of character development, doesn’t justify his actions, but it does help him to function as more of a character than a plot device.

We also got to know Norrie better. Norrie’s pretty awesome; she’s fearless and fair. It’s good to know her better as she and Joe are clearly going to be instrumental in learning more about the dome what with their whole synchronized seizure choreography. My only big problem with this show is that I feel like I’m watching a decent series about a town going through some sort of strange emergency, but really so far the dome could be anything that keeps the town quarantined and that’s a problem. The premise should feel more unique than that and so far there’s been very little indication as to where this is all heading. I understand parsing out dome related developments to keep the series going, but to keep those developments at too much of an arm’s length is hugely detrimental to acquiring loyal viewers.

Barbie and Jim also get to know each other a bit better in their hunt for the wily Paul (who Linda totally nabbed after the woodsman got the better of the boys beating their chests). After Barbie’s avoidance of meeting DJ Phil and his remarkably restrained reaction to the nosy and nasty waitress at The Briar Rose Inn, I was kind of surprised he joined Jim’s search party. I suppose he sees that Jim’s a big player in town and would rather control how he appears on the man’s radar, but still. I definitely underestimated the utterly Machiavellian detachment Big Jim possesses when I thought Junior and Barbie’s fight might actually pit Jim and Barbie against each other. Jim’s much more interested in keeping his enemies close with scotch (in Barbie’ scase; with Linda he simply apologizes, but the same thing’s going on there) than making his psycho son feel loved. We’ll see how that works out.

While the couplings of Joe and Norrie, Jim and Barbie, and Junior and Julia (as well as Linda swooping in to save the day again) allowed these characters to be developed well, I’m still growing a bit impatient with Under the Dome. What kind of show is this trying to be exactly? I’ll chalk it up to my own general anxiety; after all, it is only the third episode and we should get to know the characters better before seeing them go through more dome-specific shenanigans, but nonetheless I feel like there’s only been the most minimal inclusion of dome-related details of weirdness which is a large part of why I was so curious to watch in the first place.

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