TV Review: Under the Dome 1.5, “Blue to Blue”
Rating: It makes me sad to think of how excited I was for this series before it began compared to…
It makes me sad to think of how excited I was for this series before it began compared to how I currently feel. Under the Dome has disappointed me and although “Blue to Blue” was the best episode since the premiere (both written by Brian K. Vaughan), it’s still not anything I’d recommend. What’s sadder to me is that despite all its missteps, this series is the most watched in America, according to ratings. I know ratings were artistically meaningless even before DVRs and the internet changed audience’s viewing habits forever, but networks still gauge their products’ (series’) success according to those numbers (because advertisers do) so I can’t help but feel this doesn’t bode well for TV in general. If anything as mediocre as Under the Dome can potentially see several seasons by virtue of merely being on a popular enough network whereas more competent and compelling series still struggle then the system’s still clearly very deeply flawed. I shouldn’t complain as TV has gotten much better on average in recent years, but nonetheless the creative team behind Under the Dome appears to be content enough to earn huge ratings while narratively dragging its feet.
On the other hand, I mentioned in my previous review how several great series had questionable or outright weak beginnings so it may still be too early to call time of death on this one. At least “Blue to Blue” finally got Angie out of the Rennie’s shelter. Of course it also ended with her comforting her kidnapper, which, even with the threat of annihilation at hand (in her eyes, definitely not ours, but more on that in a minute), was pretty lame. Are viewers suppose to sympathize with Angie, the innocent young woman, or Junior, the emotionally disturbed kidnapper? Obviously Angie is the better of these two characters (though that certainly doesn’t make her a well developed character) so why do the writers continue to try to cast Junior in a sympathetic light? It’s not that I’m against rooting for messed up, potentially evil characters, but the writers keep trying to make Junior someone worth investing in without earning it, which bothers me greatly.
Although the whole MOAB (mother of all bombs) scenario, like pretty much every situation on the show thus far, held absolutely zero tension (obviously the missile wouldn’t work because we know this wasn’t the last episode and something tells me the writers would have trouble stretching out the story of a bombed out town for another seven episodes), I was impressed by the consequences of the missile’s failure – the surrounding area is totally devastated. This not only creates an interesting new dynamic to a series very much in need of one, but it also created a pretty fantastic visual, the first of which I also give credit to – the swarm of butterflies, although devoid of any explanation, another missed opportunity to create actual intrigue, was at least nicely surreal.
I’d like to think “Blue to Blue” could do for Under the Dome what “Man On the Street” did for Dollhouse back in 2009, but this episode had way too much filler (and Windows 8 product placement) for that to be the case. The impromptu Visitors’ Day is a solid idea for a means by which Chester’s Mill would learn of the military’s plans, but like most of the good ideas on this show, it wasn’t executed as well as it could have. Every time I saw someone cross the police tape with no consequences made me hate myself a little more for watching. The Time cover story on Linda and her husband felt too cartoonish to be taken seriously and felt out of place without any real context. Instead of shoe-horning Norrie’s daddy issues into the episode (and enough of the “moms” thing – it’s getting to the point where a person having two same sex parents is being cast as the most traumatically abnormal situation someone can possibly deal with and it’s borderline insulting), couldn’t there have been greater focus spent on the reactions of society outside the dome? I understand a series titled Under the Dome may want to limit exposure to things outside the dome to enhance the sense of claustrophobia and isolation in Chester’s Mill, but to provide little to no exposure as was the case here made the MOAB development seem more random and senselessly unfounded than shockingly intriguing.
Aside from this fundamental error of wasting an opportunity to expand and refine the audience’s investment in the series, there were two minor yet significant developments that could substantially improve future proceedings: Jim killing the reverend (which I wish would also be the death of this whole propane drug money conspiracy nonsense which has yet to be illuminated on, only cryptically alluded to in the same boringly repetitive manner every episode) and Julia reading the “Dear John” letter from her husband. This will allow us all to forget the Barbie killing Peter arc long enough for Julia and Barbie to finally hook up and develop a really nice relationship just in time for Julia to inevitably discover the truth. This looks like a terribly predictable and therefore completely boring arc (similar to the propane conspiracy in that it will inevitably return to the forefront), but at least the letter (and the reverend’s death) will allow for some changes in scenery, however temporary they are.
I had high hopes for this episode as it was credited as being written by Vaughan, but it looks like this may also be the last one for which he’s the primary writer, which if true then I can hardly keep much faith that things will continue to improve. “Blue to Blue” saw a lot of positives: Angie’s escape, some cool visuals (the butterflies, the missile exploding, its subsequent destruction), Phil and Cherita Chen dancing to the hauntingly beautiful and calming music in the concrete catacombs, a deeper sense of isolation from the world at large considering one of the world’s most powerful weapons couldn’t phase the mysterious structure, the insinuation that Joe and Norrie’s kiss may have actually had something to do with the dome’s indestructibility (they didn’t seizure when they kissed the same moment the MOAB hit), some perspective on how the outside world perceives the dome, dead reverend, Dear John letter – but pretty much every one of these developments is marred by significant drawbacks: Angie’s right back in Junior’s arms(literally), there was little to no context provided on why exactly the dome has caused such a threat that the U.S. government would sacrifice one of its own communities (I know, I know, cool guy millenial Ben told us China was pissed – but why?), and, as mentioned, both Peter’s death and the propane conspiracy will each rear their ugly heads again soon enough. Plus, everything that aimed to get this series back on track and away from the painfully mediocre emergency of the week format was far outweighed in terms of actual time spent by the filler of Visitor’s Day. I want to like this series, but it just isn’t living up to its potential. “Blue to Blue” did much to realign the series’ narrative, but it may be too little too late.