under the dome 8

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Meanwhile, within the mini-dome there’s – ANOTHER SMALLER DOME! Just kidding, but seriously this show is so bad. “The monarch will be crowned.” Remember, “Save the cheerleader, save the world,” from the first season of Heroes? This is worse. I liked the butterfly appearances spread throughout the series and should be glad it’s going somehwere, but this is just too hokey to be taken seriously. Under the Dome is officially the worst because it’s so transparent; nothing it attempts is earned so it falls flat. It’s obvious when they want us to feel tension, and it’s obvious how absent that tension is. Barbie’s onto Jim? Well, no shit, it’s about time. Angie has a butterfly tattoo (though not a monarch) – well, that doesn’t prove anything other than her own poor taste (nothing against butterfly tattoos, but hers is pretty lame). I guess she’s the Neo of this Matrix? Or maybe the aliens are giant monarch butterflies? The show doesn’t give its inexplicably huge audience any real reason to be invested so when it makes a move on you like a creepy date who thinks he’s seduced you, you totally turn your head awkwardly and text your friends to come get you. At least I would if I could.

First off, they’re making a big deal out of Junior shooting the guy that killed Rose and attacked Angie as if Linda didn’t do the same exact thing to his brother first. They skip over this inconvenient fact just like Rose’s funeral and Angie’s maybe rape. Just what the hell are they doing with Junior? Twenty-two minutes in, after Junior’s line to Ollie, “Promise me you won’t kill him ’cause I want to do it,” I knew Junior would in some way turn on Ollie at the last minute to prove to his dad that blood really is thicker than water (get it?). We learn Junior’s mom committed suicide, but why should we care? Neither character deserves much sympathy so the whole father-son conflict is still without much substantial payoff.

The other failed attempt at some kind of statement in this plot was less personal, but no more effective. If Ollie realizes things have changed since the dome came down then why does he care about Jim no longer being town councilman? I know, because he hates Jim and has been jealou sof his influence in Chester’s Mill so he wants to hurt Jim’s ego. But why does Jim even care about holding onto the title anymore anyway? If everyone involved is smart enough to know that in an isolated society actions define identity – that one’s function defines one’s role – and that titles have as little power as currency or mandates like eminent domain, then where is the conflict here? There isn’t any until the completely asinine stand-off starts and even then it’s merely action, not drama or – God forbid – story. This feels like a rehash of the previous episode’s show-down between Ollie and Jim and that’s because it is (it was also “resolved” with a violent explosion). This whole plot is meant to express the idea that a township consists of people, not laws, but I can’t tell if its obviousness is being used to beat me over the head or if the throbbing in my skull is due to the frustration of this message being so obscured by sloppiness. Ollie never even refused to let the town use his water, just Jim, so there was no need to have an all-out gun battle which killed five strangers and put a bullet in DJ Phil (whom I have no reason to care about; in fact I hope he was one of the five who died). Somewhere I feel like there’s a bunch of Chester’s Mill residents carrying on a totally peaceful, cooperative organization of prosperity and every character we know is perpetually about to ruin it. Really though, how do you go from, “There has to be a diplomatic solution to this,” to, “Say we destroy Ollie’s well – it’s got to be done.”

Elsewhere, Norrie’s grieving process is so transparently irrational it makes me hate the writers for turning one of the few characters I kind of liked into such an obvious narrative ploy. I know everyone mourns in their own way and often times, especially in young people who are apparently on their way to some kind of rehabilitation program for troubled girls (which we only just this episode finally heard any details on – thanks, Angie), mourning is expressed through various destructive and illogical means. After all, it’s an extremely emotional process to let go of a parent or loved one who has passed, but splitting this couple up – even for just half an episode – is just too melodramatic and using it in the name of story feels cheap and unearned. The explanation for Norrie’s behavior made Julia look pretty sexist. Then she says to Joe regarding the mini-dome egg thing, “If it has to do with the dome we all have a right to know.” Wasn’t she the one who told Cherita Chen to keep quiet about the seizure kids so the town wouldn’t beat them with sticks? Whatever, the plot needed Julia to give Joe a dramatic ultimatum so we could watch her do the monarch thing so goodbye, consistency. By the way, anyone else notice when the girls were smashing the snow globes against the dome (“Now you’re in a snow globe,” GOOD ONE, WRITERS), that outside the dome was looking pretty lush despite the MOAB eradicating everything surrounding the dome? Just me? Okay then.

Look, I know I’m being hard on the show, but every episode that doesn’t advance the plot or the development of the characters in a trajectory that makes actual sense puts more pressure on each new episode to produce something – anything – resembling quality story-telling, and it keeps failing to deliver. Everything feels so phoned in it’s hard not to bitch and moan. If anyone reading this doesn’t agree then you obviously haven’t watched Battlestar Galactica. If you had then you’d realize how much better that series handled the isolated-society-coping-with-dwindling-supplies premise and would be just as frustrated with this show as I am. Hell, I know Lost was a very popular show, but somehow no one seems to mind what a thinly veiled attempt this is at replicating its themes of both physical and civil survival in a dangerous and lawless environment. Both of those shows were far from perfect, but at east they had ambition.

Can you imagine if this was just a limited series and there were only five more episodes left to wrap the whole thing up? Does that make it easier for you to see how awful this is? Nothing has happened! No statement has been made! This show says nothing! That’s okay for Seinfeld, but unless Kramer shows up on Joe’s porch doing his “Any Town, U.S.A.” schtick then Under the Dome better find some kind of voice and use it to say something besides, “GIMME RATINGS SO ADVERTISERS PAY US – YUM!”

(Also, it’s very difficult to see Dean Norris doing this now that Breaking Bad is back on the air. His crying scene was a great performance, but I keep expecting him to yell at Marie for calling his minerals, “rocks.”)

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This article was first posted on August 13, 2013