TV Reviews: Under the Dome 1.9, “The Fourth Hand”
This show is like a course in how not to write a TV series. Oh sure, the acting and dialogue…
This show is like a course in how not to write a TV series. Oh sure, the acting and dialogue is generally pretty awful, but it’s the plotting that really takes the cake. This was episode nine of thirteen which means that nearly three quarters into the season the characters haven’t actually learned anything about the premise of the series nor have they made much headway in terms of reorganizing their new environment other than handing over all their guns to a guy who’s been directly involved in multiple deaths and explosions. Aside from the characters we’ve been following (for reasons which still aren’t very well illustrated other than a vague sense that we’re supposed to be intrinsically interested in their lack of intelligence), there’s no real sense of what’s going on with the community of Chester’s Mill besides the occasional bursts of paranoia. While Jim, Barbie, and Linda all chase one another around, Julia and the seizure kids have been focusing on the either supernatural or extraterrestrial elements (it has to be one of those two and I’m pretty sure it’s aliens). The problem is neither of these general plot arcs have been developed or grounded in enough pathos from the beginning to hold any weight even now when they’re starting to show brief signs of progress. So let’s see what “The Fourth Hand” tried to accomplish.
Raylan Givens’ ex-wife showed up. “Isn’t that impossible with the whole giant dome situation?” Intrepid viewer, don’t fret, this laughable plot hole is quickly addressed — she’s been hiding the whole time, watching Jim and Barbie’s every move, somehow (I guess the house she’s conveniently been occupying has CBS). Why Jim and Barbie? Here’s where it gets hilarious – because she knows both of them! Of course she does! Because it’s what the writers think the plot apparently calls for, a common enemy for these two adversaries to unite against for the next four episodes. Look, Under the Dome, just because your premise has a mystery/sci-fi vibe doesn’t mean you can just throw realism out the window. In fact, if anything, your outlandish premise is all the more reason you need to ground the rest of the show in ways which allow the audience to somehow identify with the characters and the situation. But no, things just happen regardless of any logic or reason and therefore have no meaning and no effect. Natalie Zea’s performance as the new Big Bad, the Gus Fring to Jim’s Walter White (heheh), was admirable, the first one to really feel in any way entertaining, but it certainly doesn’t excuse such a random and obvious plot device, er, I mean, character.
While Jim and Barbie carried out Max’s bidding (I bet next episode she finds a cat to stroke while she speaks to her minions in a big chair, perhaps while twirling her new mustache), Linda started investigating that drug plot which was introduced at the beginning of the season then never really explored until now (though it was often alluded to, which was exceedingly annoying, like Norrie’s until recently mysterious rehabilitation destination). Of course she only found evidence that her kindly old sheriff was in cahoots with Max, not Jim. Turns out Max and Jim’s drug is some sort of all new super narcotic called Rapture, which, I mean, c’mon. Every time a show or movie makes up some new narcotic I have to laugh because they always have the most ludicrous, on the nose name, but mostly because hard drugs like cocaine, meth, heroin, are all real problems with actual consequences. But no, Under the Dome is clearly not a show that aims to make its audience actually feel or think, just distract and buy shit from their advertisers – like the new Microsoft Surface tablet which, while a legitimately solid product, does not belong in the story! But no, Joe just had to show Norrie his baby pictures (something all teenagers love to do of their own accord) which were all loaded on his tablet, not in a goddamn photo album, which would actually make sense because that’s what you did ten years ago when those photos were actually taken.
If this show did actually care about thoughts and feelings, maybe it wouldn’t keep sending Angie, you know, the skinny one that only wears dish towels for shirts who was kidnapped and nearly raped, into the arms of those responsible for her abduction and incarceration. Extorting the diner from Jim isn’t exactly what I meant by Angie regaining her agency as a character because it still protects Jim and Junior from the truth of how awful they are, but I guess that pales in comparison to her continuing to willingly cooperate with Junior, her kidnapper. It’s just really gross and offensive that the show is allowing Junior to continue walking around like an actual police officer (I actually laughed out loud when Linda went from scolding Junior for not doing his job to immediately letting him off the hook). It’s meant to be sinister and captivating or something, but it’s just insulting to victims of assault and domestic abuse.
Junior saw Angie have one of the “pink stars” seizures (because now – all of a sudden – she gets those too) so he shows her his dead mom’s horrendously god-awful paintings – I mean, seriously, they are the ugliest things ever put on a canvas by someone who was actually toilet trained – of Junior (I guess) under some pink dots in the sky. I have no idea what Junior’s suicidal, crazy, and completely untalented mother being “psychic” has to do with anything, but I can’t wait to not find out. It’ll probably have something to do with whoever the fourth seizure buddy is so that the dome can use them to send messages to the experiment subjects, uh, I mean, citizens of Chester’s Mill about peace, or love, or that, “Hey, us aliens get bored too!”
In case it hasn’t been clear to anyone reading these reviews thus far, let me be frank – I am officially hate-watching this show. Unless it somehow blows me away in the next four episodes (ha!), you can look forward to me trying to illustrate how badly the writers of this show have screwed up, kind of like an administrator attempting to show med students how not to kill a patient by pointing out the mistakes a doctor made on a corpse. I’ve mentioned on multiple occasions that I’ve been trying to be patient with this show, that other series which I now love had rocky starts which could be attributed to network interference, the creative team struggling to find their footing, or the need for television serials to establish an audience with episodic plots before exploring the larger and more exciting seasonal arcs, but this show is not Dollhouse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Fringe, and it sure as hell isn’t Lost no matter how much it wants to be. Lost and those two Joss Whedon shows not only had intriguing (if not somewhat schlocky in the case of Buffy) premises with loads of potential, but they executed their episodic, network pandering rough starts with greater skill and respect for their viewers than Under the Dome has demonstrated all season, and I can’t pretend to hold out hope it might actually turn things around over the next few weeks. Maybe next week I’ll counteract the maddeningly asinine decisions made in this show by playing a drinking game in which I drink every time I hear, “Pink stars are falling,” or a character explains something which was already explicitly shown. I’m going to be wasted.