by Josie Kafka
There are three things I wanted from Under the Dome: strong dialogue that allowed each character an interesting voice, ever-increasing tension, and a vivid portrait of a town coming to terms with a unique situation. Or, in other words, constant conflict created by three interacting “characters”: individual people, the town as an entity, and the dome itself. I would have happily settled for two out of three, but the show delivered a big goose egg this week.
Let’s take the eponymous fire: the Reverend Coggins burned some incriminating propane receipts, threw them into a wastebasket, kicked the wastebasket against some curtains, and—since apparently Jeff Fahey doused his home in lighter fluid before leaving for work—everything goes up in flames. The townsfolk stand around looking worried until Barbie and Deputy Linda tell them to grab garden hoses and buckets. Thus saving the day just in time for a new complication to ensue.
Maybe I’ve spent too many years living in places prone to fires, but I’m shocked and horrified that the brain-drain from small-town America has resulted in an entire population of people unable to make a connection between water and fire. Let’s add to that: how long did it take Big Jim Rennie to get the tractor and drive it back to the house? Why did no one think of creating a firebreak? Would plowing into a burning house really extinguish the flames, or just cause the sparks to land more widely?
Doesn’t make much sense in terms of characters, doesn’t make much sense in terms of fire, doesn’t make much sense in terms of pacing and plotting. (For instance, why were the two moms there, how did they learn about the fire, and how did they get there?) And it wasn’t tense, since a massive fireball that consumes the entire town and everyone in it seems unlikely for a second episode.
Or let’s take the episode-ending shooting, in which Crazy Deputy, inspired by Julia’s revelation that they’re in a dome, loses his cool and takes potshots at the dome, one of which bounces off and hits Sane Deputy. There’s a clear line of cause and effect here, which I appreciate, but I was put off by the suddenness of his crazy and the way the townspeople all stood around like sheep, watching without saying anything. Think of how much better it would have been if there were a group shout-out: tense, uncomfortable, and indicative of how stressful the unknowable can be. But what we got? It feels like a story, but it’s really just a mini-plot that still needs some decoration and development.
The characters I found most interesting—aside from Truman the dog, who has a lot of potential but isn’t living up to it quite yet—were Joe McAlister and his nameless (to me) long-haired buddy. Sure, their dialogue was stilted. But the actors gave their all to the attempts at relaxed teen-talk, and I admire that sort of follow-through. Plus, Joe seems super-smart. Hopefully, he’ll be smart enough to realize soon that his sister is missing, since her scenes with Junior are weirdly dull.
I really do think this show has a lot of potential. All the ingredients are there, including a strong creative team in the background. But this episode was clumsy, weird, and—above all—really boring.
Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)