Under the Dome: The Fire

…in which people do stuff that doesn’t make a lot of sense, often while narrating their actions or the actions of those around them, and then that Joe McAlister kid finds a dog. Can you tell I’m underwhelmed?

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?)

16 comments:

WhyMe said...

Agreed, though, I think we should try and find some good things. There must be some good things about a burger making dome, right?

Well, I at least am gonna watch it. I kinda like barbie.

WhyMe said...

Oh, and, always nice reading your reviews Josie.

drnanamom said...

Laughed out loud at the comment about Truman the dog! Great review Josie and I agree with your comments. It really isn't going anywhere - yet. Since there isn't much on right I'm hoping for improvement. The way the fire spread was a bit much and the townspeople do seem a bit non-motivated. The two moms had to just happen to be there to comment on the neighbourliness of the town. Ya, it's a great place with doctors who gamble in weird little cabins, crazy boys who keep their girlfriends in fall-out shelters and town leaders who are involved in some kind of propane ring. Quite an underbelly there.

Freeman said...

I'm giving this show a chance. I like the premise, and know it sometimes takes a couple episodes for a show to find its footing. But good gravy it's almost embarrassing to watch. Most of the actors are incredibly wooden in their deliveries. Like no one seems sure of their characters, and with just cause, cuz most of them are friggin' morons. My comment would be far too long to name all my grievances. Suffice it to say, I agree with your review Josie. So far for me, the only characters worth watching are Big Jim, Barbie, and that Joe kid, even though he's a terrible actor. (I think his friend's name was Ben btw)

The less said about Junior and Angie, the better.

a.m. said...

I enjoyed the pilot, but the whole time I was watching this episode I kept thinking, "Was I drunk last week? Or just in a strange mood?" I yawned through the whole thing and spent most of my time making fun of it with my husband. I will give it another chance next week, but that's really only because it's the summer...

I'm so glad you mentioned how fast that house went up in flames! After watching the daily show interview with the Gaslands director, I endeared if maybe someone was digging for natural gas nearby :) Plus. E most interesting thing about the fire to me was the question of what would happen with the smoke. Maybe the FX department couldn't get it to work right but wouldn't the townspeople want to see exactly how high the dome was. That crazy guy at the end sort of referenced it, but come on!

Also, I can totally appreciate that the military wouldn't want guards trying to communicate with the people on the inside, but if you are actively trying to examine the properties of the dome by shooting water at it, wouldn't you want to figure out some way to fine out what was going on inside the dome after you sprayed it with water? Get some whiteboards and markers people, I think the government can afford them...

If I'm going to stick with this, there definitely needs to be a "Walkabout" moment soon. Somebody better jump out of a wheelchair or I might just give up and turn to a book...

Josie Kafka said...

Wow, I just can't believe these comments. I was so worried that this review was too mean, I asked Billie to read it before I posted it. I really thought I was alone in the world!

A.M, "Somebody better jump out of a wheelchair or I might just give up and turn to a book..." made me choke on my coffee with laughter.

Freeman: Ben. Ben is a good name. Let's call him that, even if it's not his name. :-)

ChrisB said...

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. Josie -- that may be the single, funniest sentence you have ever written. I laughed for a full minute.

Great review that summed up this episode perfectly. It was so dull, it took me three tries to get through it. I kept falling asleep...

Siddharth M. said...

I like Dean Norris doing his alpha male shtick so whenever Big Jim gets to be bossy and creepy, my interest level peaks up. I also like Barbie, mostly because they've managed to give him just a little bit of an edge. But Junior's son???He has got to go and soon.

Paul Kelly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Kelly said...

Josie, I don't think you were mean enough. This was a terrible episode. On top of the things you've already mentioned, I was amazed at Reverend Coggins' luck. Firstly, he managed to guess exactly which pocket Jeff Fahey's house key is in and pickpocket it; then, after inexplicably turning over the house (instead of just looking through the drawers like any sane person would), he managed to stumble immediately on the documents he was looking for, taped to the bottom of the second drawer he looked in. Clearly God was with him. It's the only way to explain his amazing good fortune.

Then there was Barbie throwing buckets of water over absolutely nothing. Sometimes he chucked them at an exterior wall which wasn't on fire, other times he just threw them into the air. And you're right: how on earth would dozing the house put out the fire?

Then we had James and Barbie's completely unrealistic fight, where Barbie visibly pulled on James just to keep the roll going, and James spat up the contents of a blood capsule in a completely unrealistic way.

And why, when trapped in a room full of all manner of heavy objects, would Angie choose a leather suitcase as a weapon? Smash the guy's head in, you fool! Don't just shove him with an empty suitcase. She'd had ages to plan an escape. Is that seriously the best she could manage? And no way was that chain tight enough to stay on her ankle. And why wind James up like that, knowing full well he's teetering on the edge?

The whole episode was just stupid thing after stupid thing. Add the dramatic music in the wrong places, and the terrible (sometimes utterly pointless) dialogue, and this was utter crud.

Great review! You totally nailed the main turds.

Anonymous said...

I was so looking forward to this show. Liked the first episode, fell asleep half way through last week. I am writing this during this weeks episode. I don't think this will sustain my interest much longer. :(

Josie Kafka said...

Anonymous, your comment landed in my inbox, and I said to myself, "Hey! Great reminder that I need to set the DVR to record Under the Dome."

Then--like magic--I was overcome by a desire to do anything other than set my DVR.

Result: my review won't post until the episode is available elsewhere.

Conclusion: I'm not very excited about this show.

Josie Kafka said...

Revision: UtD did record after all.

Drat.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Hey everyone.

Question. Have now seen episode two, and really really disliked it for all the reasons above (Bravo Billie). Should I keep watching or drop it?
I hear it's been renewed for a second season, but I'm not sure that's a good thing....

a.m. said...

Henrick, I dropped the show after this episode but because it was summer and I don't have cable, I caught a few episodes but most of them put me to sleep. I never liked the characters/actors/writing and never really cared if the dome was lifted or why they were in there. I hope that helps... You should definitely read Josie's review of the next episode (Manhunt) though. It's one of the best reviews ever written.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Thankyou a.m.! That was indeed one of the funniest reviews I've ever read.
And....I'm dropping it too. It's worse than Revolution.