The latest in a long line of televised adaptations of the work of prolific horror author Stephen King makes it debut as a small Maine town finds itself encased in a glass dome. Clearly this is not going to end well…
Let’s bitch it out!
The ‘Pilot’ episode of Under The Dome has a lot of heavy lifting to do: 1) introduce the small Maine town of Chester Mills, including 2) its large cast of characters, 3) contextualize the state of affairs before and after the Dome comes down and 4) make us care enough about all of this to return for subsequent episodes.
It’s a surprise, then, that this pilot episode is as successful as it is. Without adding too many concessions, this introductory episode is every bit as good as the genre shows that debuted during the regular season <cough> Revolution <cough>. While there are certain elements that don’t entirely work, this is a high-octane, enjoyably twisty start to what will hopefully become a regular summer mainstay (CBS greenlit Under The Dome as a limited series, but have left the door open for future seasons if there’s demand, which judging by the numbers, there is).
For King fans, this is the prototypical set-up: a sleepy town in his favourite state of Maine, filled with archetypes who are thrown into an impossible/supernatural situation that magnifies the already present fissures and character defects. None of the residents of Chester Mills are new or ground-breaking (well, possibly Carolyn and Alice, the lesbian couple played by Aisha Hinds and Samantha Mathis), and many of them bear a resemblance to characters from other King works. There’s the unlikely hero (Mike Vogel’s Barbie), the female hero/love interest (Rachelle Lefevre’s Julia), the power-hungry, ego-driven antagonist (Dean Norris’ Big Jim) and the mentally unstable psychopath (Alexander Koch’s Junior). And if you didn’t know that poor Jeff Fahey (as Sheriff Duke) was doomed to die the moment you saw him / he mentioned his pacemaker, you need to brush up on your Stephen King lore.
The comparisons to LOST has been made by many, which makes sense given showrunner Brian K. Vaughan’s work on that show, as well as King’s admitted admiration for the island-set series. I think there’s a great deal of mileage to be had in those comparisons, though. In my mind, whether or not the show bears a resemblance to LOST is immaterial. What matters is whether Under The Dome is successful as a standalone piece of entertainment.
In this regard, I will readily admit that the pilot got the job done for me. Sure the characters are slightly two-dimensional (I’m already hate-watching Koch’s over the top performance as Junior and Mackenzie Lintz as Norrie joins a long line of annoying, whiny TV teens), but there’s enough intrigue and action to sustain me for the time being. Consider how many questions are raised in the pilot alone: beyond the obvious questions surrounding the who, what, how of the dome, there’s the mysterious gas hoarding, the seizure-prone teens, and Barbie’s random murder of Julia’s husband, Peter. Add to that the new twists arising from the death of Duke and the imprisonment of Angie (Britt Robertson) in Big Jim’s fall-out shelter and there’s clearly any number of open-ended threads to tune back in for.
In a day and age when the majority of genre television is relegated primarily to cable, it’s refreshing that CBS took a chance on Under The Dome. As it stands, it’s easily the most entertaining show of the summer (aside from summer’s eternal guilty pleasure, Teen Wolf). So raise a glass to the embattled citizens of Chester Mills: the action has only just begun, but this show is well worth the indoor-summer living.
- The opening bit with the bird: a shout-out to fellow “small town, weird sh*t” show Twin Peaks? Junior’s “be seeing you” warning to Barbie: an ode to The Prisoner? Anyone else catch any references to classic crazy-town series?
- Regarding the characters, I certainly hope that when the pace inevitably slows down and we learn more about them, they prove worthy Although there’s a need for a large cast (the dome encloses a town after all), thus far only a few make a significant impression. From my perspective, radio DJs Phil (Nicholas Strong) and Dodee (Jolene Purdy) and dull Deputy Linda (Natalie Martinez) prove the least interesting. Phil and Dodee seem far too cut off from the reality of their situation (though their excitement at capitalizing on the whole “only game in town” is realistic), while Linda suffers from The Killing-syndrome in that we’re asked to care about her relationship with a fiance we don’t know who clearly won’t be a big part of the show
- Naturally, given the screen time allocated to their characters, Vogel, Lefevre, Fahey and Norris fare best. The fact that I like all four actors is immaterial 🙂
- Best visual of the summer is easily that sliced cow. You knew something was gonna get chopped, but that was executed exceedingly well. Surprising and gory
- Any theories about the phrase that the seizing teens utter: “the stars are falling in line”? This to me is the strangest of all of the developments in the pilot since it seems connected to the dome, but in an undetermined capacity
- Regarding the fuel hoarding, I’m unsure exactly why the town’s biggest A-hole and its Sheriff would be collaborating on such a scheme, but given the pyrotechnics of the first episode, how long before something goes boom?
- Is it sad that every time Junior threatens Angie, I wished for her to use her black magic witch skills and take him out? You’re still missed, The Secret Circle…
- RIP 12 residents who died, including Mrs Saunders. We knew her solely by the leg she left behind after her plane flew into the dome, but the leg seemed nice
- Finally, I’m so glad that Julia has a back-up generator, but she may want to conserve her power instead of turning on every fickin’ light when she invites Barbie back to her place
for sexytimes. It’s like the woman has never lived through an emergency before!
Your turn: what did you think of the premiere? What’s with the “stars” line? Whose storyline are you least interested in? What is the most intriguing mystery? And, most importantly, will you tune in for episode two? Hit the comments below!
Note: Please refrain from simply comparing the show to the book, especially regarding spoilers. It’s been acknowledged that the show is significantly different from King’s novel, so let’s discuss the show on its own.
Under The Dome airs Mondays at 10pm EST on CBS