Tweetable Takeaway: Under The Dome returns. I’m going to keep watching this show. You… probably shouldn’t. Tweet
Airtime: Thursday 9 PM CBS
By: Paul Gulyas, Contributor
Last night was the “special” two hour premiere of the CBS drama “Under the Dome” based off the Stephen King novel of the same name. Although at this point basically the only similarity between the two intellectual properties are some character names and the Dome itself.
The novel isn’t King’s best to begin with. But the TV series makes it look like Faulkner, Hemingway, Twain and Steinbeck teamed up and wrote the single greatest collection of words to ever come out of America.
The writing, the sets, the make-up, and MOST of the acting (not all, i.e. the wonderful Dean Norris as Big Jim Rennie) are so easy and uninspired, even for network TV, it truly bums me out it’s by far one of the most watched summer shows in America. If I didn’t have the SCOTUS Marriage Equality ruling to even me out on the American public this morning, I’d still be scowling at passing strangers for their presumed terrible taste in television this afternoon.
Okay, instead of me just trash talking, let’s get down to it. If you haven’t watched, NONE of this will make sense to you, which is just a TINY FRACTION less than what will make sense to people who have been committed since season one. Last season ended with Melanie (a resurrected-from-the-dead 1980’s teenager) in a blast of white light at the end of a tunnel, appearing to the people of Chester’s Mill and telling them “It’s time to go home.”
We pick back up with Dale “Barbie” Barbara, doing his best Jack Shephard in sweaty t-shirt and backpack, convincing the towns people to follow Melanie into the light. But they don’t have a choice anyway because the way they came is obstructed by a huge uncrossable chasm. So they can either go “home” or, I don’t know, starve to death there? The dramatic tension is unbearable!
Also, Junior Rennie (Alexander Koch) and Barbie’s main squeeze Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre), are on the other side of that chasm, with a murderous Big Jim somewhere in Chester’s Mill above the tunnels.
Barbie and the rest of the characters go into the light and appear outside the Dome, only to see it shatter. Barbie of course runs back into town to find Julia, and discovers her, Big Jim, and Junior all dead. But we know that this isn’t real because they didn’t just kill off Dean Norris, the best part of the show. So, that twist didn’t land. A noble attempt, writers!
Then it cuts to a year later (I know it’s a year later because almost every other line of exposition-y dialogue reminded me). Barbie’s killing dudes and saving hostages in Yemen while dating a new main squeeze Eva (Kylie Bubury). Sam is in jail for killing Angie last season. Joe is making excuses why he shouldn’t leave Chester’s Mill even though he got into a great college in California. Norrie is in a sorority. All the Dome survivors are talking to mysterious “trauma specialist” Christine (Marg Helgenberger). It’s coming up on the one year (IT’S BEEN ONE YEAR IN CASE YOU MISSED IT) anniversary of the Dome breaking and they are all meeting in Chester’s Mill for a special memorial.
But something is fishy. Melanie is watching all our survivors from some weird crystal TV screens in the cave beneath Chester’s Mill, where the Dome is still very much intact. She has all the main characters in a weird alien goo-pod thing where they appear to be in dream states, living in this alternate reality. Kind of like the Matrix. Or exactly like it. Also, Julia, Big Jim, and Junior are all still alive. And Melanie tricks Julia into helping her get the Egg from Aktaion Energy, who took it outside the Dome to study it last season. Melanie and Barbie’s dad Don is a higher-up at Aktaion, so after some exposition-y stuff with Don’s boss about how they’ve been searching for these Eggs after a meteor shower 25 years ago in order to study their energy potential, Don smuggles the Egg back under the Dome via the Red Door in the ground in Zenith (still convenient and unexplained), and appears in a lake, only to be killed by his zombie daughter Melanie, who admits she’s not really Melanie, and takes the Egg.
Following all this? You SHOULDN’T BE. There’s just too much going on here. Every question leads to more questions, but not the GOOD, intriguing kind of questions Lost put forth (whether they were answered or not, they were still undeniably exciting in the moment). Questions like “Why in the world would that character do that at that moment, other than because the plot has to move forward?” Those kind of questions pop up at almost every plot point in Under the Dome, and it takes you out of it completely.
Anyway, back in the dream reality, Barbie starts to suspect something is up when he starts seeing a man with the same face as a man he killed in Yemen all around Chester’s Mill, but sometimes with a mustache, sometimes not. He sees the face on a delivery man, a construction worker, a cop. REALLY? The dream reality goo-pods can’t, like, create different background actors? They’re using the same extra? Is that what’s happening here?
Well guess what. That all doesn’t matter because Julia saves her friends and gets them out of the pods anyway! So whether Barbie realized it was fake or not while in it has absolutely no bearing on the plot going forward. Especially because the audience knew it was fake for the majority of the episode.
The only interesting thing now is that at the very end we see Barbie’s dream girlfriend Eva and their therapist Christine come out of pods as real people. No idea what that’s about. Buuut I’m not confident the answers will be anything better than “we needed new cast members.”
Some positives: the special effects don’t suck. They’re not mind blowing, but they don’t suck. The kid who plays Joe (Colin Ford), while terrible in previous seasons, seems to have stepped up his game with a well-acted monologue at the fake Memorial. And a nice little jab at America’s worst “news source;” when Junior tells Christine there was nothing “natural” about the Dome disaster, she comes back with “Unnatural Disasters seems a little too Fox News.” Okay. I can get behind that.
I’m going to keep watching this show. You… probably shouldn’t.
Paul co-created and writes for SHOWoff, a game that lets players predict what happens next on their favorite TV shows, earn points for what they get right, and see where they stack up against friends and the world (free in the iOS App store). Check out the SHOWoff app at playSHOWoff.com