Under the Dome is a bit of an enigma to me. It’s not particularly good. Most of the acting, while improving over the course of it’s first season, remains largely in the “poor” category. Many of the effects were sub-par for network TV standards, and the story seemed to aimlessly stumble through the year with no defined direction to me. However, even with those standout issues, I found myself enjoying nearly every episode, and I walked away from the finale excited to see what comes next year.
The King and I
I’ve never been huge into Stephen King, I’ll admit it. While I recognize the significance of classics like The Stand and The Shining (the film remaining one of the more influential psychological horror films of all-time), I could never get into works based on his books, nor the source material itself. The oft-hated “Langoliers” television event stands as my favorite King adaptation, though that is likely due to the fact that “It” scared me so much that I will be having nightmares of Tim Curry in clown make-up well into my 80’s.
So to get me excited for Under the Dome, it took some effort from my colleagues here at Free4Geeks.com, both Evan and Trey having read the novel years ago. I took the plunge based on their assertions that the story was great and could make for a really compelling television show, and was greeted with exactly what they warned me about. An overwhelming amount of characters, so much so that you almost don’t get the chance to slow down and wonder about the mystery behind it all.
There’s Barbie, ex-military and general bad mama-jama. He’s staying at Julia’s house because her husband has gone missing since the dome came down, and the local reporter has a kind heart and a soft spot for the soldier. Now Barbie quickly begins a feud with Junior and Big Jim Rennie, a father and son team that have enough issues between each other for an entire season of Jerry Springer (90’s reference), the matriarch of their family died years ago, leaving Junior with an overdeveloped sense of abandonment, which he projects onto his failing relationship with Angie. Angie’s brother is Joe, who is saved by Barbie when the dome first comes down, and he develops a crush for Norrie, a toubled teen who just happens to get caught in this no-name town in the middle of this crisis with her lesbian mothers…
And that’s not even getting into the entire police squad, the reverend, the sweet diner owner, the ornery farmer who refuses to help the town he’s lived in his entire life, the drug dealer from out of town and so on, and so on. It’s a lot of info to take in, and absolutely none of that has even scratched the surface of the dome itself. The small town of Chester’s Mill and it’s sizable population are trapped underneath an invisible dome and left to their own devices after it becomes clear that the military either can’t or won’t help them to get free.
Along the way toward the end of season one you get many of the crisis’ you would expect a town in such a particular bit of trouble to experience, from natural hazards and uncontrollable fires to martial law and even a riot or two, and it all plays out entertainingly, if not a bit over-the-top. Rivalries form instantaneously and the true nature of everyone in Chester’s Mill soon becomes evident, they’re all evil and backstabbing. Jim Rennie just wants to protect the town and conceal his own dirty secrets, and luckily after a shaky first two episodes, the role is filled nicely by Dean Norris. In doing so, Jim instigates the majority of the problems for the population, and goes toe-to-toe with Barbie (Mike Vogel) who is one of the only other standout performances in the entire season. Barbie is a believable good guy with a dark past, and his internalized struggle with the truth is handled well by Vogel.
But that’s where the acting praise has to come to an end, sadly. The four young actors who have been tasked to be at the front-line of solving the mystery of the dome all have their own problem areas, but the brunt of the damage is dealt by just two, Alexander Koch who plays Junior and Mackenzie Lintz who plays Norrie. For both young actors, the delivery simply isn’t there, especially early in the season. Koch turns in one of the worst performances I’ve seen in the first 3 episodes, though admittedly he did improve throughout the year to just passable by the end of it. The dialogue is painfully delivered, and the situations the characters are put in demand a much higher level of acting than either here possess.
As I said, though, even with all of these issues, the show still turns in an enjoyable product. Most of the individual character stories are entertaining and engaging to watch, and the mystery behind the Dome is certainly intriguing. Under the Dome is scheduled to return for a second season, hopefully that will bring a better balance between the daily minutia of the characters and the truth behind the Dome. Either way, CBS still has a hit on it’s hands, and one I hope to see continue to develop for some time.