Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Under the Dome


I wasn’t greatly impressed by the book by Stephen King. I’m a big fan, but I didn’t think it was his best. The idea is very simple: One day without any warning, an invisible dome appears over a small town, shutting it off from the outside world. Anything that straddled the line where the dome appeared is cut into two pieces. (To show how movies almost always make things bigger than the book, in the book a woodchuck was cut in half. In the movie, it’s a cow.) Nothing gets through the barrier but light. Vehicles hit the barrier at speed and are demolished. Soon the Army has the place surrounded, but there’s nothing they can really do. And soon after that, the society inside begins to come apart for various reasons, including greed, drugs, and political power.

EPISODE ONE: Pilot. This opening was made by the Swedish director Niels Arden Oplev, best known over here for the original (and only good) version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The very first scene is of a man, who we later learn is named Dale “Barbie” Barbara, burying another man he has apparently just killed. The Dome appears, and there is tension between the good police chief and an obviously bad town councilman, Big Jim. The chief’s pacemaker explodes from some side effect of the Dome, which is also causing epileptic seizures in some people. At first, people are pulling together, though no one is really in charge.

EPISODE TWO: The Fire. Big Jim’s Psycho Son has imprisoned his Girlfriend in a fallout shelter. The Undertaker/Preacher is sent to the police chief’s house to destroy some incriminating papers, and manages to set the house on fire. Deputy Linda manages to save his worthless ass. The local radio station manages to listen to some Army broadcasts from outside, and learns that the Army didn’t create the Dome.

EPISODE THREE: Manhunt. At the end of the last episode one of the remaining cops went apeshit and ended up killing the next-to-last cop, leaving only Deputy Linda Esquivel to keep Big Jim the would-be dictator of town in line. She foolishly lets him escape custody, and they hunt him down and kill him. Big Jim’s Psycho Son still has his ex-Girlfriend imprisoned in the fallout shelter. Some people are beginning to wonder about Barbie, the mysterious stranger.

EPISODE FOUR: Outbreak. Suddenly meningitis appears among the Domers. There’s only one doctor, a Lesbian Psychiatrist who was passing through with her Spouse and their Teenage Daughter. There’s antibiotics at the drugstore, but the Preacher has stolen them and tries to destroy them because he thinks this is all God’s will. Hundreds are sick, and Big Jim gives his Psycho Son a shotgun and orders him to let no one leave the hospital, to prevent the spread of the disease. Which is a sound policy, but shows how Big Jim’s mind works. Unexpectedly, Psycho Son shows some gumption, and some commitment to his fellow Domers. So he’s not all bad … but his ex-Girlfriend is still chained in the fallout shelter, and in her attempts to escape has broken a water pipe and the shelter is filling. Julia the newspaper woman, who doesn’t know her husband was killed by Barbie, begins to suspect he’s more than he appears. He admits to her that he’s an enforcer, come to collect on a debt. I think he’s lying. We still don’t know why he killed her husband, or what he really is, but we know it’s tied up with the huge meth-cooking operation Big Jim, the Preacher, and others were involved in before the Dome appeared. And at last, Big Jim hears the girlfriend screaming, and discovers her about to drown down there. Clearly Psycho Son put her down there. Big Question: What will Big Jim do about it?

EPISODE FIVE: Blue on Blue. Well, Big Jim doesn’t know what the fuck to do, so he leaves her there for a while so he can figure out how to deal with his psychotic son. (Eventually he lets her out, but guess who’s waiting for her at home?) Meanwhile, a lot of butterflies appear on the Dome. Drawn by a magnetic field? Seems like it. And the Pooh-Bahs on the outside decide to let relatives on the outside come see the prisoners. Only it’s not a goodwill gesture, except in the sense of they’re giving them a chance to say goodbye to their captive loved ones. Because they intend to use a thermobaric bomb to blow the Dome to shit, along with everyone in it. Your government taxes at work, folks. It was something less than a surprise when it went off and didn’t do squat to the inside of the Dome, but blasted everything around it to hell. After all, Wiki says there are eight episodes left. What’re they gonna do, wander around and pick up corpses? Okay, generals, Plan B?

EPISODE SIX: The Endless Thirst. Things are starting to get nasty. The water tower is destroyed, and then they find out the lake is contaminated. Water riots start, and if it hadn’t started to rain, the cops would have had to shoot somebody, maybe a lot of somebodies. So the Dome is like a terrarium, with water condensing on the inside. Meanwhile, Big Jim tries to come to an agreement with the girl his psycho son kidnapped. And there’s something strange going on with one of the town kids and the girl with the lesbian moms. They go into seizures sometimes and speak of pink stars falling.

EPISODE SEVEN: Imperfect Circles. Mostly more character development and pushing the story along. I’m not sure if any of the stuff here was really necessary, but what the hell. It’s a long series. Opposition has arisen to Big Jim’s rule, and though he’s a bounder, he’s also got his good side, and the man who is impeding him is a lot worse than he is. At least Big Jim sincerely has the welfare of the town on his mind; the other guy, Ollie, is just a greedy, resentful asshole who controls the town’s water supply. I figure he’s a dead man in the next episode, which is called Thicker Than Water. Blood, right?

EPISODE EIGHT: Thicker Than Water. I was right. Ollie the capitalist pig who intended to make the whole town come to him for food and water, bit the dust. It was a little surprising who did the deed. And that’s what’s been most interesting about this series so far. Aside from two totally fucked-up rapists (now dead) and Ollie (good riddance), there is more than one side to most of these characters. There’s no one left who is totally bad, they’ve all been weeded out. Big Jim is no prize (before the dome he was cooking meth) but he seems to genuinely care about the town and does everything he can to keep it going. His psycho son, Junior, looked like a total asshole at first, but he’s more complex than that. I wouldn’t trust him with anything, but I wouldn’t presume to know what he’s going to do next. On to #9.

EPISODE NINE: The Fourth Hand.

EPISODE TEN: Let the Games Begin.

EPISODE ELEVEN: Speak of the Devil.

EPISODE TWELVE: The Enemy. Didn’t bother writing up the last several episodes. More plot complications, more mysteries, mostly about the small egg they have discovered that seems to be powering the Big Dome, and about the wavering loyalties of the chief characters. But in this episode Big Jim finally goes irrevocably over to the Dark Side, murdering several people in cold blood and arranging it so that Barbie will have to take the blame. He may actually have had the good of the town in mind when he started out, but now all he wants is power, and to cover his own ass. Since there has already been a second season announced, I will predict that neither Barbie (who the people outside are searching for; why? We don’t know yet) nor Big Jim will bite it in the next episode. They will both be needed next year. But I could be wrong. If anyone is going to die, I am sure it will be Big Jim. We can’t kill our love interest, the handsome guy.

EPISODE THIRTEEN: The End of the Beginning. I was right, they are both still alive. Barbie has his neck literally in a noose and Junior’s hand is on the release … but he’s alive. I guess I’m just not accustomed to serial TV like this, since I watch so little of it. I guess most people are inured by now to having a season end with nothing resolved, and with a cliffhanger that would have made the writers of The Perils of Pauline blush … but I’m not. I somehow expected a little more than this blatant “tune in next year!” bullshit. I’m still interested, but I’ll have to wait and see if I’m interested enough to actually watch the next season.