Oct 2, 2014

[TV] Under the Dome: Season 1

I have a decent amount of respect for Stephen King as an author. He's quite the prolific writer and has managed to come up with quite a number of unforgettable stories that have shaped the thriller / horror fiction landscape in many ways. But when his creative works get adapted into movies and TV shows, results are pretty diverse. Things get a little worse when he seems to write specifically for the visual entertainment industry - as if things get muddy for some reason.

I didn't really have high expectations for Under the Dome when the television announcement was announced, but I did want to give the show a decent chance. Beyond the potential for a Stephen King story, Brian K. Vaughan was also attached to the project. And as someone who loves Y: The Last Man and Saga, I figured that if anyone could make something of book in terms of a TV series, then the end result might be a lot of fun.

But in the end things just felt a little confused and jumbled up and I don't know how I managed to avoid reading the synopsis of the book while watching this first season in order to avoid potential spoilers. Not that this really mattered though - the end result wasn't exactly all that faithful to the original work, it seems.

Synopsis: Under the Dome is a science fiction fantasy drama series developed for television by Brian K. Vaughan for CBS. It was based on the Stephen King novel of the same name and has thus far run for two seasons. Vaughan only remained part of the creative team during this first season.

For no discernible reason, an invisible, impenetrable dome suddenly appears over the small town of Chester's Mill, thus locking the residents away from the rest of the world. Those inside the dome are unable to contact the outside world as mobile signals, internet and most other electronic communications are unable to break through. The only consolation is that the dome is not airtight - but of course those inside have to contend with dwindling resources in order to survive.

Among those trapped in the dome is Dale "Barbie" Barbara (Mike Vogel), a former military man with an unknown past. He starts working with other residents to figure out how to survive and eventually escape the dome together with the likes of reporter Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre). But at the same time, used card salesman and local councilman Big Jim Rennie (Dean Norris) sees this as an opportunity to seize control of the town. But there are also a number of teens who are affected by the dome in different ways including seizures and mumbled statements that sound like prophecies or visions. What role they play in the larger scheme of things is yet to be revealed.

I think the weakest link in the show from the very start was casting - it's hard to really come to like any of the characters, and I'm not talking about quasi-villain Big Jim. Given how much of the initial plot revolved around the "four hands", these being the teens somehow connected to the dome, it would have paid to have better actors. And I don't mean prettier or more popular actors. I just mean actors that can actually act. And that same acting ability could have made them a bit more likable. Instead we got this odd mix of kids who are oddly depressing more than anything else.

Our protagonist gets called Barbie all the time, which is a little distracting for a character meant to sort of be the action hero here. Julie as an investigative reporter doesn't have that much of a character either and it's easy to dismiss her as this small town hack. And Big Jim is really, really unlikable, and it's a wonder to me how anyone decided to follow him in the middle of this crisis. Given all the shenanigans that he manages to pull off, it's a wonder to me that no one kills him throughout the season. That's not a spoiler - that's a warning!

And maybe things would have been a bit more bearable had the plot made some decent sense, but really it's rather all over the place. So these monarch butterflies have a role to play in things? This potentially extraterrestial dome uses Earth-based visual metaphors to communicate? Was the dome sent here or is it sentient on its own - everyone seems to think that the dome is either thinking something or has something that it wants to say after all. And then there was that bit with the propane tanks that never really went anywhere.

I don't quite know why I finished this entire season. I don't know why I tried watching the second season either. All I can say is that the show is quite the hot mess and we might be better of looking at other shows for decent geeky entertainment.

Under the Dome is not the science fiction show that we hoped for and one that certainly made me feel all sorts of disappointed with Brian K. Vauhan. Don't do what I did - don't finish the season if you already don't like it. And certainly don't watch the second season. The show only gets 1 ridiculous metaphor related to the dome's purpose out of a possible 5.

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