Where to begin?
Okay, okay… I know… you have the cool effect of the dome slamming down. BAM!!! Cutting everything in half. Including a poor cow who was standing around, minding its own business, chewing on some cud or grass. The dome cuts this cow exactly in half. A clean cut. For a moment, I was reminded of one of the most gruesome scenes I’ve ever seen in film or television: the steel wire scene in Ghost Ship (the high point of an otherwise terrible movie).
Anyway, something like that happens to the cow. The two cow halves slide down the dome. Except there is no blood. Why is there no blood? A character smacks his bloodied hand on the dome later in the episode and the blood sticks. I’m no gore hound, but I prefer a slight dose of realism in my terror. We get a nice visual of the innards of the bisected bovine, but there is no blood on the dome or no blood on the cow.
It is but a minor detail in the storytelling flaws of Under the Dome, yet it highlights much of what is wrong with the first two episodes. The writers are so concerned with creating a story with wide, broad strokes of cliche and cookie cutter characters and plot points, that they don’t bother with the details that make for an interesting character study. While King’s source material suffered from stereotypes and cliches, he did a well-enough job of giving his characters and plot enough life to make things interesting.
In Under the Dome, we’re treated to a village full of idiots. The only characters capable of action are Big Jim Rennie (our bad guy), Barbie (our war hero good guy), a handful of police, and obvious eye-candy Ms. Schumway (local intrepid newspaper reporter). Everybody else is stupid. They stupidly stand around as a house burns to the ground and spreads dangerously. Nothing happens until Barbie and Rennie move them to action.
Apparently, the show runners believe the viewers to be stupid, too. Big Jim Rennie’s partner in crime in his mysterious propane tank hoarding plan is a dimwit of a preacher, who nearly kills himself when he burns an envelope (all but marked VERY IMPORTANT PAPERS) of evidence using a giant match inside an office. Big Jim has pulled off some great crime with this idiot? Please.
The show’s writing might meet basic 4th grade level requirements. Characters spout cliched nonsense. Our preacher doles out a “bless you child” like an actor playing a preacher would do. A petulant teenage girl goes from frantically screaming about being trapped, then after the commercial break, she’s back to making generic snarking comments a moment later when folks are discussing their situation. We’re told Barbie is cool because one of the teenager boys says he’s cool. Oh, yeah, he also buys some smokes, so he is totally cool.
Perhaps the biggest crime the show commits is that of terrible acting. The one actor who seems to be taking the whole thing seriously is the Breaking Bad guy (Dean Norris). Samantha Mathis, a capable actress, is left with a crap supporting role of a meek lesbian mom. Jeff Fahey, a solid character actor, has his chest explode at the end of the first episode, so he’s no more. The two leads, Mike Vogel and Rachelle Lefevre make for fine eye-candy for viewers, but their acting chops leave a lot to be desired. The chemistry between the two is nil. Unfortunately, I suspect both are miscast.
I’m going to try to watch the third episode. It depends on how pain I can take…
Do yourself a favor. The 13 hours you will spend watching this series is better spent reading King’s novel Under the Dome. Granted, 13 hours won’t get you through all 1,000 pages, but at least you’ll be entertained and have a sizable chunk of the book finished.