Originally billed as a limited series, CBS’s Under the Dome quickly became the ratings hit of the summer and earned itself a second season pickup. Now that the first season has officially ended, we’d like to take a look back at the best and worst of what happened this season in Chester’s Mill.
#1 The Pilot Episode
Having never read Stephen King’s novel, we went in blind, not sure what to expect from the characters or the mystery dome. We had no idea why propane was being brought in or who Barbie or Julia was or why in the world Angie was with Junior (still wondering). But the episode had us hooked the second the dome fell around the down (watching the cow get split in half was super gross and super awesome, right?). We were on the edge of our seats as we watched the characters react with horror and fear as they searched for loved ones and tried to make sense of why there was a sudden invisible barrier surrounding their town. Just the idea of being trapped like that is psychologically terrifying and we were so excited to see what would happen next.
We still don’t know all the secrets of the dome; in fact, we’re not sure we really understand any of them. But watching the puzzle pieces fall into place over 13 episodes was one of the reasons we kept turning in. Why were the teenagers having seizures? What was going on with the mini dome? We eventually learned that they were connected and that Julia was the monarch crowned. Of course we still don’t know what that means or why Julia was chosen to protect the egg. We do know that there are aliens involved, which might be an awful plot twist or it might be a great one, but we won’t find out until the show returns and we (hopefully) get more information.
#3 The Evolution of Joe, Norrie and Angie
At first, it was hard to care about Joe and Norrie. He was sweet and helpful, but she was so whiny and terrible and all that things that everyone who is not a teenager hates about teenagers. We hated seeing Angie stuck in Junior’s makeshift prison, but other than that, we didn’t really get a feel for her either. After the three came together, we got to see them step up; Joe and Norrie figured out that the dome was trying to communicate with them and Angie risked her life to help Barbie and Julia. The stories are still far from perfect, but it was nice to see the three of them evolve into people that we can see ourselves rooting for as the series continues.
Aside from Barbie, Julia, Big Jim, Junior, Angie, Norrie and Joe, none of the other characters really seemed to serve a purpose. There were Big Jim’s enemies, who he killed, people who hated Barbie, one of whom Jim killed, Linda, who has proven time and again to be too stupid to live, let alone be in charge of the police station and then there’s everyone else, whose names there was no point in learning. A little character backstory might have helped us care a little more when people died or maybe we’d understand what makes Linda so gullible. But other than contempt or boredom, we felt nothing for most of these people so we didn’t care if they lived or died and that took some of the stakes out of the show.
#2 Big Jim and Junior
Dean Norris is an incredible actor, but Big Jim is a terribly developed character. He’s power hungry and likes to murder people who get in his way. That’s basically it. There was nothing multidimensional about him. Maybe that wasn’t the intention of the writers, but that’s definitely how he came off to us. And his son was a crazy-eyed chip off the old block. We started actively rooting for Junior to die in the pilot, but then there was a small glimmer of hope when he seemed to realize that his dad was the worst. But then Junior just kept siding with Big Jim and it didn’t make any sense. Every time it felt like this arc was going somewhere, it came to the same boring point.
We know people are going to strongly disagree with this one (that’s why this is an opinion piece), but despite the actors’ chemistry, we find it hard to believe these two fell in love so fast. Remember, according to the writers/producers, each episode is one day under the dome. So Barbie and Julia were in love after less than two weeks? Why? Sure, we get the attraction; we’ve seen them and we could even see if it was a grief/fear type thing that turned into romance. But the fact that we’re supposed to believe that they’re in ‘forever and ever’ love territory is hard for us to get onboard with at this point.
#4 The Lack of Panic and Fear
As we said in the best section, when the dome came down, it was terrifying to imagine that happening in the real world. The thought of not having cell/internet/cable alone makes us want to curl up in the corner and cry, not to mention worrying about food and water and medicine and all of the other ‘comforts’ that we’re used to having access to whenever we want them. There were a handful of times this became an issue on the series and those moments were downright scary. But the problem was that there were not enough of them. Most people just went about their lives like it wasn’t the possible end of the world and the ones who did freak out were usually killed pretty fast.
Big Jim, Barbie, Junior, Julia, Angie, Norrie, Joe…one of these characters should have died. Since they are the only ones who have developed beyond plot points, one of them dying would have had a real impact on the viewers and raised the stakes for season two. Instead, we saw Junior wavering when Big Jim ordered him to pull the lever to hang Barbie (do not even get us started on how fast they built the gallows) and then everyone was distracted by the pink stars and whatever light was happening inside the dome. How was that the end? That would have been an anticlimactic end for a normal episode, but a season finale? The ending was a huge failure.
Overall, we’re giving the season a ‘C’ which probably seems high based on a list where we had more ‘worst’ points than ‘best’. But here’s the thing: no matter how frustrated or worse, bored, we were, we still tuned in each week and cared enough to review each episode so maybe those aliens have us under their spell too.
Do you agree with our assessments or do you have a different set of best and worst plots? Hit the comments below and share your thoughts with us!
Under the Dome will return for season two next summer on CBS.