Last night, CBS premiered the first episode of its new summer series Under the Dome. Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, the show centers around the town of Chester Falls, a seemingly quiet town that suddenly finds itself trapped under a mysterious dome that appears out of nowhere.
The episode started off by introducing viewers to various townspeople as well as people who were just passing through the town, only to end up stranded there when the dome cuts the town off from the outside world. At first, I was concerned that it was going to be hard to keep all the people we were meeting straight, but it wasn’t long before the show made it clear whose stories we would be watching for the next 12 episodes.
We meet the mysterious (and seriously hot) Barbie (Mike Vogel) for the first time as he is digging a grave and tossing a man’s body inside. He then gets in his car and clearly wants to get as far away from the scene as possible as he makes a phone call and tells someone that Smith (presumably the dead guy) showed up without the money and wanted to renegotiate aggressively.
Barbie passes a police cruiser on the road and is so busy watching them in the rearview mirror that he doesn’t see the herd of cows that have moved into the road and he ends up spinning out of control into the farmland, only to end up with a flat tire and no spare in the trunk.
Sheriff Duke Perkins (Jeff Fahey) was in the police cruiser with his deputy Linda (Natalie Martinez). They were investigating some noises that another officer had called in. We learn that Perkins has a pacemaker that doesn’t always work properly and Linda is engaged to a firefighter named Rusty, who along with the other firefighters, is headed to the neighboring town of Westlake for a parade.
We meet Big Jim (Dean Norris) at the local diner. He’s a politician and he leaves a big tip for the waitress, telling her that he’s just buying her next vote. She points out that he runs unopposed and he just smiles and heads out to his other job: used car salesman. Seriously, he’s a politician and a used car salesman. Clearly we’re not supposed to trust him or at least we’re supposed to think we’re not supposed to trust him.
Julia (Rachelle Lefevre) shows up on a townsperson’s doorstep and introduces herself as the new editor-in-chief of the local paper. The woman is not impressed and points out that she gets her news online like everyone else (true story). But she called Julia because she has a tip. For some reason, the town is stocking up on propane and the woman has watched delivery after delivery for days. Julia agrees to look into it and the woman warns her to keep her name out of it.
Next, there’s Junior (Alexander Koch) and Angie (Britt Robertson). The college-aged kids are getting busy when we first meet them and Junior is clearly way more into things than she is. He professes his love to her and Angie tells him that it’s been a nice summer. He wants to drop out of college and she’s not impressed. She has to go to work at the diner and Junior is not too pleased that she’s blowing him off. Careful Angie, he’s got the crazy eyes…
So back to Barbie (seriously, who named this guy?). As he’s stranded on the farm, all of a sudden, the birds rapidly start to fly away and then he watches as a cow gets cut in half (SO GROSS). A teenager named Joe (Colin Ford) runs out to see if he’s okay, but Barbie is distracted by the dead cow. He goes to touch it (why?) and instead ends up getting a shock from the big dome that he didn’t see before. Dead birds start falling out of the sky after crashing into the top of the dome (Barbie touches those too) and Joe points out that it’s like one of those invisible fences for dogs. A plane falls from the sky and Barbie just barely manages to push Joe out of the way of the debris.
All around town, people are reacting to the dome appearance. The power goes out, cell phones stop working and cars and trucks crash into it before the police can put up barriers. Linda and Rusty try to talk to each other from the opposite sides, but they can’t hear what the other one is saying. People rush around, trying to help the injured while other try to figure out where the dome came from and why they can’t get through it.
But here’s the thing. No one is really panicking. If a dome suddenly fell on my neighborhood or I watched people and cows being cut in half, I would definitely have a reaction to it. There was no sense of urgency or franticness and that just felt kind of off to me. Some of the people, specifically the sheriff and Big Jim, seemed to have some idea as to what was going on, but neither of them offered any clues (at first). If nothing else, people should have been upset that their cell phones stopped working.
Anyway, Angie doubles as a candy striper when she’s not working at the diner and she was on scene to help with some of the injuries. She bummed a cigarette from Barbie (smart girl zeroing in on the new hottie in town) and while they talked, Junior watched them from a distance with murder in his crazy eyes. Angie left to go help patients and Barbie was around to hear Julia learn that her doctor husband is nowhere to be found, even though he’s been telling her he works every Sunday (Awkward).
Here are some other things we learn: the dome has an effect on teenagers. Out-of-towner Norrie (Mackenzie Lintz) and Joe both have seizures and repeatedly mutter, “the stars are falling in line.” Joe and Angie are brother and sister and their parents are both on the outside of the dome. Big Jim and Duke have a hush-hush conversation that mentions the propane tankers and Duke says that he did what he did to keep the town from going broke (okay…).
Night has fallen and Barbie is back at his car, planning to camp out since the hotels are booked (small towns are so everyone’s favorite travel destination). Junior approaches him and claims that they know each other from somewhere, but Barbie quickly sends him on his way, not in the mood for whatever game he’s playing. Julia shows up and offers to let Barbie stay with her (hmm, small-town hospitality or does someone want to get back at her possibly-cheating husband?).
Meanwhile, Angie returns home from her shift only for Junior to grab her from behind. She struggles with him and ends up falling and banging the side of her head on the counter. Junior cradles her cheek and insists that this was not the way he wanted things to happen. A little while later, Angie wakes up and when she tries to get out of bed, her toes end up in water. Junior appears once again. He’s locked her in his father’s panic-just-in-case-there’s-an-apocalypse bunker. She screams and tries to get out, but no one can hear her.
Junior insists that he knows what’s really going on…So is this his way of keeping the girl he loves safe or does he just want to make sure she doesn’t cross paths with Barbie again? It’s probably both; don’t forget the crazy eyes, people. Junior returns to the surface, just as his father arrives home for the night…it’s Big Jim! The two share an awkward hug as Junior insists that he wants to help.
Now for my favorite twist of the episode. Julia brings Barbie back to her place and on the table there’s a picture of her and her husband. Do you know who her husband is? That’s right; it’s the dude Barbie was dropping in the unmarked grave at the beginning of the episode! So now there are like 800 million more questions to add to this particular mystery. Was he cheating? Was he doing something worse? Or is he the good guy and Barbie the bad one? What is happening?
Finally, we see Sheriff Duke and Linda again, standing near one of the roadblocks. Duke starts to open up to her, telling her that he was approached about a year earlier…and then he touches the dome and suddenly he’s one the ground. Did his pacemaker give out or was some supernatural force connected to the dome attempting to shut him up? As Linda screamed for help, we went to the other side of the dome, watching the military move around, unable to do much as a radio address from the president assured the residents of Chester’s Mill that they were doing everything they could to help them (Too bad they can’t actually hear you…).
In case you can’t tell, I really enjoyed this pilot. I was sort of on the fence about it going in, but it captured my attention within two minutes and held it for the entire 42 minutes of the episode. All of the storylines are intriguing so far and it’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds as we find out who knows what and why. I’m still a little confused as to why no one was panicking more and it’ll be interesting to see if that’s something that’s addressed over the course of the season. Since I have not read the novel (but I have heard that the story varies a little), I can’t compare and contrast and I have no idea what to expect next. But I’m looking forward to the ride.
Did you enjoy Under the Dome? Which storyline intrigues you the most? Sound off in the comments below…