by Kelly M. Smith:
Under the Dome Recap: “Pilot”
Original Air Date (CBS): Monday June 24, 2013
Season 1 Episode 1
“It’s like living inside a fishbowl. I used to have fish…goldfish. But then one got sick and died and the other one…the other one ate him.”
True words for the town of Chester’s Mill from Angie McAllister (Britt Robertson from the CW’s The Secret Circle), who went from a typical small town with not-so-typical secrets to a group of people living, essentially, in a fishbowl, courtesy of a mysterious Dome that comes down from nowhere and closes off the place from the rest of the world.
Based on Stephen King’s 2009 epic novel (which had been 30 years in the making) of the same title, Under The Dome‘s first episode opened with the creepy shot of a crow at dawn, and then cuts to a young man, Dale “Barbie” Barbara (played by Mike Vogel, whom viewers will know from the TV series Bates Motel) in a car standing over the sheet-wrapped body of a man from town, whom he is burying and then hurries on to get the Hell out of Dodge.
Barbie’s progress is stopped by the Dome, which falls down right as he is about to exit the town, cutting the barn and a cow right in half. The barn was extremely realistic but the cow could have used some work, to be honest. I’m sure it succeeded in making viewers squirm, however.
Barbie places his hand on the air in front of him after touching the dead cow and leaves a fairly realistic bloody handprint, which confirmed his suspicion, that there was some sort of invisible fence cutting off the road in front of him.
After he does that, he spots a local two-seater private plane flying startlingly near this “fence”, but he doesn’t think it will crash, but he had no idea how high this thing went. In a spectacularly short but vivid and realistic display of pyrotechnics, the two people in the plane are killed due to their crashing into the Dome. They are the first two casualties that result throughout the 13-episode series from the Dome.
Enter a whole slew of characters, beginning with Julia Shumway (played by Rachelle Lefevre, of Twilight fame), the editor and reporter for the local newspaper (called The Democrat even though Shumway herself is a Republican), talking to a town resident who is concerned about the propane tanks being taken to a storage area just inside the town limits (Is this important, the viewer will wonder? Watch on…). She thinks it might be terrorism, and that sparks Julia’s interest, until, that is, the Dome appears. When that monstrosity falls on The Mill, she forgets everything…including the husband who hasn’t been home lately and whom she thinks might be cheating on her or has run away.
Second Selectman James “Big Jim” Rennie (played by fan-favorite and SAG Award nominated actor Dean Norris from the TV show Breaking Bad) is having breakfast in the Sweet Briar Rose Diner when the Dome falls. The head honcho of the town, (despite only being Second Selectman, a move that was cunningly political), and he immediately takes charge over Police Chief Howard “Duke” Perkins (played by Jeff Fahey from One Life To Live and, more recently, Lost), announcing from The Mill’s local radio station that there was an emergency and no one was to drive towards the town lines. You briefly see the DJ Phil “Chef” Bushey (played by Nicholas Strong from Nashville; more on him as the series goes on) and a radio station employee. An exchange between Rennie and Perkins suggests that Rennie has something to hide and that Perkins has a hand in it.
Then cut to a young couple in bed, the couple being Junior Rennie (Big Jim’s son, played by Alexander Koch from short films and the TV series Underemployed) and his girlfriend Angie, who is a candy striper at the small hospital in town. When she finds out Junior quit college–his “one way ticket out of this town”–she argues with him and he slaps her. Later, he sees Angie talking to Barbie, a man he dislikes just because, and decides to try an assassination attempt on the ex-Army vet that goes horribly wrong when a car with a sick teen girl appears (more on that in a minute) and Barbie and Angie try to help her. Instead of hurting Barbie, Junior instead takes Angie and knocks her unconscious and locks her into the fallout shelter behind his father’s house, without anyone knowing.
Barbie has nowhere to stay, so Julia invites him to stay with her, it would be “no trouble”. There she tells him about her missing husband and shows him a picture, making him flashback to the man he buried in the woods, Peter Shumway (played by R. Keith Harris, whom fans will know from numerous small parts in movies, shorts and TV series, including One Tree Hill and Revenge), which is a shocking moment in the show.
Some of the most important characters are sick or dead in this episode, including Chief Perkins, whose pacemaker explodes when he gets too close to the Dome (who makes many waves post-mortem if this TV show goes how the story went), the young girl in the car, Norrie Calvert (played by Mackenzie Lintz from The Hunger Games), who had a seizure when her parents’ car got too close to the Dome. Also, Joe McClatchey (Colin Ford from the film We Bought A Zoo and Supernatural fans will know his as “Young Sam Winchester” from the popular CW TV show), a middle school student who becomes a big part in the story, has a seizure when he and his friend Ben (John Elvis, a young up-and-comer) get too close to the strange object.
As many of you might know, I usually do book reviews here on DarkMedia, so I am trying to put away my urges for comparing the show to the novel in this review/overview. The acting was well, I was unsure of a Twilightactress being in it, but I thought Lefevre made a great Julia and Vogel was a nearly-perfect Barbie. They unfortunately didn’t give Big Jim a lot of scenes to showcase what kind of actor Norris will be, but I have high hopes from his previous accomplishments. All in all, I’d definitely say that this is a show worth watching, even though the first episode started out a bit confusing for those who may not know the story from the novel and also, it was a bit slow for a first episode. I wouldn’t despair just yet and give it a chance if I were you.
The effects were hit-or-miss, as I said. The halved cow wasn’t great, nor was the woman’s severed hand after the Dome fell (she became the third casualty from the Dome), but the plane crash actually made me jump a little even though I knew it was going to happen, and the barn that was cut down the middle was quite realistic. Director Jack Bender (Lost, Child’s Play 3 and Alcatraz are a few of his directorial feats) did a good job, not great, I think, but definitely notable. We’ll have to see where the next twelve episodes take us.
I do believe that this might rival certain other series as being the breakout new hit of the summer for sure. I like that there is a lesbian couple raising a child (Norrie) without their making a big deal out of it as other shows are wont to do. It just is, and I like how they did that. Same-sex couples aren’t something to exclaim over, it says, they are a part of society just like anyone else.
Keep in mind that this story is part science-fiction and part political satire, so be on the lookout in the future for things that fit those two genres. Mr. King and Brian K. Vaughan wrote a great series based on Mr. King’s novel and I think you will all enjoy it…