Under the Dome Season 1 Review “The Fire”

Oh boy.

After a debut episode filled with explosions, bisected animals, and a cool conceit for a show, this week’s edition of Under the Dome was the version of the show I was scared was lurking underneath the engaging premiere.

For starters, we spent entirely too much time with the weakest part of the show: Big Jim’s son, Junior. I feel bad for the woman he’s keeping hostage as much for being chained to bed as for having been hired to scream for 13 episodes. He’s now tangibly attached to our lead, Barbie, but I’m not sure where that gets us. Barbie seems tied to so many other larger things going on in the town that this storyline seems like an empty digression. The show wants you to be invested in Junior’s demise, but mostly he’s just a nuisance to the other stories that could bare more fruit.

I’m further troubled by the actions of the townspeople in this episode. I was willing to overlook a lack of panic in episode one because we were chasing so many other things. This week, the townspeople just seem more bummed out than anything else. With it being only the second day trapped under an invisible barricade that killed their town sheriff and picked a plane out of the sky, I would expect people to be bit more panicked. Aside from the crazed cop who took out his partner with a ricochet, the people seem to be more perturbed than anything else.

I’m also concerned with the state of Mike Vogel’s character, Barbie. As the lead of the series, he should be more to us at this point than the stranger who rolled into town at the wrong time. He doesn’t seem to have his own storyline. For the most part, he’s just around when things start happening and seems happy to assist in throwing water on a dead guy’s porch. I know the scene of his crime is still in play, but it couldn’t seem more unimportant at the moment. If he’s going to be the lead of the series, the show has to give the viewers a reason to be invested in his success.

And that’s the main issue at play right now. Viewers haven’t been given someone to invest in for the next 11 episodes. Dean Norris is doing the quality work expected of him, but there is no bandwagon to jump on at the moment. Maybe that will change in the coming weeks, but it’s a real issue that has to be addressed. The dome doesn’t do enough on its own to be the central character, therefore the show will have to lean on its characters. That’s one of the major tentpoles of weekly television: A show has to give us people in a place we want to spend time in. Books can engage people on a different level, but in the world of moving pictures, people need characters to invest in.

It’s not time to turn away just yet. All of the interesting elements on display in the premiere are still there. Hopefully, this episode will serve as a typical early season blip. That said, this episode underscored how much work this show has to do before its potential is fully realized. It will definitely get the full 13 episodes to prove itself. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see if the people involved are up to the task.