Under the Dome Season 1 Finale Review “Curtains”

It’s hard to imagine all the promise that was there at the start of the series.

In a ludicrous and incredibly sloppy hour, Under the Dome ended its first season in astonishingly maddening fashion. In late June, the show debuted to insane numbers and a really interesting hook. That opening hour was full of stunning visuals and some interesting acting choices being made by Mike Vogel and Dean Norris. Unfortunately, subsequent episodes showed the holes in the show. Those holes on grew larger as the show ran across the stiff breeze that is making episodic television.

What’s left behind is struggling teenage actors, a shaky plot, and scene execution that makes the show seem like it doesn’t know what happened five minutes before a scene. There was clearly a large effort made to make the mini-dome storyline as compelling as possible, but the storyline fell flat time and again as the actors in charge of the scenes didn’t have the necessary chops to make them go. I mentioned this point in this space before, but how the producers can watch the dailies of these kids working on not suggest a change in direction leaves me scratching my head.

So much of the finale just doesn’t work well for a television show with designs on a second season. The new sheriff is grossly incompetent. The town councilman basically instituted martial law and no one seemed to mind. (Frankly, the denizens of Chester’s Mill don’t seem to mind much of anything.) The dome itself has been continually on the downswing. It killed a man with his own pacemaker and bisected a cow in the premiere. Now, it’s content to change colors like a woman searching for a new hairstyle. Almost none of it works as presently constructed. I would be fascinated to sit in the show’s writers’ room in the lead up to season 2. In order for this show to be a viable series, many changes are necessary. None of the problematic storylines or characters are off the show. If anything, the show appears to be doubling down on its most problematic character (Junior) while continuing the story of someone who’s story was clearly at an end (Big Jim).

While I don’t think Big Jim should be returning for season 2, the fact remains Dean Norris is welcome on any television screen he wants to be on. I appreciate his commitment to the role, and the extra gleam in his eye when he gets a juicy speech or a particularly cold-blooded murder scene. After seeing what the show has become over the first 13 episodes, CBS would be wise to make sure Norris gets locked in for subsequent seasons. He can have a few scenes where he bails out a particularly bad scene or carries overmatched actors through difficult scenes. His diverse skill set has been across our TV dial this summer, and his current heat level would make it hard for Under the Dome to get rid of him. I’m not normally a fan of keeping around a compelling actor and sacrificing plot, but the sacrifice isn’t that great. Not everyone is Dean Norris. After 13 episodes, that’s really the only thing worth mentioning.