‘Under the Dome’ (Season 3): When the Dome Comes Crumbling Down

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Free at last! Yep, it may have taken three seasons to get there, but damned if that dastardly dome didn’t come crumbling down on the series finale of “Under the Dome.” So, as we now all know, the show will not be coming back, so did the final episode deliver the goods? Well, yes and no, if I’m being honest. Let’s take a look back at the best- and worst- the show had to offer over the years.

On the plus side, one of author Stephen King’s best qualities is his ability to make you feel like you know a character in mere pages. While it’s understandable that this quality might not always make the transition to the big screen well, where time is limited and it mostly comes down to quality casting, you’d think it would fare better on the small screen, even in a miniseries format, yet that’s not always the case.

With “Under the Dome,” they mostly got it right, thanks to solid casting and decent writing early on. While not every character was exactly like they were in the book, for the most part the changes made sense and were agreeable, even to King himself, who later not only appeared on the show in a wry cameo, but wrote the first episode of the second season.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and for me the biggie was Junior Rennie (Alexander Koch), aka Big Jim’s son. Yes, he was slightly more likable in the show than in the book- he’d almost have to be, given the kind of character he is there- but still, what was the point of keeping him around seemingly to redeem the character, only to have him turn bad yet again in this season, where at one point he actually tried to drown the entire town’s population of children in the lake? Real nice. On the plus side, he was finally killed off in the finale- by his own father, no less, which seems about right. After all, he was partially responsible for bringing him into the world.

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I also didn’t like the way the show offhandedly dismissed Angie (Britt Robertson). Yes, I know she dies in the book, too, but she was clearly posited as essential to the plotline after a certain point, only to be taken out almost immediately by King himself in the second season premiere. Not too cool, Steve. Yes, it was an attention grabber, but it also seemed like the show itself recognized that it needed to fill in the gap left by her by bringing in a new character, Melanie (Grace Victoria Cox) to replace her as one of the “four hands.”

Yet, even then, the show pulled a fast one, as Melanie turned evil out of nowhere and then was also summarily bumped off at the beginning of the third season to make way for yet another new character, Christine (Marg Helgenberger). On the plus side, in addition to being a solid add and much stronger, more formidable character than either Angie or Melanie, hiring that actress in particular was a welcome, sly nod to Helgenberger’s role in another series, “The Tommyknockers,” where she took on a similar role involving an alien takeover.

So, what does the show do then? Of course, they have to go ahead and bump her off as well, to make way for the other major new character, Eva (Kylie Bunbury), who later re-emerged as Dawn, aka Barbie’s daughter with Eva. Actually, technically it was Christine who bumped off Eva, only for Bunbury to return as the so-called alien “Queen” Dawn, who then returned the favor by taking out Christine. Granted, Dawn was only in charge for one episode, so it wasn’t so bad, but it was clear that the show intended to make her the Big Bad moving forward, had there been another season, which I’m gonna go ahead and say I’m kind of grateful there wasn’t if that was going to be the case.

Not that Bunbury was that terrible, mind you, I just wasn’t crazy about the “new” direction the show was looking to be heading in, so I think it’s just as well they ended there. I think us viewers- those of us who are left, that is- can do the math and figure out what might have happened next from there.

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That brings us to the bigger problem: the length of the show’s run. I don’t at all mind that they sustained the show for another season, but three was definitely pushing it, and I think that the show paid the price for that by not answering questions as soon as they should have. In prolonging the inevitable, the show ended up hemorrhaging viewers left and right, and by the end of this season, few were left watching at all.

Though I’ll allow that some of the answers we got were a little on the silly side, I think all of it would have been more effective if they’d bypassed a lot of the events of the second season altogether and delivered more of those answers that much more sooner. Instead of bringing in Melanie, for instance, they could have stuck with Angie, who was a stronger character anyway, and eliminated all that business with Melanie being related to Barbie and from the past and so forth altogether, which really led nowhere in the end, since, as aforementioned, she was unceremoniously bumped off almost immediately in the third season, anyway.

Then, in the beginning of the third season, they could have bumped off Angie and had it have a much stronger impact than we got with her being killed early on in the second, and made for a much stronger impact for the arrival of Christine to boot. But instead, the show pushed its luck and a lot of viewers abandoned ship in the process. By the time the show got around to actually answering all those questions people had, a lot of people had already abandoned ship, which is too bad, because, for the most part, I really enjoyed those answers.

Yeah, some of it was a little on the silly side, but we’re talking about a show about people trapped under what amounts to a giant snow globe, for Christ’s sake. You were expecting what? “St. Elsewhere” redux? A more serious version of “The Simpsons” movie? All things considered, I thought it was a decent enough explanation and I genuinely liked the way it tied into the other stuff from previous seasons, even if some of it was a bit on the ludicrous side.

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Besides, it’s not like King can say much about the way it ended, being as how longtime readers know he’s been known to screw that particular pooch on more than a few occasions over the course of his admittedly mostly impressive career. (On a side note, speaking of pooches that weren’t screwed up, can I just say that I did love that a dog went a long way towards saving the day on the last episode? Go, Indy! “The key to my heart,” indeed.)

That said, there was a lot to love about the show, even if it did overstay its welcome with viewers. Who can forget the much-repeated slicing-in-half of that poor cow? Or that moment when the “four hands” put their hands on the mini-dome and saw the pink stars for real, for the first time? Or the sight of the military trying to blow the dome to kingdom come, only to have their missiles explode on its surface like fireworks on the fourth of July? Or the faux Armageddon that erupted outside the dome? No doubt about it, there was some pretty cool moments on the show, particularly from an effects stand-point.

So, overall, I’d say it was a worthwhile journey. Though they paid the price for it, I also can’t say I blame the show-runners for trying to sustain the premise a little longer than they probably should have. It’s kind of their job to keep milking the cash cow, after all. But when all is said and done, I enjoyed the show for the most part, and I’m generally satisfied with the way it ended, at least before that silly last “twist,” which was really just one last stab at keeping the show alive, when you get down to it. (Though I was amused to see that Big Jim had become a Congressman!)

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What did you think of the final episode? Or the series as a whole? Did you like it better than the book? Or did you prefer the way things went down in King’s version? Do you think it would have been more successful as a limited-run miniseries or the like? Do you think it will have a lasting shelf life as a binge-watch? (I do, personally, where I think viewers will be much more forgiving of the more unruly padded-out material.) Who were your favorite characters? (I’d have to go with Barbie and Big Jim.) How about your least favorite? (I’d go with Junior and Sam, and maybe Eva.)

If you were in charge of the show, how would you have gone about ending it differently? Were you satisfied with the way the dome finally came down, or did you find it a bit anticlimactic? (I’d say it was ever-so-slightly rushed, probably to make time for that final “One year later” segment, but overall, reasonably satisfying. If I could change anything, it’d be that those under the dome would have had just a smidge more time to enjoy the dome coming down before the military came storming in, given what a big moment it was.)

Do you think the show would have found a way to make things work, had it moved forward? Or would it have been more of the same, in a way, only minus the whole dome factor?

Let me know what you thought down in the comments below, and thanks for reading my column over the last few years. Dome be a stranger! (Sorry, couldn’t resist one last dome pun. Sue me.)

See you on the other side!