Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Under the Dome Season Finale Review: "Curtains" - The Art of the Cliffhanger

Don't worry, the dome gets better.  "Under the Dome"?  Not so much.

Dear television writers,

Writing cliffhangers, especially season-ending cliffhangers, is hard.  It’s more of an art than a science.  There aren’t really any rules about what makes a good cliffhanger.  You can go for the “shock” cliffhanger: Buffy dies, Juliet sets off a nuclear bomb.  You can go for the “emotional” cliffhanger: Buffy leaves for Los Angeles, Hank and Britt sit at a stoplight deciding whether to send Britt to jail or flee to Mexico.  You can go for the “part one” cliffhanger, where the finale is clearly just the first part of a two part episode: Pretty much every CSI cliffhanger ever.  Then there are the “previews” where we get a brief glimpse into the next storylines: Locke opens the hatch and the Others sink the raft, “You’ve been missing for almost two years.”

The one way, though, to never, ever, end a season of television is the “Curtains” approach, in which the curtain falls on the stage before the act is over.  Want to show us two minutes of the next season?  Fine.  Want to end the episode two minutes before its natural conclusion?  Wrong.  And that’s exactly what Under the Dome did last night.  No explanations, a lot of suppositions, and a failure to resolve any plot lines.  Sure, the dome changes from black to glowing white, but does that really change anything or is it more shuffling of the deck chairs on the Titanic?  Barbie ends up on the gallows, but does anybody really think he’s going to die?  And everything involving the egg and pink stars is such utter gibberish that the machinations involved are rendered utterly meaningless.  So the kids open the mini-dome and Julia picks up the egg and everybody thinks she’s Monarch (no real idea why) and she drops the egg in the water and pink stars come out and the dome changes from black to white.  But who the hell cares?  That’s not plot.  That’s not a story.  That’s just machinery at work.  It’s just a conveyor belt moving us from Point A to Point B because the writers want to get to Point B and they can’t figure out how to get the characters there on their own. 

It doesn’t matter that every single person in town seems to have become a tremendous moron overnight.  Once Junior captures Barbie, shouldn’t Julia’s first priority be getting to town to clear Barbie’s name?  Nope.  She takes a boat into the middle of the lake because apparently “protecting the egg” means dropping it into a large body of water.  It’s pure coincidence that anything else happens afterward.  Also, apparently some people in town have already run out of propane, which, didn’t Jim just make a deal for propane like a week ago?  Isn't propane the one thing this town has in absolute abundance?  What the hell are these people doing that they’re constantly burning through propane in the middle of the summer?  And people are only now getting worried about their future and turning to God?  I would have been at church day one if a damn dome came down over my town.  I know I’m asking a lot of questions here, but it’s because I don’t understand any of the characters in this show.  They vacillate so quickly between emotions but it’s all because they’re only there to service what the writers want.  The characters have no real motivations of their own.

I shouldn’t end without saying that we do get some hints as to who is behind the dome and what it’s for.  There’s a “we” and the dome is there to protect the town from something.  But of course the entity giving us answers, Norrie’s Ghostmom, disappears before we get to anything interesting.  It’s just more spinning out of a story that really has no meaning or purpose at this point.

So another summer show ends its season with a dull thud.  It’s disappointing because I really thought the penultimate episode showed some signs of life.  But there’s still no real indication that the writers have any idea what they’re doing.  Under the Dome will be back next summer and, let’s face it, I probably will be too.  But it will be with far less enthusiasm.

So thoughts?  Comments?  Just want to tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV

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