Thursday, July 17, 2014

Under the Dome Review: "Force Majeure" - The Stupid [and the Rain]! It Burns!

Do you remember when this happened? Because "Under the Dome" doesn't.

Dear Readers,

I’m sorry.  In part, I’m sorry that this review is coming to you two days late.  The truth is I didn’t want to write this piece because I think I’m at my wits’ end with Under the Dome.  You see, dear readers, Under the Dome thinks that we are stupid; not just a little bit stupid, but colossally, astoundingly stupid.  That’s the only explanation I can come up with to explain the first three episodes of this season. 

The Dome writers think we’re too dumb to realize that the water cycle does not work in such a way that you can spray the local lake with a magical maguffin and instantly turn acid rain clean.  They think we’re so oblivious that we wouldn’t notice the magical “wormhole” granting internet access provides only one barely relevant plot detail and really just serves as a five minute commercial for Windows tablets.*  They think we’ll blindly accept the idea that a school, any school, would keep an entire roster of every student who has ever used a locker going back more than thirty years – and to accept that that roster would be in a hardbound book, not in an Excel spreadsheet. 

* If that wormhole and internet access do not periodically return throughout this season, the third episode of this season will go down as the single worst instance of product placement in the history of television.

The writers believe our memories so short that we won’t remember anything from last season, like how Junior imprisoned Angie and is kind of a nutball, or the number of people Big Jim killed, or the fact that people were running out of propane in the season finale.  None of that has been present in the first three episodes of this season.  Junior is just one of the guys, and a deputy to boot!*  Big Jim is still apparently a citizen leader, despite trying to frame and execute an innocent man all of two days ago.  And while the dreaded conversation over “resources” is happening, nobody outside the core group is complaining anymore.  That’s not even getting into the fact that Sheriff Linda died in the season premiere and nobody but Melanie, the undead mystery lake girl, has bothered to notice.

* “Hey Junior, how do you become a Sheriff’s deputy in Chester’s Mill?”  “Oh, you just need to be the kidnapper son of the murderous city councilman.”

Look, I get that this is a television show, and a science fiction television show at that, so a certain amount of narrative forgiveness is necessary, but this show insults my intelligence.  I’ve watched bad TV before.  I watched every episode of Smash, twice, for Christ’s sake.  But Under the Dome is a show that expects me to forget everything I’ve seen before so that they can do what they need to do, whether that’s turning a bad guy good or just airing a Microsoft commercial (complete with “the tablet’s working perfectly but the internet’s gone” lines). 

The frustrating part is that for as terrible as Dome is, it still presents some interesting ideas.  Monday night, we got the beginning of a potential religious war between Julia, who believes the dome is there to save everybody; Lyle, who believes the dome will only save “true believers;” and Rebecca, who uses the logic and rationality of science to cover her blatant self-preservation.  She’s obviously fine with culling the herd because she believes she’ll be safe from the culling. 

But these interesting ideas are hidden by an ever-increasing bundle of mysteries that never get answered.  The egg? Forgotten.  The butterflies and the Monarch? Dead and forgotten.  The speech given by whatever entity inhabited Norrie’s mom’s body?  Forgotten.  The fact that Julia was shot just a few days ago?  Forgotten.  In their place we get creepy Lyle, enigmatic Sam, and Junior’s mom’s entreaty to trust nobody.  The show keeps piling mystery on top of mystery as though that can take the place of actual storytelling.

I really don’t know what to do with this show.  It’s capable of introducing intriguing ideas but is as likely to dump them as explore them.  It’s also a series that must think its audience to be complete morons.  I don’t want to keep watching, but the truth is that I’m a bit of an OCD completionist when it comes to television.  I’ve only given up completely on two shows in my memory: Entourage and Nip/Tuck.  I’ll probably keep watching, but can’t recommend that anybody else do the same.  At this point Under the Dome is all hope and no substance.

Tyler Williams is a professional librarian and an amateur television critic.  You can reach him at TyTalksTV AT gmail DOT com or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

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