I knew this series would be great if they did it right.
For the Under The Dome “Pilot,” at least, they did it right. And then some!
As in the best of science fiction, we have an overall alien (?) mystery in the background (the Dome, which just seems to drop from the sky, bisecting a cow, a barn and causing planes and crows – always crows with Stephen King – to fall from the sky), we have a more human mystery “around town” (the hording, it seems, of propane, which makes it seem like someone high up knew there was going to be separation from the rest of the outside world perhaps), and literally a ton of human dramas, any one of which could launch a new series.
It is to their credit that the writers and producers are able to introduce all these separate elements – including a suspected murderer as the hero/protagonist – and still give each one their time in the spotlight so we know who is who (in face if not by name) and what their motivations are.
Mike Vogel of Cloverland and Bates Motel is our possible murderer, a guy who just wants to flee but winds up saving a kid from a plane crash as the Dome drops. (The guy he has just buried turns out to be the husband of a lady journalist played by Rachelle Lefevre, who by episode’s end is kind of Vogel’s partner-in-crime.)
Law and order in the small town (most law enforcers and firefighters are off at another city’s parade) is being held together by Lost alum Jeff Fahey, a sheriff with a bad ticker, and his deputy, Natalie Martinez, who is in love with a fireman on the Dome’s exterior. And then there is Breaking Bad star Dean Norris, who in reality is a car salesman but who apparently is now the highest ranking official in the city (a town councilman) and is taking every advantage of that. Both he and the sheriff seem to know something about the hording of the propane … but they ain’t tellin’!
One of the tragic figures in the piece is played by Britt Robertson, a small town girl who, like Dorothy Gale of Kansas, wants to be anyplace but home. Not only is she imprisoned by the Dome, she also becomes imprisoned in a fallout shelter by her nutsy, possessive boyfriend since kindergarten played by Alexander Koch (ironically, the councilman's son). Trapped twice, the real human drama.
A few minutes after the Dome falls and he is rescued, both the kid saved from the plane crash and another girl whose mother’s car almost crashed into the Dome begin having seizures and mumbling about an alignment of pink stars. What should we read into that? Faithful Lost and Twin Peaks viewers may say, nothing at all.
As you can see, there is quite a lot of human drama to wrap your imagination around, and that does not even start to answer the unasked questions surrounding the Dome: Where is it from? What is its purpose? Who is behind it? Can you excavate under it?
At least one question is answered as we hear briefly government communications as men in HAZMAT suits and U.S. soldiers arrive on the scene. It seems this occurrence is unique to smalltown Chester’s Mill and other Domes have not, at least yet, appeared around the world as invading spacecraft did in War of the Worlds.
A simple summer series this is not, and may return summer after summer, I was told in an exclusive
The big questions is, will this complex sci-fi drama hold its audience captive?
“Under the Dome” airs on CBS Mondays at 8 ET.