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Under The Dome 1.02 The Fire REVIEW

TV REVIEW What is this madness?

Under The Dome 1.02 “The Fire” TV REVIEW

Episode 1.02
Writer: Rick Cleveland
Director: Jack Bender

THE ONE WHERE News of Duke’s death reaches the town and Deputy Paul goes quite spectacularly crazy. Meanwhile, Big Jim dispatches a man who is clearly the single least competent criminal left in Chester’s Mill to Duke’s house to retrieve anything incriminating.

In very connected news: there’s a house fire this episode.

In other news: Junior and Angie continue to play chess with each other, Julia perpetuates the rivalry between print and broadcast journalism and Joe and Benny do science to the Dome.

VERDICT Hey look an opening narration! And they were as fond of the Dometality last week as we were! Hurrah!

Some very stupid things happen this episode as the show shifts gear from the usual frantic opening number most pilots have, into something a little more sustainable. It lacks subtlety in places, and is flat out bad in a couple of others. Let’s take a look at why.

Reverend Doofus’ magnificent life of crime is discussed further down but he’s actually just the tip of the iceberg of stupid. All the Propane Gang have moments this week where the Captain of their Brain Ship is very clearly asleep at the wheel. The difference is how they all deal with it.

Big Jim makes two mistakes this week which is two mistakes more than he normally allows himself. The first is being caught in Duke’s office and that? He just slides straight out of. Jim is rapidly becoming my favourite character, because Dean Norris balances his clear desperation with moments of real integrity. Plus, Jim is being written as convincingly flawed right now. The moment where he flags down the farmer in the mechanical digger is a perfect example. It doesn’t further his agenda at all but stopping the man digging does protect the town and that, when it comes down to it, seems to be all Jim wants.

It’s also the only reason his second mistake doesn’t get noticed. Showing up at Duke’s house before everyone else is just barely plausible, but with his incompetent lackey inside, it does not look good. The fact Jim covers it, first with the police scanner and secondly with using the digger to create a firebreak, is really smart. He both wants to help but he wants to be rewarded for it too, a man who believes his own hype and it’ll be really interesting to see how he evolves over the course of the show.

The other major mistake is Deputy Paul losing it. It makes sense in context, but pulling the trigger on the “WE’RE DOOMED! DOOOOOMED! STOCKPILE WEAPONS, BOTTLED WATER AND TAPES OF GLENN BECK!” approach in episode two is a little premature. If he’d started to lose it after, rather than before the fire, it wouldn’t stand out quite as much.

That’s the common factor between all the problems this episode. Reverend Coggins’ incompetent burglary and Deputy Gun Nut are both really smart ideas they’re just here way too early. The show’s endearing need to knock 50 points off the IQ of some characters as they have the plot explained to them is pretty clunky too, as is the, “We will discuss how this is a tight community whilst working a bucket chain” moment. On the other hand, the fact that they work the phrase “under the dome” into the dialogue twice is quite fun, especially as Phil, owner of the Butteriest Man Voice in Chester’s Mill gets to say it both times.

That’s the clunky stuff this week. The good stuff starts with Joe and Benny, who after a ropey start last week are great fun here. Joe’s smart, calm approach to what’s happened feels like one of the most realistic so far. He’s clever and engaged and I can’t help but wonder whether that’s why he had the seizure last week. Maybe the Dome likes him. Maybe he’s one of the only people who can work out what it is. Plus the imagery of the soldiers silently hosing water over the Dome and the boys’ later discovery of most of a victim are wonderfully cold, nasty images.

Joe’s intelligence is reflected in a lot of other characters too. Junior getting his ass handed to him by Barbie is a nice touch but Junior lying and telling Angie he killed Barbie is really clever. What nails it is the fact Angie sees past it and Junior knows she does. The complex, intimate war between them is shaping up to be fascinating, with Junior holding the power but Angie starting to control the game. Plus, top marks to the fight choreographer this episode for a couple of convincing, scrappy fight scenes especially the beating Junior gets handed.

Barbie almost has a good week. His MacGyver ed solution to the house fire is a really smart idea, as is the fact it doesn’t quite work. But his plausible lie about his dog tags, and Julia catching it, shows that the most competent guy in town can have an off day too.

Time and again, the good bits of this episode explore what people normally do in shows like this then forces them to pay the piper for their actions. Julia going all Freedom of the Press at the radio station is a nice way of establishing the overall premise. The fact it sends Deputy Gun Nut crazy doesn’t help and I find it interesting she’s not exactly thanked for breaking the news. That being said, I suspect she and the awesome duo that is Dodee and Phil will soon team up. Knowledge is power after all and the journalists in town have some knowledge and, together, a lot of power.

But ultimately the Dome renders everyone powerless. It’s why the ending of this episode is so good. In the middle of the cover version of the “live together, die alone” monologue, Deputy Gun Nut flips out, fires at the Dome and kills a colleague. The Dome defines their lives in every way and anyone who forgets that is doomed. Or, perhaps, Reverend Doofus. So, not as good as last week but we’re under way on the story now. Here’s to smoother gear changes in the future.

BEST LINES
“Buddy, Lewis had Clark. You got me.” Oh Benny, never change. Also top marks for his spray painted door on the Dome.

“Why is it engineers always act superior to DJs?”
“Because we’re smarter, Phil.” Phil and Dodee are adorable. Also, first rule of radio? Always look after your engineer. Because they are always smarter than you.

“I wouldn’t even bother. I mean, you could strip naked in front of these guys they still wouldn’t pay attention.”
“I tried that an hour ago they didn’t even blink.” Rachel Lefevre is developing a nice line in a dead-pan, Lois Lane-esque practicality as Julia. She and Barbie are a fun double act too aside from the whole… y’know, husband murdering… thing.

“Patience, Philip.” Two words and she establishes herself as the grown up in the conversation. Good job, Dodee.

“What If I’m trapped in here forever. I’ll never make out with Mila Kunis.”
“I don’t think this is the only thing stopping that from happening.” Much more of Joe and Benny, Teenage Scientists please. They’re great.

THE “WHY DO YOU NOT FALL DOWN MORE?” Award So Reverend Coggins carefully sneaks into Linda’s new house, ransacks it, finds the information he was looking for and sets fire to it. So far, so – relatively – competent.

He then drops the burning paper into what looks a lot like a plastic bin, brushes past it and knocks the bin against the wall so hard that not only does the fire spread to the curtains but it also temporarily seems to become CGI.

He then tries to bat it out. And fails.

He then throws the blazing cloth he’s been using to try and put the fire out onto a previously non-burning section of the room. And succeeds.

He then, somehow, manages to trap himself inside the burning home he’s burgled ensuring that Linda’s inheritance from the only father she ever cared about is ashes and Big Jim is very pissed at him.

*pinches nose*

Let’s hope he wasn’t the smart member of the gang.

THE “WE’RE JUST GOING TO CHALK THIS UP TO PRESSURE” MOMENT OF THE WEEK I love Linda, she’s fiercely competent, clearly decent to the core and is already one of the moral hearts of the show. So when she tells Deputy Gun Nut to “put that rifle down” and he’s very clearly holding a shotgun, She gets a pass. The scriptwriters on the other hand, get Hypnotoad.

DOMETALITY OF THE WEEK Deputy Freddy, by the Dome, via Dome ricochet from Deputy Gun Nut.

BEST IMAGE Benny spray painting a door on the Dome. Science!

SMARTEST MOMENT Barbie buying up cigarettes as currency is both smart and chilling. He suspects they’re going to be under there for a while and is planning accordingly.

IT’S WOSSNAME!

Ned Bellamy , as Reverend Coggins, really should be a supporting character in that Dean Norris/Jeff Fahey sitcom I was talking about last week. He’s appeared in Universal Soldier , Ed Wood , The Shawshank Redemption , Con Air , Saw , Charlie’s Angels , Tenacious D And The Pick Of Destiny , Twilight , Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles and Treme amongst lots of others.

John Knezevich as poor, doomed lovely Deputy Freddy was in Teen Wolf and played Jonathan Gilbert on T he Vampire Diaries . He’s also appeared in Drop Dead Diva , One Tree Hill and The Librarian III: Curse Of The Judas Chalice .

Kevin Sizemore , as Deputy Paul, has been in Without A Trace , The Middleman , Dollhouse , Rizzolie & Isles and played ‘Nasa Black Ops Technician’ in the 1969 sequences of Dark Of The Moon .

ANSWERED QUESTIONS
• Is the Dome man made? Oh hell no, judging by the panicked transmissions Dodee’s picking up.
• Who else knew about Big Jim’s Propane stocks? Reverend Coggins (at least).
• Is the Dome air tight? Nope, it’s slightly porous allowing water and air in.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
• What is the Dome?
• Is it alien?
• How did the Army get there so (relatively) fast?
• Does it extend all the way under the town as well?
• What was Doc Shumway really doing when he disappeared on all those Sundays?
• Who was he working for that led him to meet, fight, and be killed by Barbie?
• Who does Barbie work for?
• What’s going on with the Propane?
• Has Junior actually killed anyone, or would he just really like to?
• Won’t Angie be missed?
• Why was Duke’s pacemaker effected by the Dome?
• Why was Duke’s pacemaker apparently yanked from his body by the dome?
• What are the strange transmissions Dodee’s picking up?
• Why did Norrie and Joe both repeat the phrase, “The stars are falling in lines?”
• Was Joe affected because he’d begun speculating about the Dome’s power source?
• Why doesn’t Reverend Coggins fall down more?
• What did Jim mean when he referenced the “product” Reverend Coggins was high on?
• Is it just me or do Barbie’s dog tags look like they’ve stopped a bullet?

Alasdair Stuart

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