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Under The Dome 1.03 Manhunt REVIEW

TV REVIEW Going underground

Under The Dome 1.03 “Manhunt” TV REVIEW

Episode 1.03
Writer: Adam Stein
Director: Paul Edwards

THE ONE WHERE Angie sends Junior to investigate a possible escape route and Julia follows him. Meanwhile, Deputy Gun Nut escapes and Big Jim and Barbie lead the posse searching for him. Elsewhere in town, the Teen Scientist Squad discover what happens when you massively overload a generator and for some reas on, someone doing Stifler cosplay crashes the party.

VERDICT The good news is that Reverend Coggins manages to not set anything alight this week. The better news is, whilst there’s not a whole lot going on this episode, there’s a lot of really fun character stuff. And also Diet Stifler, but we’ll get to that.

First off, the central dynamic here is really smart. The episode takes the burgeoning Lois Lane/Terrifying Special Forces Operator partnership of Julia and Barbie and basically stands on its neck until it passes out. Barbie spends almost the entire episode with Big Jim, Julia spends almost the entire episode with Junior and we come away with a better understanding of all four.

The Barbie and Jim show is all about who gets to be the biggest Alpha Male. The relationship between the two men is fascinating; Jim constantly pushing both himself and Barbie towards the end of the narrative that will put him on top. In contrast, Barbie wants absolutely nothing to do with Jim, the town or the manhunt. Barbie’s constantly falling back, Jim’s constantly pushing forwards and the antagonism between the two ends up being balanced with something very close to friendship. There are nice moments in the episode where both men call their partner on the ridiculous self-image he has and we end up learning a lot about both of them. Barbie is deeply unhappy with the skills and experience he has, whilst Jim both envies them and wants to use them for his own ends. Barbie sees Jim as the tin pot dictator wannabe he is and Jim cheerfully admits to it. The two men are the biggest threat to each other in town and yet Jim invites Barbie for a drink at the end of the episode. He does this, I suspect, because Barbie is also the only other person in town who understands Jim. Plus, both men recognise that if they work together they’ll be safer for longer and the inevitable confrontation may not go all the way to hell.

Meanwhile, over on the other side of the train to This Will Almost Certainly End Badlyville, Julia and Junior spend some quality time together. Julia’s straight-ahead, kick-the-door-in-and-apologise-later attitude is spotlighted here and we find out a lot more about her. The idea of her being a former big city journalist makes a lot of sense. Likewise, the fact that she’s screwed up, owned her mistake and vowed to never do it again is a laudable character trait and one which puts her in an interesting position with Barbie. Julia’s taken the hit from her mistake and rebuilt her life. Barbie seems to still be running from his mistakes. When they catch up, the results look set to be distinctly unpretty.

It’s Junior whose the real stand-out from this plot though. Alexander Koch impressed me from the get go but he’s given some great stuff to play with here. Junior’s tantrum, and panic attack, when he finds the Dome extends into the steam tunnels is particularly interesting. It’s written, and played, like the fact that Junior is restricted in his movements is the real reason he’s angry. The Dome controls him in a way not even his father can’t and Junior’s worst behaviour comes to the fore when people tell him what he can’t do. Building on that, Julia’s honest, compassionate approach to him is the first one of its kind we’ve seen so far and pays off. He’s a powerful ally, just like his father and just as dangerous too. For now though, Julia seems favoured above almost everyone else and there are two really interesting moments I suspect will pay off later. The first is that he’s shown no romantic interest in Julia, because he clearly loves Angie, albeit in a deeply disturbing way. The second is his request she call him James. That’s an immense mark of trust and seems to cement their alliance in a way the Axis of Barbie/Jim doesn’t manage.

These two relationships are the most interesting ones this week by a mile but there’s good stuff elsewhere. Linda’s journey from Deputy to Sherriff is especially nicely handled and leads to the best image of the episode (see below). It’s also very notable that Barbie and Jim, the two traditional male leads of the show are so busy posturing they almost get killed. Linda saves them, in doing so establishing herself as a power in the town and Jim rewards for her it. The power dynamic there is as complex and chewy and fun as any other on the show and the scene with Linda taking the nametags off the police lockers is especially well played.

Unfortunately, it’s the Teen Scientist Squad’s turn to carry the clunky plot this week. The fun idea of them mapping the Dome is put on hold for an initially interesting look at the first group to really feel the impact of the Dome; the teenagers. Joe suddenly becoming one of the most popular kids in town because he has a generator is a nice touch, but Benny spontaneously dropping 50 IQ points and inviting everyone over just feels clunky. Also, given that they live in a small town where petrol driven generators are clearly necessary from time to time, Joe having the only one seems very odd.

Then Stifler turns up. He’s called Carter but he’s very clearly a member of the Stifler family. He shows up, spouts dudebro dialogue about sleeping with Joe’s sister (and Joe really should be figuring out she’s missing soon, surely?) and sets up a power racket. Unsurprisingly he’s thrown out in ten minutes. Depressingly, he informs us that he’ll extract revenge on Joe on the way out.

It’s entirely possible Carter will become a fun interesting character. It’s equally possible that he’ll be much better written the next time he shows up. Let’s hope so because right now he’s one line of dialogue from slipping a laxative into Joe’s mochachino.

The plot at Joe’s house feels mechanical and it’s only at the end of the episode you find out why. Joe and Norrie touch, there’s a brief buzz of electricity and they both collapse, reciting the same line over and over. It’s a nicely handled, chilling moment but it comes at the end of a very dull plot.

“Manhunt” has some great character work in it and does a lot to set up where the rest of the season goes. Not all of it works, but hopefully now Teen Scientist Squad have been given the next bit of the plot the pace will continue to pick up. Not bad, but still working on getting back to the level set by the pilot.

BEST LINES

“I miss texting.”
“…It’s been like a day and a half.” Benny, voice of reason

“You’re a real run-towards-the-fire kind of girl aren’t you?”
“I’m a journalist.” Why Julia kicks ass, an ongoing series.

“Nine years it’s been since your mother died, and it’s like you’re still hiding behind her skirt.” I would take an entire episode of Dean Norris and Alexander Koch acting at one another. Norris is so damn good and the offhand spite he bites this line out with is horrible and great.

“Key to a civilised society is a well-informed public.”
“That and indoor plumbing.” I’d also happily take a full episode of Julia, Dodee and Phil doing journalist things whilst the rest of the town panics. Nice to see that team-up I was hoping for last episode start to materialise.

“Dude, it’s the apocalypse! Advisories don’t apply!” That’s better, Benny. You were worrying me for a second with the thinking and the sensibleness.

“What does that tell you?”
“It tells me being on your team could be hazardous to my health.” I love this scene because Jim throws the two traditional male bonding hooks at Barbie (WAR! SPORTS! SPORTS WAR! WAR SPORTS!) and they both just bounce off. Barbie’s an outsider not just because he doesn’t live in Chester’s Mill but because Jim can’t manipulate him, yet.

DOMETALITY OF THE WEEK A torch. Clearly the Dome is lulling us into a false sense of security…

BEST IMAGE Linda, wearing Duke’s hat, asleep in the cell he slept in is the smartest piece of visual storytelling this show has done to date. She’s accepted the job, she’s trying and succeeding in filling his shoes and she’s right where he was; stuck in the middle.

SMARTEST MOMENT It’s actually another visual, and one they sort of bury beyond the back of Junior’s head which is a real shame. The sunset, and the clouds circling the Dome is lovely, and a very clever piece of design. Next time, hopefully, we’ll see more of it.

IT’S WOSSISNAME! Who’s that old, racist gentleman? Why it’s Ollie, played by Leon Rippy! Rippy is yet another of that cadre of elite character actors this show is hoovering up. This isn’t his first Steven King either, with an appearance in Maximum Overdrive on his CV. Also on there are Moon 44 , Kuffs , Stargate , Universal Soldier , The Thirteenth Floor , Eight-Legged Freaks and Saving Grace (in which he played the Earl The Angel). There are at least five of my favourite movies on that list to say nothing of my abiding love for Saving Grace . I’m really pleased to see Rippy show up here and hope we see more of him, he’s always good value.

Carter is played by Andrew Vogel. I have no idea if he’s a relative of Mike (I checked but the results were inconclusive). Vogel’s got a lot of credits but nothing that’ll quite ring any bells with a genre audience. Mystery Diners sounds interesting though.

ANSWERED QUESTIONS
• Does it extend all the way under the town as well? Sure looks like it.
• What’s going on with the Propane? What did Jim mean when he referenced the “product” Reverend Coggins was high on? It’s starting to look more and more like the propane’s being used in the production of mass amounts of drugs. The references last week and this to Reverend Coggins being high on their “stash” seem to bear that out. Also, if it turns out to be meth, given Dean Norris’ role on Breaking Bad then the show just got a whole lot more metatextual.
• Why was Duke’s pacemaker apparently yanked from his body by the dome? The Dome seems to have drastic effects on anything electrical that gets near it, judging by Junior’s flashlight.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
• What is the Dome?
• Is it alien?
• How did the Army get there so (relatively) fast?
• 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?
• Has Junior actually killed anyone, or would he just really like to?
• When will Angie be missed?
• 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 effected because he’d begun speculating about the Dome’s power source?
• Is it just me or do Barbie’s dog tags look like they’ve stopped a bullet?
• Just what did Barbie do in the armed forces?
• Why does he have a specific location circled on a map of the town?
• Why did he not perhaps think to hide that map somewhere a little less easy to find?
• How far down does the Dome go? Is it a sphere?
• Who’s left in the town police force?
• What happened to Junior’s mom?
• How did it affect him?

Alasdair Stuart

Under The Dome is currently airing in the UK on Channel 5, Mondays 10pm
Read our reviews of previous Under The Dome episodes

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