Under The Dome 1.05 “Blue On Blue” TV REVIEW
Writer: Brian K Vaughan (Which explains a lot about how good this episode’s script is)
Director: Jack Bender (Which explains a lot about how pretty this episode is)
THE ONE WHERE It’s much much better than every previous episode! Also there’s a kiss, a dance, an enormous explosion and lots of butterflies.
VERDICT After the leisurely pace of the first three episodes and the straight up tedium of the fourth, Under The Dome finally shows up for work this week. We get a nice healthy dose of answers, some more questions, character moments which actually work for once and some supreme intellectual badassery. Not before time either.
Joe and Norrie continue to be one of the best elements of the show and it was nice to spend a good chunk of time with them this week. The reveal on the Monarch butterflies was especially great; one of those beautiful, chilling, alien images that it looked like we were promised in the first episode. It’s also very interesting that this opens the episode and the blasted, post-MOAB wasteland surrounding Chester’s Mill closes it. Some nice direction from Jack Bender.
Even better, Joe finally noticed that Angie was missing! And Benny came back! Teen Science Squad reunited! Plus, the ridiculous amount of time Joe didn’t notice Angie was missing is nicely worked around by Visitor’s Day. The moment he sees she didn’t show for that (And where were their parents anyway?), he knows something’s wrong. It’s overdue but it’s nice to see this storyline finally put to bed. Also, Joe and Norrie kissing against the MOAB explosion continues the series’ proud, and accurate, conflation of teen hormones with inconceivable violence and destruction. Norrie even got to flounce off this episode too. Bless her.
Meanwhile, Angie and Big Jim have a pair of conversations. The first, where Jim leaves her chained up did make me call my TV interesting names. Thankfully, the second, where Jim releases her, was much more interesting. Angie’s more than served her time (And so have we – FOUR episodes!) in that damn basement and the reunion with Joe should be interesting to say the least.. Also, the flash cut from the Monarch cloud to Angie’s Monarch tattoo, whilst crass, neatly communicated that we should be paying attention to her. Even better, her confrontation with Junior was one of the episode’s genuinely pleasant surprises. Junior is being repositioned more as a victim of his past than a flat-out force for evil and Angie being the one thing to calm him down made for a sweet, and chilling, image in the closing montage.
Then there’s Big Jim, who had a very interesting week. Jim met two immovable forces; imminent death and the Reverend Doofus and his reactions to both were completely different. With the missile inbound, Jim put his ego to one side and pitched in. That single moment of human weakness, reaching out for Rose but not quite making eye contact was pitch perfect. Everyone gets scared in the face of the end, even Big Jim. He’s human, and vulnerable.
And he’s a killer. The murder of Reverend Doofus was fascinating because of how utterly calm he was. Top marks too for the silent shot outside the Dome of the Reverend, his ear filling with blood, sliding down to the ground and Jim calmly putting his watch back on. It’s a much better end than this walking stereotype deserved.
These scenes all stand out but the rest of the episode was pretty impressive too. The initial fake out of Visitor’s Day being this episode’s designed “event” was so well played it actually suckered me in. Under The Dome is very good at very average soap opera stuff and Norrie’s dad turning up looked like it was setting the tone. Oh sure, there was some fun stuff (Linda completely ignoring her own hazard tape was adorable, as was Dodee’s sign language chat with her mom) but it felt…safe. Normal. Restricted. Like the last four episodes.
Instead, we got a sucker punch and one spotted by the designated outsider, Barbie. So, in short order we got the event of the week, the set up for “Zone one painted” at the radio station, a bunch of character development and a ticking clock that was mostly done ticking. That’s more than any previous episode has managed.
Plus, it opened up some truly smart writing. Dodee’s reaction to the news (run and tell Jim) was perfect, as was the way the entire town mobilised and how little any of them thought it would work. It’s a magnificently double-edged sword when you think about it; drop the Dome and kill the town or the Dome’s still standing and everyone’s still trapped. The episode made excellent play of this, in a way I’ve not seen since the early episodes of Stargate: Universe . Plus, the closing montage managed to hit a tone that was equal parts sad, funny and bleak. The shot of Linda, laughing and crying because they were still alive but still trapped was especially good.
There were still problems, especially the farcically blatant product placement, but this was the first episode since the pilot that felt like it was actually going somewhere. No one left this episode the same as they came in and, with the halfway point of the season beckoning, Chester’s Mill may still be trapped but Under The Dome is finally going somewhere.
SWEETEST MOMENT Phil and Dodee (Dodee! They remembered she’s on the show! And gave her stuff to do!) dancing was completely sweet and wonderful.
“Were you at visitor’s day?”
“Yeah but pretty much everyone I like is stuck in here so I just talked to random strangers.” I would watch a Benny solo episode. I suspect it would be like the Dewey solo episodes of Malcolm In The Middle .
“Great, sounds like the grown-ups have it all under control.” Norrie capping off one of the best scenes in the episode. I’m still holding out for a, “Meanwhile, outside the Dome” episode. but it’s nice to at least get a sense of what’s going on out there.
“You know this guy?”
“No, my old unit’s kind of… famous.” And then we wonder what they did, and then we find out! And it fuels more questions! This episode was full of answers that were clever, unexpected and opened up more questions. It was great and Barbie “pulling rep” to find out what was going was especially great.
“Dodee, visitors day was not about saying hello to your families. It was about saying goodbye.” All he needed to do was put sunglasses on after this, and The Who would have kicked in and it would have been awesome.
“If we’re all going to die today, you might as well die a free woman.” Big Jim combining pragmatism, compassion and awfulness there.
“Maybe this is how I deserve to go. More friendly fire.” Calling it now, Barbie goes the Jack Sheperd route in the final couple of episodes.
“Keeps the folks mellow.” Much more Phil and Dodee please. Much, much more. They’re awesome.
“Can I say something to you, Phil?”
“Anything in the world.”
“I hate you.”
“I hate you too.” Just cute and real and adorable and lovely. Phil and Dodee are now tied with Teen Science Squad! for my favourite characters.
DOMETALITY OF THE WEEK Reverned Doofus’s death was better than anything he’d done up until that point. Good actor, awful character, good riddance.
BEST IMAGES There were actually a bunch this week (MOAB romance! Microsoft sponsored love! Dancing at the end of the world!) but two ultimately won out. Especially as they’re so clearly designed as bookends, the opening and closing images were amazing. The parade of colour of the Monarch butterflies resting on the Dome, contrasted with the barren, blasted landscape of the explosion was amazing.
SMARTEST MOMENT Barbie pulling rep to get the truth about was going on would have been impressive enough. The fact that doing it clearly traumatised him throws this into the top 2% of the show’s writing to date.
• Why was Duke’s pacemaker effected by the Dome? The Dome has massively destructive effects on anything electrical that goes near it. The safe distance seems to be 3-5 feet away.
• Just what did Barbie do in the armed forces? Barbie served with a unit called the Jackrabbits. They’re famous for having rescued a soldier captured by insurgents who murdered the rest of his unit. In reality, the Jackrabbits killed the other men in a friendly fire accident.
• Given that Reverend Doofus gave his cut back to Big Jim, who did they sell them to? Apparently drug dealers on the condition they didn’t sell anything in Chester’s Mill. Insert increasingly compelling Breaking Bad crossover joke here.
• What is the Dome?
• Is it alien?
• How did the Army get there so (relatively) fast?
• Who was he working for that led him to meet, fight, and be killed by Barbie?
• Has Junior actually killed anyone, or would he just really like to?
• What are the strange transmissions Dodee’s picking up?
• Why did Norrie and Joe both repeat the phrase, “The pink stars are falling in line”?
• Was Joe affected 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?
• 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?
• What happened to Junior’s mom?
• How did it affect him?
• Where are the drugs being kept?
• What’s controlling Joe and Norrie when they seize?
• Did Julia really see her husband or was she hallucinating?
• How bad are things in the outside world?
• Has anyone else freaked out aside from the Chinese government?
• How wide is the circle of destruction around the Dome now?
• Why were only Monarch butterflies attracted to it?
• Were the families told that this would be their only chance to say goodbye?
• Has the explosion altered the composition of the Dome at all?
• Will Big Jim’s murder of Reverend Doofus be discovered?
• What will the official story about the MOAB strike be?
• Under The Dome is currently airing in the UK on Channel 5, Mondays 10pm
• Read our reviews of previous Under The Dome episodes