I almost forgot to watch Under the Dome this week. That has never happened for any show I’ve been reviewing before, not even in the hectic flurry of the Fall TV season. I bring this up because it illustrates one of Under the Dome‘s biggest failures: it has never (after the pilot) created any sense that we might be missing something if we skip a week. There was a still a hope for awhile that the show would come into its own as it matured under its 13-episode mini-series structure — that is, until the news of a second season. However, in the end, “Let the Games Begin” turned out to be a great example of the series’ high and low points, and almost (almost) created a sense of interest again. Hit the jump for more.
As I’ve mentioned before, Under the Dome shares similarities with Lost in the way it balances building up the relationships among the characters versus the crazy mythology of its mystery object. On Lost, the kookiness of the island was always (sometimes to the consternation of a great many fans) second fiddle to the emotional issues being faced by the cast. That show still found a way, though, to make us care (in varying degrees) about that cast.
Under the Dome has a great mystery. It’s what the interest is all predicated on — what that dome is, why it has chosen certain people, and what it is looking to accomplish (at it seems to be sentient). But Under the Dome has been unable make viewers connect with its main characters in any interesting way. In past weeks the citizens have come under threats from outside and inside of the dome, but (besides Alice) have we ever really cared about their fate?
The random carnage and anti-climatic “killing people solves stuff” scenarios continued in “Let the Games Begin” with Maxine’s mother Agatha, who should have presumably played a more important role than holding Big Jim hostage for five minutes before spilling the beans about Barbie, losing her gun, and drowning. Worse yet, we also had to sit through that excruciating scene of Maxine’s underground lair just to get to the point where Barbie finally had to come clean to Julia. It should have been a watershed moment. Instead, Julia more or less shrugged, saw the big picture, and decided to keep her husband’s killer in her bed. The character moments just fall flat.
But what Under the Dome has done, perhaps unwittingly, is taken the least likable and most ill-conceived character — Junior — and made him almost interesting. His attempts at being the worst undercover cop ever aside, wasn’t him muttering “well that’s not suspicious at all” about the skeezy guy the funniest moment of the series yet? It’s a low bar, yes, but it’s certainly the most interesting thing he’s ever said. For once, someone in Chester’s Mill showed a little personality. By the end of the episode, Junior had established himself as an integral member of Seizure Club, and his wonder and vulnerability in that moment was almost moving. Good God! Has Under the Dome done something right? And it involved Junior??
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But for all of the grief I’ve given this show lately, I have to admit that “Let the Games Begin” actually had some decent moments to it. The balance of relationships to mythology though is still off, but of course, that’s the price paid for it being dragged out for at least another season. If the show really wants to retain viewers and not get completely ridiculous, it needs to open up the town more and introduce us to characters who are actually coping with being under the dome, and who aren’t going to get killed off within an episode.
Episode Rating: B
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Putting a blanket over the mini dome to hide it … great idea, guys.
— I do think it’s funny how bad that painting of Junior under the pink stars is. Sorry, Mama Renny (RIP).
— The director of this episode really loved Rachelle Lefevre (as well they should). How many close ups and lingering shots of her pretty face and hair did we get this week? Speaking of Rachelle, she gave a delightful interview to Buzzfeed this week.
— Doesn’t every series have at least one episode featuring bare knuckle boxing now?
— Chester’s Mill really is full of scumbags.
— I liked the twist where Barbie lost and Max still won just because everything else on this show is so predictable.
— “Let the Games Begin” had something good going for it before Linda said she gave Duke that Sheriff’s badge saying that’s where his heart was supposed to be (gag).
— Barbie was so handsome in this episode, I could hardly stand it — particularly when he was so sweet and vulnerable with Julia. I would watch that sex tape, folks, and I am not ashamed to admit it.
— “Chester’s Mill: the sharp teeth behind the friendly smile” – Agatha.
— Lessons learned: don’t stand up in a boat if you can’t swim
— Next Week: angry tornado egg, Julia in peril, and a mere three episodes left!