Under the Dome – We’re All in This Together!

Under Dome

Under the Dome (CBS, Mondays, 10/9C) is based on the bestselling novel by Stephen King and is as odd, creepy and unnerving as you might expect from that pedigree. The premise of a town cut off from the rest of the world by a giant, invisible dome might not seem that bad, at first, but as the premiere progresses – and unlikely connections are made – it rapidly becomes something potentially terrifying.

The premiere opens with a series of stage-setting events: a baby bird hatching and its mother flying away; a man burying a body in a forest; all the town’s fire trucks heading off to the next town over for ‘the big game’; a young woman ending a summer fling and the boyfriend not taking it well.

When the man who buried the body spins out avoiding some cattle that have wandered onto the road, he watches as the ground begins to shake and a cow is split in half as something slams down. When he reaches out to touch it, he gets a shock – like static electricity – but then he can touch it at will.

Before long, events transpire (cars driving into the unseen wall; a plane crashing into it hundreds of feet in the air; birds falling from the sky with their necks broken from some kind of impact) that make the people of Chester’s Mill aware of their situation.

We are introduced to a lot of characters – James ‘Big Jim’ Rennie (Dean Norris, Breaking Bad), car dealership owner and town councilman; Howard ‘Duke” Perkins (Jeff Fahey, Lost), a man with a pacemaker but still good enough to be sheriff of a quiet small town; Linda (Natalie Martinez), Sheriff’s Deputy; candy-striper Angie McAlister (Britt Robertson, Life Unexpected), the girl breaking up with…; Junior (Alexander Koch), something of a psychopath; Julia Shumway (Rachel Lefevre, Twilight), the new editor of the town newspaper, and a host of others.

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Our mystery man from the teaser is Dale ‘Barbie’ Barbara (Mike Vogel), apparent hit man/murderer but otherwise, seemingly nice guy. He was, for obvious reasons, just passing through and is now stuck in Chester’s Mill.

It also becomes clear that sound doesn’t pass through the dome, either – though it seems that there might be one exception, but it’s kind of fleeting and very random.

Then there’s the mystery of the multitude of propane deliveries that is raised by an observant old lady to Julia – a mystery that deepens in the premiere’s closing moments. Could it have something to do with the situation? And what about Norrie (Mackenzie Lintz), the epileptic young woman, passing through town with her mother and another woman, who – during a seizure – says things about stars falling from the sky in lines – a statement echoed later, by a non-epileptic local boy during a similar seizure.

Although the first episode of Under the Dome doesn’t seem to be zipping past, there are so many characters and arcs being set up that it’s over almost before it begins. Most of the prominent characters are sketched in pretty deftly by a combination of writing, by Brian K. Vaughn (Y: The Last Man, Lost) and the performances of the cast. It’s a combination of characters and events that create tension under the direction of Nils Arden Oplev – the man who directed the original, Swedish adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Because of the way the premiere throws us right into the action and juggles so many arcs, it requires a certain amount of attention – maybe more than most summer shows – but it’s totally worth the effort. And the phrase ‘We’re all in this together’ has never sounded creepier.

Final Grade: A-

Photos courtesy of CBS