Monday nights have become lesbian paradise on television, and last night welcomed two new ladies into the mix in Under the Dome, the big-budget series based on the Stephen King book of the same name. I haven’t actually read the book, since I read The Stand and the entire Dark Tower series earlier this year, but if you have, please keep the comment section a spoiler-free zone.
Right from the get-go, we know that—even without the presence of an invisible force-field—all is not right in the town of Chester’s Mill. The first character we meet is a conspicuously handsome man, busy burying the body of another, less-handsome man in the woods. Obviously, as first impressions go, this one isn’t great, but the body-burying guy has a serious case of Good Guy Face and goes by “Barbie,” so I bet he’ll turn into our tortured hero/romantic lead.
Next we run into local town council member “Big Jim” Rennie, played by the formidable Dean Norris. Right off the bat, we know he’s an ambiguous character. For one thing, he just so happens to be staying in town on the day when the entire rest of the council are leaving. For another, he leaves the waitress a ninety dollar tip on his breakfast. An act of charity for a struggling small business owner or a down payment on loyalty?
The following scene is even more concerning. A young couple, Junior and Angie, are having sex. Well, for Angie it’s just sex; for Junior their souls are riding unicorns into heaven. When he says he loves her and has dropped out of college to be with her, she’s alarmed, and when he grabs her by the wrist, so am I.
On the outskirts of town, the local hoarder, Hoyt’s mom, is calling in a tip to local hair goddess/newspaper editor, Julia. Apparently, there have been an alarmingly high number of propane deliveries to the nearby municipal building. A less perfect person might not take the word of a woman like this, but Julia promises to investigate, making her My Favorite.
Back to Barbie (who was also Dean from Pan-Am!), who is trying to escape the scene of his crime, when he nearly runs into a couple of stray cows.
He swerves into a field, when something very curious happens. The camera ground begins to shake, and the Dome descends. You can tell because it slices a cow clean in half, which apparently grossed out most of America, but just looked like soulless CGI to me. Here’s what we learn about the Dome in the first few minutes:
1. The first time you touch it, it administers a mild electric shock, but after that you can fingerpaint on it if you want.
2. You can see but not hear things going on on the other side.
3. It totally covers the town, meaning that planes, birds, and radio waves are all trapped inside.
4. Both the sheriff and Big Jim totally have something to do with it.
In the middle of town, a two-mom family is just passing through on their way to take their wayward daughter to Punishment Camp. Obviously they’re struggling with some dysfunction, but it seems like both ladies (Aisha Hinds and Samantha Mathis) have their hearts in the right place.
They very nearly collide into the dome, but are screech to a halt just in time.Their daughter, Norrie, then has a seizure in which she mumbles about “falling stars.” They rush her to the hospital, where most of the rest of the town has already congregated, since no one seems to have figured out that head-butting the Dome is not a viable escape plan. Barbie is there along with Angie, who makes a rather heavy-handed fishbowl analogy. Junior spies on them and assumes that this conversation means that Angie and Barbie must be fooling around.
That night, Big Jim and the Sheriff face off.
While they growl at each other, Julia offers Barbie a place to stay for the night. Once inside Barbie spots a picture of Julia’s missing husband. She thinks he’s missing because he’s holed up with another lady, but Barbie knows he’s missing because he’s in the hole Barbie dug for him. Julia’s husband is the guy Barbie killed, is what I’m saying.
Meanwhile, a young whippersnapper named Joe (Angie’s brother, also) is launching his very own investigation into the Dome. He has the rather bright idea that whatever is powering the Dome must be inside it, but before he can expand on this theory, he suffers a fit exactly like Norrie’s.
He’s so busy foaming at the mouth that he’s not around to help his sister when Junior the psychopath kidnaps her and locks her in his father’s bomb shelter. His father is Big Jim, of course, and his cousin is almost certainly Cousin Nate.
The next day, the Sheriff is about to reveal his SECRET MYSTERY STUFF to Linda, his (hot) deputy, but right in the middle of the sentence, HIS PACEMAKER EXPLODES OUT OF HIS CHEST.
So. Under the Dome combines a post-apocalyptic microcosm of society with a sci-fi mystery, with very successful results (13 million viewers for the pilot). But the pilot really just set the stage and showed off some very expensive special effects. What makes shows like this great (or not) are the questions they can pose about society. Specifically, which parts of it break down in the event of a crisis like this one? Are you going to stick around to see what the answers are? And also, of course, to see ladies giving each other insulin shots?