Thursday, June 27, 2013

Under the Dome, Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

A nicely ominous thematic start – an egg hatching, a menacing bird, twilight, ominous music and a man digging a pit. A grave, actually, in which he dumps a hastily wrapped blood stained body of a man.

Well, that sets the tone.

In the police station, police woman Linda goes to collect police boss man Duke who is relaxing in one of the cells. Someone has reported a “bang”. Which they both agree is a most unhelpful description.

At Rose’s diner councillor Jim Rennie finishes up and grossly over-tips Rose – there’s an implication the diner is struggling.

And elsewhere, Angie and Junior Rennie have just finished having sex and he tells her he loves her (it doesn’t count in the afterglow, Angie). She thinks it’s been a fun summer (ouch Junior, she totally ducked that, ouch indeed). And he’s dropping out of college – Angie Does Not Approve. But look at the puppy dog eyes – he’s loved you forever and ever Angie! She says no and heads to work - he grabs her arm and she slaps his face. She leaves angry and the angsty ominous music plays

Ok, stop – murderer guy, Linda, Duke, Rose, Jim, Angie, Junior. That’s more than enough characters for the first episode. Stop now.

No such luck – next character is Julia, newspaper editor of the Independent, being all condescending to an older lady, Mrs. Grinnell, who awesomely puts her in place with a “I get my news online, like everyone else.” Ouch, well played, Mrs. Grinnell. She has a tip – someplace has just received 10 deliveries of propane in 2 weeks. Julia downplays Mrs. Grinnell’s fears of a bomb – but really, that’s pretty damn suspicious actually. She did call the police and Duke said it was fine. But he was nervous, Mrs. Grinnell has ever seen Duke nervous. So Julia agrees to dig

What, you downplay reports of 10 deliveries of propane as nothing – but a nervous policeman is cause to get involved? See, this is why online news is taking off, Julia.

Meanwhile bloke whose hiding a body does a very good job (dare I say, practiced job) of hiding the grave and driving off, hiding a cut on his eyebrow. He makes an angry phone call with someone about their man Smith, showing up and trying to “aggressively renegotiate”. Seeing Linda and Duke driving the other way towards him, he hangs up and readies his gun. They pass without stopping – though Linda takes down his numberplate. Murderer guy spends so long looking in the mirror at the departing police, he fails to see the cows in the middle of the road.

Yes, he doesn’t see a cow. He swerves off the road to avoid it (no hamburger today), miring his car in a field and puncturing one of the tyres. And he has no spare.

And then there’s an earthquake. It’s really not murderer guy’s day, is it? The earthquake hits the whole town. Lots of panic and alarm – and Duke seems to have a heart attack.

Near Murderer Guy, in the cow field, a line of explosions appears in front of him. One cow caught on the line is cut cleanly in half. Lengthways. The guy reaches his hand towards the clear line in front of him – and is shocked, he quickly pulls his hand away and accidentally drops it into half of the cow. Eww messy. Looking alone the line, everything has been cut in half – farm equipment, even a barn. He pushes against the line and is stopped by a barrier and it’s like a glass wall – he even smears his bloody handprint on it, the blood seeming to hang in the air. He’s joined by a teenager from one of the local houses who is equally baffled.

In the police car, Duke reassures Linda that his pacemaker just skipped a beat while I yell at the screen that they’ve got more important things to worry about. They get radio calls coming in of downed power lines and all the land lines being cut off.

What – all the land lines cut off? Cows being cut in 2 I could deal with. Being trapped I can deal with. I can even manage being trapped in rural Maine. But no broadband?

Back to the fence where the kid decides to poke it repeatedly. They also find it’s really high because birds are flying into it and breaking their neck. And then a plan hits it – kaboom. Kid looks up at the wreckage about to crush him to goo, but Murderer Guy (who really needs a name) pushes him to safety. They avoid the wreckage – even the chunk of leg that lands next to them. The burned mark on the dome is visible to the whole town.

Murder guy and kid search the wreckage and find some ID of the victims and find that their mobile phones don’t get any signals – but then see a fire-engine racing down the road (though don’t hear the sirens – the dome is sound proof). They run to the road waving their hands screaming for it to stop before it plasters itself into the wall. Inches before impact it does and an agitated fireman gets out and runs to them – hitting the wall. Better him than the engine. Murder guy writes a note to the fireman telling him to call the appropriate agencies to shut down the airspace.

Time for some more characters! Phil, radio DJ and Dodee who just got their generator running. Dodee’s just realised they’re the only radio on air – they should be getting some signals from small stations like them even if all the big stations were taken off by a state wide black out.

The police arrive at the barrier and Linda sees her fireman husband, Rusty, trapped on the otherside. They’re soon joined by councilman Jim as well; more police reports come in of cars running into different parts of the barrier. They’re completely cut off.

They get out a map (Linda sends the kid, Joe, home). Linda arrives to report on it (though Jim tries to order her to leave, which she ignores), Duke is more concerned with getting road blocks so more cars don’t pancake into the wall and has Linda take Julie’s car so they can split up and arrange things quicker. That leaves Julie and Murderer Guy alone – apparently people call him Barbie. I’m presuming this is the motive for his murders.

Some random tourists are taking their daughter to camp - a same-sex couple, Carolyn and Alice and their daughter Norrie to camp, apparently they’re from LA. They get to see the police roar around in chaos.

After generally not being happy with the town we return to Barbie and Julie tracing the perimeter of the dome, following the line that bisected through the woods. We learn Barbie’s ex-military and that he thinks even when the dome is gone they’re in trouble because the army will quarantine the place. They find a house – neatly cut in half, on the perimeter – and outside it is a woman calling for help, her arm has been cut off.

Jim gets to Phil and Dodee’s radio station and barges his way in to make an emergency broadcast. All around town people stop and listen as he tells everyone to pull over (interrupting his son, Junior who was about to cut his wrists over Angie, it seems). Everyone stops and listens – except Carolyn, Alice and Norrie who keep driving – until they see a truck from outside the dome slam into the barrier right in front of them. Slammed breaks and they stop just before collision. They get out and look at the crushed truck – and Norrie collapses into a seizure, gasping about “falling stars”

Joe goes home – he’s apparently Angie’s brother. He finds a note saying their mother is having brunch in Westlake – outside the dome (their dad works driving so seems to be outside as well).

At the clinic, there’s a huge crowd of people bringing in the injured. When they get there one of the nurses is eager to learn if Julie’s husband, the doctor, is there. No he isn’t – which is odd she’s sure he works every Sunday. Apparently he hasn’t for weeks. Oopsie. On the plus side you have more to worry about than your husband’s infidelity at the moment.

Linda’s holding a not-very-successful press conference at the bridge since the outside reporters can’t hear her but keep asking questions. And the military turns up in haz mat suits to drive the reporters away. They starts scanning and doing other sciency things to it.

At the hospital Angie joins Barbie having a smoke and starts to talk about cannibal gold fish. Despite this ultra-creepy conversation she’s still not nearly as creepy as Junior in his car, stalking her. Which is when Carolyn and Alice screech up with Norrie to get help for her seizure. Angie goes with them and Barbie walks off – watched by a creepy, knife wielding Junior.

Jim and Duke meet in the deserted town hall at the end of the day, discussing managing to keep going. Unfortunately there was a parade earlier in the day outside the dome that took most of the police and the fire engines which has left them awfully short handed. Jim thinks they don’t have enough police if it goes on for much longer and points out the council can authorise additional officers in emergencies (he’s the only councilman and seems to quite like ruling on his own and throwing his weight around). Duke considers having lots of amateurs with badges running around and decides that this would not be the most wonderful idea. Jim isn’t happy being told no and asks what to do when people ask about the propane – OMINOUS MUSIC TIME. Y’know I hate that. If a subject is ominous, show that it’s ominous, don’t take a perfectly mundane thing and make it ominous with the music. Duke is bemused, it has nothing to do with the dome but Jim points out how suspicious it looks that they were stockpiling fuel just before the Dome went up.

Actually, that does look several kinds of suspicious. Duke says he can tell the people the truth or not, it’s Jim’s business, Duke has no idea why he’s stockpiling propane. Jim laughs at him, telling him he may have turned a blind eye but he’s not stupid to which Duke angrily says he did what he had to to keep the town safe. Jim follows up with some veiled threats aimed at Duke’s heart

Keeping the town safe? From what? Ramping lobsters (this concludes my knowledge of Maine)?

Back to the radio station and Dodee has been doing some technical fiddling I don’t even begin to understand and can just get some signals from outside where they hear the first confirmation that the wall is a Dome.

Out in the deserted field where Barbie has his car, Junior decides to start trying to antagonise him. I can only assume this is another way that Junior is pursuing self-harm, that and his obsession with people who talk to Angie, because Barbie will probably beat him to chunky salsa. Luckily for Junior, Julie shows up – her husband is missing but he didn’t die at any of the roadblocks. Since all the motels are full, Julie invites him to stay with her; he saved a kid’s life, she’s not going to let him sleep like an animal.

On the bridge leading out of town, near the dome, people have responded by having a party. Hey I’m fine with that – any excuse. That kid Barbie saved, Joe, joined by his schoolfriend Ben (another character! Just what we need!) is looking for a power source for the dome, assuming there has to be one. And with that revelation, he passes out. He starts seizing, chanting about the stars falling. Just like Norrie.

Angie returns to her home – and is grabbed by Junior. He tries to hold a knife to her throat but she elbows him and tries to run. She tries to escape but he grabs her and she hits her head – being knocked out at least

To the Diner where there’s a vast crowd of people. I knew it! Rose is behind it! It’s all a ploy to prevent her losing business to Dennys. The crowd is silent when Duke stands forward to speak; the town, Chesters Mill, lost 12 people. Carolyn and Alice speak up for a way out – airlifting or something and Duke assures them someone out there will help before telling everyone to check on their neighbours

And Angie wakes up in a bunker – Junior’s dad’s old fallout shelter. Creepy Junior then tries to explain away the kidnapping in a way that makes perfect sense to him – and absolutely none at all to anyone else. She doesn’t buy what he’s selling and tries to barge past him – but he leaves and locks the door behind him. His dad sees him leave but he just says he was checking the shelter given the chaos around. He tells his dad he’s eager to help – I think even his dad realises how creepy he is.

Barbie goes to Julie’s house, she has power because of a backup generator, and she shows him a picture of her husband. It’s the man Barbie buried. Or the corpse, rather. Awkward. She’s angry because she’s a journalist who didn’t know what was going on under her own nose (oh if only she knew) – her husband was having an affair and the whole town probably knew. But she’s confident he’ll turn up – uh-huh, I don’t think Barbie agrees.

On the road Linda asks why Chester Snow – and Duke says they may be being punished, that there’s a lot about the town he’s protected her from. He touches the barrier and tells her that over a year he was approached by – but the staticy barrier seems to set Duke’s pacemaker off. Then his chest seems to outright explode – it seemed almost like a gunshot. He collapses and Linda screams for help

There are soldiers on the other side of the barrier but they can’t hear her and can’t reach her. Outside, news reports confirm they don’t know what is causing the dome and we pan out to see the sheer size of it over the town.

So. Many. Characters. Writers, can you stop producing series that make me want to draw up a flow chart from the very first episode. 16 named characters (not even including Linda’s husband or Julie’s) in the pilot is unbelievable. And so many of them have seeds for issues and plots to develop that this series feels like it’s going to be hellaciously bloated.

This looks interesting and curious. I am curious but I can’t say I’m enthralled – partly because there are SO MANY CHARACTERS and none of them have, consequently, been developed enough for me to actually give a damn about any of them. But I’m also worried because this is a Stephen King adaptation which has a high chance of meaning we will get a gazillion episodes of absolutely nothing happening before the plot is developed in any way (hi there Haven!) Yes I’m a cynic.

On the plus side, the gazillion characters is probably why we have as much diversity as we do – which was something of a surprise to me. But it remains to be seen which storylines and characters will be dominant and which will be background.

So… I’m curious. A little intrigued – but not hooked.