Under the Dome, Seasons 1-3

under the dome

Under the Dome

Seasons 1-3

CBS, 2013-2015

Created by: Brian K. Vaughan and Stephen King

Based on: Under the Dome by Stephen King

Recommended? Not even remotely.

It was such an intriguing premise. A small town, and its surrounding farmland, is suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an impenetrable dome. My mind reeled with possibilities and questions. Can they learn to live sustainably? Will they do away with conventional government and currency systems? Will they form collectives? Will they organize by consensus? I have a crapload of laundry to do — will I at least have an entertaining binge watch while sorting and folding? The answer to all these questions was a painful no.

Should you wish to share my pain, or judge for yourself, Under the Dome is a CBS series readily available on CBS.com, Amazon Prime, and DVD. Be warned though, this show is just good enough in its early episodes to make you keep watching for a long, life-sucking ride.

They are so sheepishly in need of authority that even when it becomes clear that all their leaders are some combination of crazy, incompetent, or just plain evil, they do nothing but shout nonsensical support for whichever shithead they think will best represent them.

My first disappointment was that they were taking several episodes to tell the story of each day. Developing sustainability or collectivization would take time. I hoped that maybe they would do a jump forward at some point. No such luck. As of the beginning of season three they are only three weeks past the sudden formation of the mysterious dome…

Laundry is one of the most tedious jobs. We’re a household of four with a teen and a preteen. Its summer, and we have no air conditioning. I carefully sort the pile of hormone-sweat scented clothes before me. Whose socks are these anyway? Oh well, the next episode is coming on…

Some of the characters seemed interesting. There’s a teenage girl, Norrie, with two racially-diverse mothers, and a corrupt politician and businessman known as “Big Jim.” But these characters were not consistently portrayed. Norrie starts off by defiantly telling her peers that she has two mothers and they just need to “deal with it.” Then she refers to her biological mother as her mother and eventually starts referring to her mother’s partner as Carolyn. It was a very sad reassertion of hetero-normative values that managed to also insult adoptive parents. Dean Norris plays Big Jim with intensity, but even he can’t save a character that is written as coldly killing anyone who gets in his way only to be shown as sympathetic family man and community leader after the commercial break.

The worst part of the show is its one consistent character, the collective persona of the townsfolk. They are so sheepishly in need of authority that even when it becomes clear that all their leaders are some combination of crazy, incompetent, or just plain evil, they do nothing but shout nonsensical support for whichever shithead they think will best represent them. This was in a village of thousand people were everyone more or less knows each other, yet no one ever steps forward and proposes alternatives ideas.

The townsfolk embody the mindless angry mob trope, except they aren’t convincingly angry so they just come across as idiotic. One woman even explains her support of Big Jim as being because he gave her a good deal on a used car once. Jim later shoots her. These reoccurring crowd scenes could have been, and should have been, satires of how stupid state and capitalist authorities think we are. Pathetically, there is no satire here. The shouting “mob” is behaving the way it is because of the normative assumptions of the show’s uncaring writers, and for the convenience of the increasingly nonsensical plot…

I’m faced with another week’s laundry. I should watch something other than Under the Dome season 2 but I can’t think of anything. Besides, I’m morbidly curious as to just what the writers are thinking. Maybe they will explain just what this stupid fucking dome is and why it’s there…

In fairness, this mess of show does have a consistent underlying philosophy — contempt for humanity.

It turned out that the dome was just another inconsistent character to be jerked around for plot convenience. The dome is apparently controlled by an alien intelligence, but it has no discernible motive. Instead it behaves capriciously to create the show’s tense situation of the week. Naturally, given the contempt for the townsfolk this show displays, people increasingly see the dome as some kind of religious manifestation. They variously see the dome as God’s will, a god in itself, or something God needs to deliver them from. Sometimes it’s some nauseating combination of all of them.

The opening episode of season 3 was the worst regurgitation of an overworked sci-fi/fantasy trope it has been my displeasure to see. The sets also looked like less imaginative versions of old Doctor Who or Star Trek at their worst, but somehow lacked even camp value. I just couldn’t take it anymore.

In fairness, this mess of show does have a consistent underlying philosophy — contempt for humanity. Under the Dome shows us that without authority we will kill each other with no consequences. It shows us that those in authority are no better, but that we are too weak to live without them. Finally it shows us that TV writers don’t have to respect the intelligence of their audiences. That’s probably because sometimes, we watch things just to get through doing laundry…

This week I grab my box set of Red Dwarf, a much better use of my time.

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