Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Under the Dome 1.04: "Outbreak"

Tonight, on a very special episode of The Truth Inside the Lie: Bryant has an interview...with himself!

Q:  Bryant, did you steal that cat photo from the Interent?

A:  I sure did, Bryant.

Q:  Where from, pray tell?

A:  http://www.fabulouslybroke.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/cat-animal-surprised-surprise-caught.png

Q:  How come?

A:  Cause cats is stupid.

Q:  They sure are.  Was tonight's episode of Under the Dome?

A:  Well, unless the science behind the meningitis outbreak was complete bunk, I'd say no.  Not a whole heck of a lot of stupid on display.  Not that I noticed, at least.

Q:  So...you liked the episode?!?

A:  Yeah!  Yeah, I did.

Q:  Second week in a row.

A:  Indeed.  I'm starting to warm up to the series, no doubt.

Q:  Let's run down the cast list and just chit-chat a bit, eh?

A:  Fuck that.  I've got to mention the director of this episode first.

Q:  .....

A:  "Outbreak" was directed by Kari Skogland.  Now, when that name flashed on the screen, I said to myself mentally -- because saying it out loud would have just confused my parents, with whom I was watching it -- "Hey, Kari Skogland!"  Then I said -- again, mentally -- "Wait, where do I know that name from...?"  So when I got home, I researcehd it.  Or, if you believe in proper spelling, researched it.

Q:  I do believe in proper spelling.  So what'd you find about about Kari Skogland?

A:  Well, she's directed episodes of Boardwalk Empire and The Killing, which is where I assumed I knew her name from initially.  But then I kept scrolling down, and what do you suppose I found?

Q:  The suspense is killing me...

A:  Sarcasm does not become you.  I found ... found ...


A:  ... FOUND ... this!

Q:  Holy shitballs!  Is you serious, mahfah?!?

A:  Don't call me that.  We're not called that anymore.  But yes, I'm serious.

Q:  Well, to be fair, that is one of the better Children of the Corn movies.

A:  It really is.  Here's what we had to say about it in a previous post

God help me, but I kinda like this movie.  I mean, don't misunderstand me: it is a terrible movie.  I makes mo claims to the contrary.


Okay, that last sentence should have read "I make no claims to the contrary," but the typo fairy visited me, and that amusing sentence was the result.  I don't have the heart to delete it; can't be done.

Thing is, my enjoyment of 666 here is kinda similar: it's like if I had a brain-damaged cat who couldn't do anything but crap in the floor and fail at meowing, I'd realize it was a terrible pet, but I'd love it and pet it just the same.  It's a weakness in me, I suppose.  It must also have been a weakness in Stacy Keach and Nancy Allen, who co-star here.  Wow.

Some day, somebody will write the definitive history of the Children of the Corn series, asking questions like "Had you ever actually seen a horror film before filming began?" and "Did you at some point believe that making this film would serve as a springboard into better work?" and "How did that work out for you?"  I'm interested enough and masochistic enough to be the man for the job, but I lack resources and motivation.

Somebody else get that book written so I can read it, stat!

Anyways, as far as Children of the Corn movies go, this one is better than most.

Q:  Amazing.  Has Kari Skogland's skill as a director improved since 1999?

A:  I'd say so.  The episode of The Killing she directed this season had some damn fine atmosphere to it.  There's not a huge amount of atmosphere on display in "Outbreak," per se, but the performances are uniformly good, and there are no moments that stood out as being irredeemably weak.  On the whole, I thought it was the second consecutive week in which the phrase "best episode of the series to date" can be applied fairly.  Skogland has to get at least some of the credit for that, so yay her!

Q:  Okay, that's fair.  What was the story tonight?

A:  What, did you not watch?

Q:  Sure.  I watched.  Some of your readers might not have.

A:  Seems unlikely, but okay.  Well...the story, basically, was: there is an outbreak of meningitis in town, and thanks to the extreme success rate of communicability, it threatens to become a major epidemic if it isn't contained totally.  Big Jim and Junior are -- separately -- instrumental in making that happen.  Meanwhile, Julia puts her investigative skills to use, and finds out some stuff about her husband that she doesn't much like.  Oh, and Angie gets wet.

Q:  I can sense by your tone that you like Angie wet.

A:  I like Angie wet.

Britt Robertson as Angie

Q:  You are creepy.

A:  Yep.  Know what isn't creepy?

Q:  What?

A:  Hot women in wet clothes.

Q:  Jesus...

A:  Hey, sue me!  I likes what I likes.

Q:  *sigh*  Okay, so, anyways...let's talk some specifics about the episode.  Tell me what you thought about the Barbie / Julia plotline.

A:  I thought it was good.  I liked last week's episode, "Manhunt," however...I thought it was a bit of a weak point that the episode ended with Julia rummaging through Barbie's shit, only to find a map of Chester's Mill with a location circled on it.  I felt like that was a strain on Barbie's character; why would he be keeping a map that, to some in town, would make him an even more suspicious figure than he already is?

Q:  A fair point.

A:  Yeah, and I still feel that way.  But maybe Barbie being a dumbass will play out in a satisfying way as the series progresses.  We're a long way from the novel in that regard, but hey, that's okay.  In any case, whether Barbie being a dumbass ends up benefitting the series or harming it, I cannot currently say.  BUT...I can say that the show's producers at least had the good sense to not string the thing with the map out over the next few episodes.

Q:  I assumed that's what would happen.  That it would pay off -- probably poorly -- five or six episodes down the line.

A:  Yeah.  But instead, they made it an issue almost immediately.  Thankfully.  Not doing that, I think, would have damaged Julia's character almost beyond repair.  Instead, it's clear that she probably spends the night thinking about what to do, then gets up first thing in the morning and goes and checks it out.  And while I figured the circled location on the map would lead to the cabin where Barbie killed Julia's husband, it instead led to a mildly surprising reveal: that Barbie had apparently also had dealings with Phil, the deejay.

Q:  Yeah, that worked fairly well.

A:  It did.  So Julia investigates, and this leads to the whole meningitis thing (which seems to originate with Phil), which leads to Phil being hopped up on drugs and having meningial hallucinations, and...shit.  I'll be damned if I can remember what Phil tells Julia.  Assistance?

Q:  I got nothing.  I'm still trying to figure out how to tell you that the word is spelled "meningeal."

A:  Well, anyways, Phil says something about a cabin, and then later Julia mentions the cabin to Junior.  And Junior says, and I'm paraphrasing, "Oh, you mean the cabin where I found that Barbie dude?"

Q:  Not one of the better moments, that.

A:  No, that was dumb.  But hey, I also kinda believe it.  Junior obviously has no love for Barbie, and it makes sense for him to try to screw him over even if he doesn't really know the specifics of how he's doing it.

Q:  Okay, I'll buy that.  So, anyways, Julia goes to the cabin and finds evidence that her husband was broke.  Later on, she questions Barbie as to what their connection was, and we find out that Barbie was an enforcer collecting on gambling debts.  Does that satisy you as a reader of the novel?

A:  We're ignoring the novel for the purposes of these reviews, to the extent it's possible.

Q:  Answer the question.

A:  Okay, fine.  My brain tells me that I ought to be angry with this development.  But I've got to be honest: I just don't mind it at all.  

Q:  Why?

A:  Because I'm assuming that the show will go somewhere with it.  For example, it could end up being a redemption story about how Barbie -- thanks to a supernatural force-field -- turns his life around.  Or maybe it goes somewhere completely different.  Beats me.  But as long as it goes somewhere that is interesting on its own merits, I'm cool with it.  I had no great attachment to Barbie thanks to the novel; he was fine, but he isn't a standout character for me the way someone like Edgar in Duma Key or Devin in Joyland is.  So the changes don't matter to me in the slightest, unless they are ultimately revealed to be meaningless.  And I just don't think that'll be the case here.

Q:  Alright, fair enough.  What did you think of the fact that Barbie had an opportunity to tell Julia her husband was dead, and didn't take it?

Mike Vogel as Barbie

A:  I thought that scene was pretty great.  I actually felt tense based on the will-he-or-won't-he of the whole thing.  And it felt like a major moment that he ultimately decided not to tell her.  To be honest, I don't see how their relationship -- such as it is (they've known each other less than a week) -- can possibly ever recover once she finds out the truth,

Q:  Do you think she will find out the truth?

A:  Of course!  That's a veritable Chekovian gun; that has to be paid off, or the entire thing would feel like a cheat.

Q:  Let's move on.  What about Big Jim this week?

A:  Big Jim was fine this week.  Dean Norris didn't get any great moments to play like he did last week, but Norris did a good job with what he had.  I think he's settled into the role by now.

Q:  Agreed.  What about Alexander Koch as Junior?

A:  He was good.  You might recall that I was hard on his performance when I reviewed the pilot episode.

Q:  Mm-hmm.

A:  But I think since then, he -- like Norris -- has figured the character out.  He's still playing crazy, but he's mostly playing it behind the eyes; we can tell he's crazy, but it's also plausible that nobody else would be seeing how crazy he is.

Q:  Angie is seeing it.

A:  Boy, is she.  And based on how the episode ends, I think Big Jim is going to be seeing it, too.  I'm looking forward to seeing where this storyline goes now.  I was afraid I was going to loathe every scene that took place in that fallout shelter, but over the past two episodes, they've been among my favorite scenes.

Q:  What about him getting deputized?

A:  I liked that.  The series has done a good job of making that seem like a plausible plot development.  My Dad actually said, out lod, "Oh no!" when it happened.  Which means, I think, that the show is working; at least as regards Junior.  He's quickly become a bit of a standout player in some regards.

Q:  Did Leon Rippy return this week?

A:  You're fuckin'-A he did!  Sadly, he doesn't have a whole hell of a lot to do.  But yes, Ollie was in a couple of scenes, and I'm sure he's going to have a lot more to do later on.  Because why else would you hire Leon Rippy?  You don't hire him to be mere background scenery.

Q:  I wouldn't think so, no.  Okay, what else...howsabout Joe and Norrie?

A:  I'm definitely warming to the pair of them.  And I just realized that, blessedly, Joe's skater friend Ben was nowhere to be seen this episode.  I don't much like that character.

Q:  Me neither.

A:  Yeah.  Anyways, Joe and Norrie decide to try to make another seizure happen by touching each other, which works like a charm, and thanks to the magic of a videophone, they film it and watch what happens.  There is a really creepy moment in that scene when Joe -- mid-seizure -- sits up and looks at the camera (which means, really, that he looks at himself and at Norrie) and makes a "shhhh!" face.  That was a nice moment.

Colin Ford as Joe

Q:  Agreed.

A:  I also liked Carolyn and Alice this week.  Seems like they would have kissed toward the end, in the scene where Carolyn is trying to steal the insulin.  It's almost like you can feel CBS saying "don't let 'em be too lesbian."  Kari Skogland directed an episode of The L Word, by the way.

Q:  Are you saying that she, like you, enjoys seeing women get wet on camera?

A:  I'm implying it, yes.  But either way, it feels a bit false for Aisha Hinds and Samantha Mathis -- both of whom I like in these roles -- to not have 'em a big, sloppy lesbo kiss.  It feels like CBS trying to not turn off the older viewers that make up such a large part of their audience, and it feels a bit unfortunate.  And unnatural.  Maybe subsequent episodes will make some time for those characters to be more appropriately themselves.

Q:  What else you want to talk about?

A:  Lester, maybe?  Boy, I hated Lester in his first episode ("The Fire").  I thought Ned Bellamy did really poor work in that one.  But he's been good the past couple of weeks, and while I thought it was maybe a bit weird / unbelievable for Lester to steal all the drugs and try to destroy them, I thought that Bellamy at least managed to do a solid job in the portrayal of Lester doing it.

Q:  I'm curious to know whether people watching the show think that Lester might be right, that the dome is God's will made manifest.

A:  Well, it's a possibility, isn't it?  I'd imagine there are people who maybe DO think that.

Q:  Do you have a theory as to what is causing the dome?

A:  I have no theory of any kind.  The producers have said that what happens in the book will not happen in the series, and that, frankly, was my only idea as to what it could be.  So I'm not even trying to figure it out at this point.  I'm just assuming / hoping that it ends up making sense.

Q:  But I sense that you are skeptical.

A:  You bet I'm skeptical.  I'm willing to go with the flow, though.  For now.

Q:  Alright, bottom-line it for me: four episodes in, what's your opinion of this series?

A:  I'm feeling more confident in it by the week.  As you know, I was "meh" on the premiere episode, and I outright hated the second.  But since then, I feel like the ship has been righted.  I'm actually finding myself looking forward to it on a weekly basis now, and that's cause for relief.  What about you?  What's your opinion?

Q:  You know I'm you, right?

A:  Riiiiight...kinda forgot for a second there.  Got any other questions?

Q:  Which one of your cats is sitting on the desk right now?

A:  Sheridan.  That it?

Q:  Yup.

A:  Cool.


  1. If I had a nickel for everytime I've said "You know, that director of Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return" is going places, you mark my words..."

    I didn't think this one was too bad, either. I was slightly disappointed in one aspect: I thought for sure that they were building this see, Junor's a good guy story in parallel with the Angie-in-the-dungeon-with-water-filling-up story because they were going to have Junior discover Angie dead at the end, and, newly enshrined as a "peace officer," this was going to be the final break-his-brain/ put-your-foot-on-the-gas arc for the rest of the season.

    But, they played it safe. For what it's worth, I like my set-up better. (And I still like King's best.) But it wasn't a bad episode, as episodes of filmed entertainment beamed into my living room go.

    The TTITL self-interview format was/is a pleasure to see again.

    1. Yeah, the old self-interview gag always amuses me. I sat down in front of the computer to pound this review out last night with a fairly limited amount of time to do it, and I just COULD NOT figure out how to start it. The self-interview always jump-starts the motor. It's a bit of a cheat, but I don't mind.

      I never thought Angie would die in this episode, but I really had no clue how she was going to get out. I assumed maybe Junior would come home and discover her in time; Big Jim finding her instead never crossed my mind (until the final scene, at least), which is part of the reason why I liked that plot development as much as I did.

      By the way, this episode having been directed by a "Children of the Corn" franchise alumnus does nothing to lessen my interest in reading a behind-the-scenes book about that series. I had no idea ANY of those directors had gone on to anything worth a damn. And indeed, Skogland is the only one who has, unless you count Greg Spence; he directed the fourth film in the series, and as a producer has several HBO shows to his credit, including "Game of Thrones," "John Adams," and "Generation Kill." So HE'S doing alright.

      But I'd love to know how Skogland was able to turns lemons into lemonade where most of the rest of that particular fraternity was not.

  2. The only thing I worried about in this episode is the CBS cornball factor.

    I haven't watched the network much at all, but as I've mentioned before, Jericho had a lot of cornball moments. From what little I've heard (and this from a youtube comments so use salt as necessary) it seems CBS likes to pour on the corn, at least in a lot of it's serious shows.

    I worried that's what I was getting at certain point, but right I let it slide, I could be wrong after all.

    On the whole, this was a good episode. The main question for me is where the Julie/Dale storyline is going. She may have ordered him out, but I don't think it's going to stay that way and I think they both know it.

    As for what caused the Dome? Well, it's clear the filmmakers have a clear idea, let's just hope it's a well thought out or a least inspired one, however from what I can tell by what I've seen, they imply the Dome is on some level sentient, and might have caused/brought down itself.

    Then again there are the final words of the former Sherriff, where it's implied he knew something about the cause of what's going on, and maybe Big Jim is also involved somehow, although this could also be a red herring.

    Either way, the idea that Big Jim has made some sort of deal with a sentient Dome?...

    You're guess is as good as mine at this point. I do wonder what about the idea made King go "I wish I'd thought of that."


    1. They are definitely pushing the idea of a sentient dome, aren't they? I can't imagine what the genesis for such a thing would be that would also be less controversial -- if the word "controversial" even applies to this discussion -- than the source that King imagined. The only options are for it to be flat-out science fiction or flat-out fantasy.

      I dunno. I'm trying to not think about it all that much; I tend to not focus on trying to solve mysteries like that, because I just assume that the writers have solved it for me, and will eventually clue me in. And mostly that is exactly what happens (with the occasional "Lost" serving as the counterweight). I certainly expect it to happen here, and I'd imagine that by the end of the season we'll know what is behind this particular version of the dome.

      By the way, for those who are interested in such things, the ratings for last night's episode were a slight improvement on the ratings for the third episode. So it appears that the viewership may have stabilized. Since I've now enjoyed the show more than not, I suppose you can officially color me happy by the show's (seemingly ongoing) ratings success.

    2. One final thing to be noted about the latest episode. it's seems to be the point at which the series is edging back into more familiar King territory. What King called elsewhere "The Hole in the Column of Reality" is sort of beginning to show itself in the series (he talks about in Nightmare and Dreamscapes, and the line isn't King but belongs to poet Wallace Steven if I'm remembering correct).

      It isn't until just now that I wonder how the writers are going to use these elements.

      For instance, is it going to be revealed that Julia's husband actually does tell her more than she and the episode lets on, so that she knows all about Dale now?

      Technically it's the kind of question you'd ask of a show like "Lost" but still, it was just something that occurred to me is all.


    3. I took Peter's appearance to be nothing more than a hallucination, BUT...I also had the thought that it could turn into something more. If the dome can manipulate people like it manipulates Joe and Norrie, then who knows what it can do.

  3. Love you interviewing yourself. Clever! I don't love Joe's skater friend.. I mean what a jerk letting everyone go over to Joe's house and use his generator all up. What a moron!!!

    1. Yeah, I'm not too big a fan of Benny the skater kid, either. "Moron" is the right word.