Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Under the Dome 1.06: "The Endless Thirst"

News broke today that Under the Dome had been renewed for a second season, the thirteen episodes of which will debut in the summer of 2014.  In other news that surprised nobody, water remained wet and John Wayne remained dead.

The news had been more or less a foregone conclusion since at least the fourth week, when it was clear to anybody paying attention that the show's numbers were not dropping off considerably.

That might theoretically change next week, due to a bitter dispute between CBS (UtD's network) and Time Warner Cable, which at 11 pm tonight -- conveniently after tonight's episode of the series -- removed all CBS stations from its service.  Time Warner serves roughly three million customers in towns you may have heard of such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Dallas, among others.  It's unlikely that all three million of them watch Under the Dome, but it seems quite reasonable to assume that a decent number of them do; so unless the dispute gets resolved, don't be surprised if the ratings for episode seven take a bit of a hit.

What does that have to do with tonight's episode?

Not a dadburn thing!  I just felt like mentioning it.  Pray that I don't feel the need to discuss my cats!

In some ways, I didn't feel this was quite as strong an episode as a few of the recent ones have been.  But there were a number of really good scenes, and the episode passed what might be the greatest of all tests for a television series: when the hour ended, I wished it had fifteen more minutes or so.  I get pedantic at times about things, including episodes of television shows, but in the end, does anything matter more than that simple wish?  If an episode ends and you say some variant of the following -- "Awwwww, man...!  I've gotta wait until next week?!?  I want more now!" -- that means you're invested in the show, and investment means the series has done its job.  We can, and will, debate the semantics of the degree to which that investment has occurred, but as long as it has occurred, that's all that really matters.

And I remain invested, although there were a few moments in tonight's episode that made my roll my eyes.  The accident that set the episode's events in motion, for example: Alice, in some sort of demantia-like fit thanks to a diabetes attack, wanders into the street and nearly gets smooshed by a truck.  Happily, she does not get smooshed.  Less happily, the truck driver swerves, and runs into the town's water tower, which immediately begins losing every drop of water inside it.

Holy shit!  That's kinda terrible writing, guys.  And yes, I'm conscious that that accusation comes from a man who just typed the phrase "kinda terrible writing," which in and of itself is terrible writing.  I, uh...I did it just to prove I know what terrible writing is.  Yeah.  Yeah!  That's it!

Seriously, though, that sucked.  Wouldn't it have been easier to just say that the fire in episode two caused the water to run out?  Or, hell, if you wanted to avoid an episode-two callback you could have just said that the methane contamination in the lake made the town's potable water undrinkable.  There was no need to have a perfectly good lesbian go staggering into the street in a low-blood-sugared state of amnesiac daffiness.  That shit was uncalled for.

And now, to provide a bit of a transition, I present to you the five weirdest images culled from a Google search for the phrase "a perfectly good lesbian":

this one was called "destroy the sanctity of a perfectly good gourd"

if that's a bulldog, then I think I get why this showed up...

I shit you not: "is Roswell New Mexico lesbian friendly?"

"lesbians who look like Tintin" (still laughing over that one)

needs no explanation; delightful

Well, I'm amused after that Google Images search, but also a bit disappointed.  I don't know about you, but I sort of expected some hot girl-on-girl action, and instead all I got was chuckles and grins.  Story o' my fuckin' life, right there.

Speaking of hot girl-on-girl action, there was none on this week's episode of Under the Dome.  Those poor lesbians really need to be allowed to kiss, y'all.  This is getting silly.  You're going to leave the Internet no choice but to begin pumping out Carolyn / Alice fanfic.  Let's not have to go there, whattayasay?  Let them ladies kiss!

Aisha Hinds and Samantha MAthis still aren't smooching, but Barbie and Julia got to share a kiss, and that brings up an interesting question: if you don't know your husband is dead and you cheat on him, is it adultery?  I want to say "no," because technically there's nobody to cheat on; but then again, I want to say "yes," because surely the intent matters.  So do you place more emphasis on the letter of the meaning, or on the thoughts behind the actions?  
Quite a moral quandary, but apparently Barbie is okay with it.  He also seems to be okay with the idea of murdering someone else; he gets close to straight-up smothering this jackass:

I'm not saying the guy didn't serve to have his ass whipped a bit.  He might not have deserved what Barbie seems to have wanted to give him, though: a dirt nap.

The guys who kill Rose and who nearly rape Angie, though...those guys deserve a good murderin'.  The question is whether Barbie will end up giving it to them or whether it'll be Junior who does the deed when he finds out about the incident at Rose's.

Let's talk about that attempted-rape scene.  It was handled well in some regards, but poorly in others.  I thought the one guy saying "go watch the door" to the other guy was fairly chilling, but when Barbie came in and broke the thing up ... well, I didn't feel like I got a good enough sense of what, exactly, was happening.  That's the type of situation where I need to have a few more specifics.  Is the dude standing over her, trying to work up the nerve?  Has he undone the belt buckle?  Are the pants down?  Understand, I'm not advocating rape, nor am I advocating semi-naked men on television.  I'm advocating for clarity in storytelling, and that scene seemed to be lacking a bit of it.

Elsewhere in the episode, though, I liked every scene Angie was conscious for: she's proving to be a resourceful, more-or-less-intelligent woman.  I'm happy that she didn't just decide to be okay with the fact that Junior put her in an undisclosed-location-type prison; I've seen shows that would have gone in that direction.  (I can't name any of them, or remember what they would have been, but I am choosing to stand by my statement.)  This one didn't, happily.

That said, I have no trouble buying into the possibility of Angie being willing to keep her mouth shut in exchange for her welfare (and her brother's) being seen to by the one person in town who seems capable of providing such a service.  We've already seen that Angie is an opportunist: in her introductory scene, we find out that she's been having a different affair with Junior than he's been having with her.  He thinks they're in love; she thinks they've just been having a summer of intercourse-filled fun, one that is now reaching its conclusion.  That indicates that at some point earlier in the summer, she was looking around for a way to fill up her, uh, nights, and Junior seemed the likeliest candidate to get the job done.  This is a woman who will perhaps do things just because she sees something for herself in it.

And there's nothing wrong with that, provided both parties are on the same page (which they probably weren't here, although the jury is still out on that).  I wouldn't want to make anyone feel as if I'm judging Angie and finding her guilty; I'm not.  I say she was well within her rights to just get what she got from Junior, and it might be that she simply assumed he was doing the same thing.  
Either way, I was fascinated by the scene between her and Big Jim at the end.
I mentioned earlier that Big Jim seems like the one person in town who can promise to take care of somebody and actually follow through on it.  But this week makes it clear that that might not be entirely true, and competition (of sorts) comes in the form of Ollie Dinsmore, played to perfection by Leon Rippy.  We talked about Rippy a few episodes ago, when I thought his authenticity brought a hell of a lot of honesty and menace to a series that had been -- for my tastes -- a bit low on honesty and menace up to that point.

Well, tonight we found out that Ollie's land is sitting on top of a large artesian well, one that might end up being a crucial source of sustenance for the inhabitants of Chester's Mill.  Big Jim goes to negotiate with him, and promises him propane in exchange for town use of the well.  Ollie agrees, but seemingly welshes on the agreement a bit toward the end of the episode.  It is clear that Ollie is a proud, stubborn man, one who has perhaps been slighted one too many times in the past by the town in general and by Jim Rennie specifically.  We'll see where that ends up going, but in the meantime the mere suggestion that Ollie might be able to extort something out of Big Jim is a bit of a surprise.

Of course, we've seen how things tend to go for people who try to extort Jim Rennie, so maybe I shouldn't be too quick in my positing of this as a potential shift in the town's power dynamic.

Let's hope Leon Rippy is able to stick around longer than poor Ned Bellamy, who played Reverend Coggins.  Rippy is a great presence here, and I think the show benefits from it every time he's on screen.

Speaking of Leon Rippy, did you know that he appears in Maximum Overdrive?  True story; he plays one of the beleaguered patrons of the diner.  He's Brad, the one on the right below:

That's a fairly lousy screencap, but I didn't have much time to hunt up a better one.  Plus, it amuses me that if you aren't paying close attention, the lamp behind his head looks like Londo Mollari's haircut on Babylon 5:

While we discussing Leon Rippy / Stephen King connections, here's another one: he played the agent who Andy "pushed" into being blind.  It's not much of a part, but there he is.

Another connection: Rippy also played a store clerk in The Color Purple for director Steven Spielberg, who is a producer on Under the Dome.  Neat!

Anyways, it's good to see Rippy getting to do some meaty stuff on this week's episode, and if the promos for next week's are any indication, he'll get more good material in that one.

I feel certain there's more to discuss, but time is once again at a premium, so let's just hit a few bulletpoints:

  • The Joe / Norrie scenes were good, especially when Norrie decided to give the insulin back to the kid who needed it.  She gave most of it back, at least; I like that she didn't decide to steer away from villainy 100%.
  • I was a bit less persuaded by the Julia / Dodee scenes.  I'm at a loss to say why, though.  It just seemed...I dunno, manufactured.  But the advancement of the plot regarding the effect Joe and Norrie have on the dome -- or is it vice-versa? -- played well.
  • The effects of the world being split down the middle between bomb-ravaged wasteland outside the dome and pristine countryside inside the dome were terrific.  Very surreal.
  • I thought the grocery-riot scene came off pretty well.  I was just sure that Linda was about to shoot one of those guys, too, when the rain began falling.  That was a pretty solid shot, directorially.  Kari Skogland returned for her second episode this week, and continues to be a more accomplished talent than most of her fellow alumni from the Children of the Corn franchise.
  • I continue to be intrigued by how relatable the show has been able to make Big Jim.  I considered using the word "sympathetic," but went for "relatable" instead; and I'm not sure I made the right choice, because "sympathetic" might be more accurate.  Let's agree that Dean Norris deserves a huge amount of that credit, and that the producers in general probably deserve the rest of it.

So, all in all, another solid episode.  Seven more left in this season, and at least thirteen more to follow next summer. 
I'm going to file that under the good news column.


  1. I actually liked the scenes with Julia and Dodee, although I can understand how some might find it contrived.

    At the same time consider Dodee as a character at this point in the game. It's a clear sign of how desperate she is to get out of the dome that she's willing to go villainess, or at least that's how the conclusion of her scene makes it appear.

    Either way, those kids better watch their back, although the ending makes me wonder if they aren't in trouble already.

    I also like how they handled the kids in this one too.

    As for the riot scenes, as a Sixties hobbyist I thought things were headed for familiar territory when they got out the teargas. Luckily, the rain started.

    As for Big Jim, the word I'd use, though technically it's not one to be used lightly, is Shakespearian.

    Dean Norris and the writer's just seem able to create a character who in a way is a call back to characters like Macbeth, who think they are doing what's "for the best" even as they dig their own graves, which technically is the way to go with Rennie and Son from what I've seen so far.

    Looks like Cranston isn't the only "Breaking" alumnus who's career is taking off!


    1. I'd say "Shakespearian" applies to this incarnation of Big Jim. And yeah, I think it's nice to see Norris finally getting his moment in the sun. He's been around the biz for years, but not until BB -- and now Utd -- did he ever really find his niche. But he's doing good stuff lately, and it's always nice to see that happen for a character actor.

  2. Excellent Rippey connections, there, I had no idea! I agree that he brings some gravitas to the screen. The brief stand-off between he and Dean Norris was a highlight for me.

  3. I still don't love Big Jim in the show. He should be way more ruthless. In the show.. Junior's character seems to be the Jim Renny in the book. I like Junior in the show. The pumpkin picture above actually goes great with the whole Under the Dome Halloween theme!