Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Under the Dome 1.07: "Imperfect Circles"

After tonight's episode, two things are the case: (1) the first season of Under the Dome is now more than halfway over, and (2) I've managed so far to actually keep up with getting these reviews out in a timely fashion.  I was worried that that might not be the case, but hey, whattaya know, I can stay on task at times!

I have probably just jinxed it, but let's stay optimistic.

Speaking of staying optimistic, that's where I am regarding Under the Dome.  I liked tonight's episode with very few reservations; it was probably the best episode yet, thanks not only to some major developments regarding the mystery of the dome, but also to a number of very solid character moments.  It seems to me as if the series has been improving nearly every week, so yes, I'm feeling very optimistic about the potential for the rest of this season, and beyond.

Let's start, I suppose, with the couple depicted above.  For now, the series seems to have gone all-in on the idea that Joe and Norrie will be the characters through which we explore the mystery that is the dome.  Up until this episode, there had not been a huge amount of development in that regard, just an occasional half-step forward.

Well, tonight, there was certainly a massive jump forward.  It doesn't give us any answers, but it most definitely gives us some specific deepening of the mystery, and that's fine by me.

Spoilers are on the way, so if you don't want to know, adios, muchacho.

In a scene somewhat similar to -- but simultaneously very different from -- a scene in the novel, Joe and Norrie find a second dome, a small one that seemingly lies at the center of the larger one.  Inside that dome is what appears to be an egg.  Is it an egg?  Beats me.  But that's what it looked like, and if you recall, the first shot of the first episode involved a bird emerging from an egg.  Coincidence?  Don't believe it.

So, we've had comparisons to a cocoon, and to a fishbowl, and now what seems to be an egg.  There's a real circle-of-life vibe to all of this, and I'm finding it to be utterly fascinating.  I've said I'm not going to talk about the novel, and mostly I'm going to hold true to that, but this week I simply can't avoid a bit of it: if this isn't leading to a similar place as the one to which the novel led, I'm not sure I have any concrete ideas on where it can be leading.  I've got one; a very tiny one, and I'm going to keep it to myself.  I'm also going to keep the specifics of what's in the novel to myself, and for the benefit of those who haven't read it, I'd ask any commenters to do the same.

But without going into specifics, I can say that the producers have said repeatedly that if you've read the novel and think you know what the dome is, you are wrong wrong wrong.  I'm beginning to wonder if they haven't been fibbing a bit.  I don't like being lied to, generally, but if it's for the greater good, I can live with it.  For example, if someone told me they were not under any circumstances going to leave me a million dollars in their will, and then they died and it turned out they had left me a million dollars in their will, do you suppose I would be even mildly upset at having been lied to?  I would not be.

So if it turns out Brian K. Vaughan and Neal Baer and company have been lying somewhat as regards the nature of the dome, it won't upset me.  I loved that aspect of the novel.

And that's enough said about that.

Moving on, let's discuss another smooching couple, and then another one after that.  First up, Carolyn and Alice, who finally get to lock lips.  And of course, one of them kicks the bucket a few scenes later.  Goodbye, Alice; goodbye, Samantha Mathis.  We barely knew ye.  Mathis was not a member of the regular cast; she'd been billed as a guest star ever week, so I'd sort of been assuming that meant Alice would be killed off at some point.  Sure enough, her lack of insulin proves fatal.  I'm going to just assume that this makes sense scientifically; maybe it doesn't, but I'm ignorant on the subject, so I can be easily fooled.

Either way, the town's lesbian inventory has been reduced by one, and while I don't think the death quite makes up for that awful scene in last week's episode in which the delivery truck ran into the water tower due to Alice wandering into the road, I think it does retroactively make it a little more palatable.  At least there turned out to be some stakes.

Now, onto out third pair of smoochers, Barbie and Julia.  I've been listening to the Under The Dome Radio podcast each week, and the hosts of that show were fairly annoyed by the scene in which Barbie and Julia kissed in the rain.  I betcha they hated the scene in this week's episode in which the two are lying in bed.  The complaint seems to be that the romance between the two has been unearned.  It's a fair complaint; for them, the scene last week seemed to come out of nowhere.  My counterargument to that would be to say that I think we were supposed to be seeing an attraction between the two characters from the very first episode, but through ineffective writing and direction and editing, it didn't come through that way.  Instead, we've all been focused on a different sort of will-he/won't-she: the question of when and how Julia will find out about Peter's death.

I don't think the series handled the setup of the romance very well; it could be argued that it failed to handle it at all.  But I could see just enough of it that it works for me, at least in theory.  And there is chemistry between Mike Vogel and Rachelle Lefevre, so even if it's not 100% there on the page, they're helping to sell it on the screen.  That sort of thing doesn't bother me.  The moral component of it doesn't bother me, either, because these are fictional characters.  Julia was clearly getting nothing useful from Peter; she may as well get it from Barbie, especially if they're going to be trapped together for the rest of their lives.  As for Barbie, I can sympathize, because that is one fine redheaded woman.

To elucidate my feelings on the matter further, here's Bruce Springsteen to sing you a filthy song:

The Boss gets where Barbie is coming from, and what's good enough for the Boss is good enough for me.

This makes me remember a scene from a few weeks ago, in which Julia's sister-in-law showed up at visitor's day, with a letter from Peter saying he was sorry for leaving.  At the time, I chalked that up to coincidence, but given the scene between the pregnant lady and the phantom/vision/whatever of her husband standing outside the dome, I'm wondering if Julia wasn't seeing some similar sort of dome-created hologram-esque fake person.  Does the dome want Barbie and Julia to be together?  The producers of the show certainly do, but what if there is more to their machinations than mere demographics-hungry pandering?  What if it's a part of the overall story in some way?

It's by no means a foregone conclusion, but it's a possibility.  And even if it doesn't pan out that way, I don't mind a bit of pandering here and there.  I like seeing attractive people suck face fro time to time, and these two are good enough for me.

Let's hit some bulletpoints to finish the review out, because time's a-wastin' and I've got a date with part three of the miniseries of The Stand:

  • This week's episode was directed by Miguel Sapochnik, whose previous work includes the Jude Law / Forest Whitaker sci-fi flick Repo Men.  On tv, he directed half a dozen episodes of House, as well as a couple of Fringes.  I thought he did solid work here; the tone seemed a bit more serious than it had in past weeks, and I think that served the episode well.
  • It was written by Caitlin Parrish, whose name I recognized, although I had to consult IMDb to tell me where from: absolutely nowhere.  The only other things she's done is Emily Owens, M.D., which I am not familiar with.  So I guess my mind was playing tricks on me.  Stupid mind!  Either way, this episode was fairly well-written.  Nothing jumped out at me as being 100% ludicrous; the closest thing was that I felt Barbie probably would have had the sense to not come to the door while Julia was talking to her neighbor, because why would he risk annoying Julia by giving her neighbor something to gossip about?
  • Natalie Martinez seems to be pretty good at wielding a gun.  When she shot the one Clampett brother (or whoever), she looked quite natural doing it.  Linda has not been all that well-served some weeks, but I thought she came off fairly well this time.
  • W.G. "Snuffy" Walden has been contributing solid scores on a weekly basis, and this one was no exception.  I didn't much like the song that played a couple of times, though; that sounded like a lot of hipster bellowing to me.
  • It continues to fascinate me that the show is taking the Big Jim / Junior / Angie plotline is such an unexpected direction.  And given what I wondered about earlier regarding whether the dome might be influencing Barbie and Julia to gravitate toward each other, I'm now also beginning to wonder if there might not be something to the idea that the dome really could be causing Junior to act the way he's acting.  Or if not him, then maybe Angie.
  • No Phil and Dodee this week.  The show isn't doing much with them, is it?  I can only assume that there are major plans for them down the road.
  • I actually liked Benny the skater kid again this week, especially when he stood up to Junior.

Good lord!  I nearly failed to mention the Big Jim vs. Ollie plotline!

That developed about how you'd expect, although I have to confess, I did not foresee Ollie sending a thug to seize the propane stockpiles.  Neither did Jim Rennie, obviously.

Boy, I continue to love every scene Leon Rippy is in.  I'm afraid that there's just no way Ollie can survive this season; it seems like either Big Jim is going to have to kill him, or Ollie is going to have to kill Jim.  And since Dean Norris is listed as a main member of the cast and not a guest star...well, you do the math on that one.

Yes, things are looking bleak for Ollie.  But the show has already shown that it can have unexpected cards up its sleeve, so who knows?  What I know is that Leon Rippy is proving to be a major asset to the series; when he threatens Big Jim, you sense that he means it, and you also sense that he is capable of following through on what he says.  He's not speaking emptily.  I'm curious to see how he'll react to Big Jim's actions toward the end of this week's episode.

Dean Norris also continues to do very solid work as Jim.  You sense that he's a guy who has, for his entire life as a councilman, been playing out scenarios in his head about how far he'd be willing to go in certain situations.  You get the sense that he's been telling himself he'll go as far as it takes.  Now, he's being put to the test; he's finding it more difficult than he expected, but he's also finding that he's ultimately up to the tasks.  He's actuating.  Like that bird at the beginning of the first episode, he's breaking through the egg, becoming whatever the other side has in store for him.

Anyways, that's all for this week.  Seven episodes down, six left to go.  I'm feeling pretty good about it all.

How about you?


  1. I like the Dean Norris/ Leon Rippy stuff. They give good standoff. I was genuinely surprised and delighted to see Big Jim go on the offensive and blow up the truck (though the fire seemed to be an awfully lot less of a big deal under the dome this time around, didn't it?)

    I greatly enjoyed the dome-generator deal. For a second I thought they were going to show another little town inside the dome, with another little town inside it. A russian doll of domes of sorts. That part was cool. I'm looking forward to seeing this develop.

    The dome is pretty much my favorite regular cast character at this point, with Big Jim and Scarecrow Joe in second.

    Congrats on seven weeks running of timely UTD reviews.

    1. You know, I halfway expected there to be another town inside that smaller dome, too! Great minds think alike, I guess. (Might it have been Kandor...?)

      That's a good point about the fire not being as big a deal this time. It also seemed like a bad idea to waste that propane. But, Big Jim was drunk as a skunk and probably not thinking too well due to the anger, as well, so I can accept that that's what he'd do. Plus, it was badass.

  2. Based on what I've seen of the preview for next week's episode, things are going to go into even more unexpected territory...at least up to a point, my guess is it's "audience-toying-with-time", where they drag the premise far out of character as they're willing to go with it, and then let the rubber band snap things back to normal.

    At least I hope that's all that happens.

    One thing's for sure, Leon Rippey will be at the center of the next installment, though I fear that will be his swan song from the series. Here's hoping he goes out in style.

    "the scene between the pregnant lady and the phantom/vision/whatever of her husband standing outside the dome"

    Now I KNOW for a fact that the show is edging into Lost territory. Do I mind this? Actually no, not really. Especially if they manage not to botch the ultimate series ending.

    As for the nature of the Dome, I have a theory too, and all i'll say is i'm thinking of a line in the original Men in Black movie, spoken in the daytime, by the side of a highway, and leave it at that.

    Of course I do like that idea of a town within a Dome within a Dome, actually.


    1. Brother, I am 100% with you on the "Lost" thing -- that final season bummed me out, it was so poorly conceived. Not bad, per se; but bad in comparison to the first five seasons, most definitely. And if "Under the Dome" is chasing some of that, it's more than fine with me!

      I don't quite remember that scene from "Men In Black," but I remember there being some compelling ideas in that movie mixed in with all the fun silliness.

    2. While hoping to not give anything away, it's a scene where Tommy Lee Jones congratulates a minor character (not Will Smith) for something. Sea food is mentioned.


    3. Okay, yep; I got it now.

      I'd say you're probably onto something there, too.