Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Under the Dome 2.02: "Infestation"

Q:  Bryant, do you think it's time to resurrect the self-interview format for this particular episode review?
A:  Bryant, I think it is.  Can I ask the questions this time?

Q:  No.
A:  Aww...
Q:  Let's get moving.  I don't want to spend any more time on this than is absolutely necessary.  How did you like last week's episode?
A:  "Heads Will Roll"?  Written by Stephen King?
Q:  That's the one.
A:  I thought it was okay.  I thought it hinted at a new direction...
Q:  Please don't say "nude erection."
A:  ...at a different direction for the series.  I didn't think it was a great episode, but I thought it had potential.
Q:  How do you feel about that potential after seeing this week's episode?
A:  I feel like it is nearly nonexistent, and I feel as if whatever potential IS there is almost certain to be squandered by the show's producers and writers.  This was a terrible episode.  Absolutely terrible.
Q:  That's harsh.
A:  You disagree?
Q:  I do not.  I believe harshness is warranted.
A:  Oh, goody!  We are in agreeance.
Q:  That isn't a word.  We are in agreement.
A:  Whatevs.  This show makes me dumber lol.
Q:  What was the plot this week?
A:  The science teacher, Miss Pine, discovered that the reproductive cycle of the butterflies had been thrown out of whack, and that they'd all just laid a bunch of eggs or something, meaning that pretty soon there are going to be a LOT of caterpillars everywhere, eating up all the grain and whatnot.  The end result of this: devastation for the town's crops.
Q:  That's a pretty good idea for a plot development, isn't it?
A:  Depending on whether it's scientifically feasible, sure, I guess it's okay.
Q:  Did the episode do anything interesting with the idea?
A:  It did show us Barbie flying a crop-duster while wearing a goofy-looking helmet.  
Otherwise, no, certainly not.
Q:  How do you feel this storyline worked within the hypothesis of the review you wrote last week, namely that "Heads Will Roll" was intended to redirect the aims of the series?
A:  Well, I think it is direct evidence that that is indeed exactly what is happening.  The distinctions between -- and potential conflicts between -- science and faith were developed even farther this week.  Problem is, they were not developed in any meaningful way.  The two poles are obviously going to be Julia and Rebecca, and both of them are clearly going to become wholly annoying and uninteresting on their respective subjects.  The merest mention anyone makes of "faith" around Rebecca, she gets this squinty frown on her face, and Julia immediately becomes aghast that anyone would dare believe there might be an understandable, literal reason for what is happening to them.  They are both clearly one step away from turning into the comments section of a Yahoo! News article.  Whatever hope I had last week that the producers might decide to explore this fascinating topic in a meaningful and artistic way -- as has previously been done on top-notch series like The X-Files, Lost, and Battlestar Galactica (the remake) -- has vanished.
Q:  Would you agree that that is perhaps the likeliest outcome when an episode is written by people who were once writers for Smallville?
A:  I would agree with that.  Smallville was dreadful.  The fact that this episode's writers (Kelly Souders & Brian Wayne Peterson) came from there fills me with dread; the fact that they are credited as "consulting producers" on Under the Dome increases that dread.
Q:  Fuckin'-A.  Let's touch on a few specific plot points.  How do you feel about the fact that Joe and Norrie are living with Big Jim now?
A:  Omigod, gimme a frakking BREAK!  This is laughable in every way.  Big Jim had the two of them locked up and in jail just a few hours ago.  I can't remember why.  I think they were supposed accomplices of Barbie, or something stupid like that.  We're now expected to believe that just because Aisha Hinds quoted a line from The Godfather last week ("keep your friends close and your enemies closer"), Joe and Norrie would willingly spend time underneath Big Jim's home?  That's stupid.  And it's played poorly, too.  "Kids...!  Breakfast is ready...!" Big Jim yells from the kitchen, having cooked them sausage and eggs, or whatever.  Have I tripped and fallen into a bad sitcom?  What IS this shit?!?
Q:  How did you feel about the way this episode dealt with the fallout of Angie being murdered at the end of the previous episode?
A:  Too early to tell.  I assume it will end up sucking, though.
Q:  That doesn't seem fair.
A:  Maybe si, maybe no.  Either way, it's my assumption.  And based on this week's events, I think it's fair.  The two people most personally impacted (other than Angie, who will never again cavort about in a wet tanktop-and-jeans combo) are Joe and Junior.  They both handle it poorly, and immediately swear Klingon blood oaths of retribution or something.  I believe they both shout some variant of "Whoever did this is GOING . . . TO . . . PAY . . . !"  Which is a shame, because neither Alexander Koch nor Colin Ford is particular good at being angry on camera.  Koch isn't good in these scenes, but he does at least have a gleam of what appears to be genuine insanity in his eyes, which makes him believable, even if not compelling.  Colin Ford, on the other hand, is just plain awful.  The kid cannot act.  Period.  It's painful to watch him try, quite honestly.

Q:  You're an asshole.  Colin Ford is pretty good in the scene toward the end where he is talking to Barbie.  He cries!  On camera!
A:  So what?  He's probably only crying because Mike Vogel pulled him to the side right before the cameras rolled and whispered in his ear that he's a shitty actor.
Q:  Fair enough.  Has the show mentioned Julia being the Monarch?
A:  Nope.
Q:  Two weeks in a row?
A:  Yep.
Q:  Does it seem like maybe they're trying to sweep that idea under the rug?
A:  It seems that way, but I won't be surprised if they bring it back.  And if and when they do, I'm going to throw a red card at 'em for not having made a bigger deal out of it before then.  Because really, shouldn't a few of these characters be talking amongst themselves about what, exactly, that means?  For Julia to be "the Monarch"?
Q:  I'm asking the questions.  But yes.  Yes, it does.  Does it seem likely that Julia and Barbie would allow Joe and Norrie and Norrie's mom (absent this week, evidently doing whatever it was she did for episodes at a time when she would vanish last season) to live with Big Jim?  Wouldn't they say, "Hey, come live with us!" instead?
A:  It seems likely to me that they would.  It's a weird, weird choice for these people to suddenly be honorary Rennies.  It's obviously designed to facilitate some plot development the show will spring on us later on in the season.  It might also be designed to decrease the number of sets.  There's certainly no logical reason for it, no valid character-based reason.  It is, not coincidentally, the sort of writing I associate with bad television.
Q:  I got us off topic.  We were talking about the reactions to Angie's death.
A:  Right!  Yeah, everyone starts flipping out and blaming people with virtually no evidence.  Big Jim assumes Junior did it; Junior assumes Big Jim did it; Joe assumes the lady from the lake did it.  Sheriff Phil looks as if he wants to blame Barbie.
Q:  Have the two of them had a talk vis-a-vis the fact that Dodee was actually murdered by Big Jim, and not by Barbie?
A:  Not so far as I can tell.
Q:  Does that seem plausible to you?
A:  I mean . . . I guess it's plausible.  I could theoretically be convinced it is.  But has the show done so?  Not in any way.  The show appears to be avoiding the issue.  The show appears to be assuming its viewers are too dumb to think of a plot point like that one.  The show appears  -- to me, at least -- to be waiting until it needs there to be some sort of conflict between Phil and Big Jim.  When and if that occurs, I'd almost be willing to bet that episode will include a heart-to-heart between Barbie and Phil.
Q:  Did Rebecca refer to Barbie as "Dale" at some point in this episode?
A:  I think so, yes.
Q:  Does Sheriff Phil wear his sheriff's shirt with most of the top buttons undone?
A:  He sure does.

Q:  Is he more qualified this week to be a sheriff than he was last week?
A:  Are you fuckin' kidding me?
Q:  I am not.
A:  Then, no; no, he is not.  I mean, in theory he listened to songs like "I Shot the Sheriff" and "I Fought the Law" in his capacity as a deejay, and therefore has a working knowledge of how the criminal mind works.  Beyond that, fuck no, he has zero qualifications of any sort.
Q:  What do you think of the mystery the show is building around Angie's murder?
A:  Well, we're obviously supposed to think that Sam is the killer.  The lake-lady seems desperate to avoid being found; "he'll find me in here!" she says as she pleads with Julia to help keep her out of jail.  Given the fact that she got away from Sam's cabin the first chance she got last week, and given that Sam seems to know something about her, there's really no conclusion to reach other than that Sam killed Angie and is framing Junior for it.
Q:  Wait, wait . . . framing Junior for it?
A:  Do you think it's coincidental that Angie's lost bracelet ended up under his cot in the jail?
Q:  Oh.  Right.  So, are you proposing that Sam is going to end up being this season's antagonist?
A:  Either that, or the series wants to make us think he is, only to then reveal somebody else as the villain later on.  And I don't think this show's writers have any interest in adopting a wheels-within-wheels approach like that.  So, yes, my money is on Sam as a villain, and it's on him and Pauline being eventually revealed to be on different sides of whatever force is powering the dome.
Q:  You sound almost as if you are interested in this element of the series.
A:  I almost am.  I know I shouldn't be; I know it's only going to end up sucking.  But I can't help myself, I guess.
Q:  Should I pay attention to the extras during the scene in which Barbie is greeted after landing the plane?
A:  Only if you want to see a clinic in bad extras-acting.  This show has production problems, and bad performances from the extras is one of them.  That's not uncommon for television, but it's especially bad in this episode.
Q:  Does Dean Norris actually have to speak the line "Meet the new Big Jim..." in this episode?
A:  Lord help him, he does.  
Norris gives it his all, but he's been pretty bad in these two episodes.  To be fair, nobody could be good in them; he's being asked to do things no actor should have to do.  His character has changed so much in the past few hours in-story that it makes very little sense.  In order to sell a concept like that, you'd have to actually take the time to explore the ramifications of what it would mean to Big Jim to be party to the things he saw and was told last episode.  This series has no interest in that.  It instead wants us to believe that Big Jim believes it, and that he is therefore now a more redeemable character than he was two episodes ago.  And yet, it doesn't want to make any actual changes; changes should be restricted to a surface-level depth only.  The fact that Dean Norris is able to do anything with this material is a testament to his skill; but it's ultimately ineffective, because even he can't sell what the producers are asking him to sell.  Used cars are easy; illogical, poorly-fleshed-out character arcs are hard.
Q:  Barbie says at one point, "The Dome let Big Jim live and an innocent girl die . . . it does not care what happens to us down here."  Do you suppose this is a semi-veiled attempt to equate the Dome with God?
A:  An astute observation, Bryant.
Q:  Not that astute.  Seemed painfully obvious to me.
A:  Sorry.  Trying not to be an asshole.
Q:  Oh.  Well, then, okay.  Julia's response to this is to say, "I don't understand anything that's happening, but . . . I'm starting to feel like I'm losing you."  Did this make you roll your eyes?
A:  Boy, did it.  I suspected that this science-versus-faith thing would drive a wedge between the two of them, but I didn't think it would begin to happen as early as the second episode.  I mean, good lord, this woman let this man into her body a mere few days after meeting him, AND did so while she was (as far as she knew) still married, AND THEN just sort of shrugged it off when she found out that he had in fact killed her husband.  The only conclusion to be drawn here is that the sexual chemistry between them is so powerful that it might, if bottled, be able to destroy the dome.  But now, the two of them are going to begin drifting apart because of a little philosophical difference of viewpoint?  This show couldn't sell swimmers to sharks.

Q:  "I need to agree with you to trust you?" Barbie asks incredulously.  At least he seems to have some sense about him.
A:  Yeah, it's unfortunate, but the show is obviously going to pitch this division between them as beig a thing caused entirely by Julia's "faith."  Barbie, via his interactions with Big Jim, is obviously willing and able to just shrug this stuff off and get on with business; Julia seems headed down a path of mistrust and resentfulness.  The writers are plainly up to nothing good with her character, and I suspect Rachelle Lefevre is going to be doing things she doesn't want to do, but is contractually obligated to do, before this second season is over.
Q:  Where has Ben the skater gone?
A:  No idea.  Do you miss him?
Q:  Nope.
A:  Me neither.

Q:  Well, Bryant, I think I'm out of questions.  Anything you'd like to add?
A:  I'm looking forward to seeing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes this week.
Q:  Not relevant.
A:  In that case, then no.


  1. I got to agree with this review on the whole.

    All I'm doing is repeating my post from the last review, however the more I watched of last night's episode, the more the idea that the show was originally meant to be a limited run series of perhaps no more than a single season that has now been stretched beyond it's limits with needless padding is beginning to look more plausible to me.

    I can't help wondering if the following conversation (or something like it) took place in the CBS offices:

    Neal Baer sits in front of desk of CBS Exec.

    Exec: Baer, I have some good news, and some better news re: your Dome script.

    Baer (brightens): Really!

    Exec: the good news is your show has been green-lighted.

    Baer (hopeful): And the better news?

    Exec: It's being made into a series.

    Baer (disappointed):...Oh.

    Exec: A problem?

    Baer: Er, well, sir, quite frankly this story is very simple in both set up and character. In cases like this the best thing to do is to set the characters on their appointed tracks and let them go to their logical conclusions from A to Z. In other words, the story is set as best as it can be, and it can't survive a who knows how many numbers of seasons.

    Exec: Did I mention you're under contract?

    I don't know how paranoid that sounds, but at least there's one way of accounting for why things seem to be going wrong with this show.


    1. I have no doubt that some version of this happened. Whether it was with or without Baer, who can say?

      I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: I do not fundamentally have a problem with the producers extending the story into a multi-season adaptation. My problem is with the way they are doing it: flatly, uninterestingly, without teeth. I believe we are beyond hope at this point.

      But will I keep watching? Yeah, sure. Why not...

  2. Some real howlers here, well-done. I love the screencaps.

    I haven't been watching, as you know, but I really really REALLY hope someone at some point tells Sheriff Phil his only qualification for the job is he once played "I Shot the Sheriff" and then that becomes his theme song. And then someone literally shoots him and then someone spells it all out agonizingly, with Julie and Barbie looking on, concerned.

    1. I'm not sure I think this show is capable of being even THAT subtle.