Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Under the Dome 2.08: "Awakening"

I would say this week's episode was a fairly decent one.  Much of it revolves around Barbie meeting a guy who works for Aktaion Energy, and who also, on the side, runs the HoundsOfDiana.com site that is evidently dedicated to counteracting disinformation about the dome.
  
Do we care about this?
  
In fact, do we care about any of this outside-the-dome business?
  
For me, the answer, increasingly, is yes.  Under the Dome hasn't turned into The Wire, exactly; hell, it hasn't even turned into a Dexter-quality show yet.  But there does somehow seem to have been a sense of energy and mystery imparted during these last couple of episodes that are, at the very least, making it a more interesting series than was once the case.  
  
Hopefully, that means we've seen the last of dumbo "Chester's Mill experiences __________ catastrophe this week and gets saved in ten minutes flat by __________" plots.
  
The question is, can the show build a mythology that is compelling enough to justify straying this far from the novel?  That remains to be seen.  There are five episodes remaining in this second season, and given how fast things tends to move on Under the Dome (in terms of bouncing from one plot element to the next), I'd say that we'll get enough story between now and the season finale to have a solid gauge on the answer to that question.
  
There is at the very least some attempt at depth being made.  Barbie's father works for a company called Aktaion Energy, and this appears to be a reference to the Greek myth of Actaeon, who saw Artemis bathing and was put to death by the goddess for his frank awe at her naked beauty.  He was turned into a stag, and was torn to pieces by his own hounds.
  
  
  
  
We've been seeing references to HoundsOfDiana.com for several weeks now, and it is obviously turning into a major plot element.  "Diana," of course, is the Roman equivalent of Artemis.  It is unclear what significance the mythological references might have, but there is at least a chance of something interesting happening in the course of all this.  This feels like Stephen King at work, to me.  I'm not sure yet if it's King bringing his A-game or not; hell, I'd settle for his C-game.  But it feels like King's hand guiding things, and if that proves to be the case, I'm curious to see what destination he has in mind.
  
Other plot elements touched on in this episode include Big Jim becoming -- via self-appointment -- the new sheriff.  Well, it makes sense for either him or Barbie to take that role, I guess.
  
  
  
  
He's investigating some vandalism this week, which he intuits to be directed at him personally.  Nobody believes him, but he turns out to be right, and it ends up being former deejay / former sheriff Phil Bushey, who is an utterly worthless character.  I'm a little shocked the producers have not killed him off yet.
  
Meanwhile, in Zenith, Don Barbara uses his connections to get an email from Dale to Julia (via Joe) inside the dome.  Unbeknownst to Barbie, though, he tags on a line asking Julia to bring the egg to Zenith with her.  The Hounds of Diana guy tells Barbie about this, and the episode ends with Barbie sneaking to the dome to give Julia a more personalized message:
  
  
  
  
This scene is observed by Sheriff Big Jim:
  
  
  
  
Dean Norris is really good at playing these semi-cartoonish moments of menace, and as a result, despite the fact that it makes no sense for us to see Jim's spying Barbie outside the dome as an act of evil, that feeling nevertheless comes through.  I'm sure Big Jim will put the knowledge to no good use, and there is potentially some good story to mine out of that situation.  Can this series do it?  We'll find out.
  
The other plotline of note involves Sam and Pauline snapping Lyle out of his semi-catatonic funk, and the three of them trying to figure out what the next move is.  
  
  
  
  
I remember them talking about the postcards a lot, and I believe something was mentioned about finding the red door or something.  I nodded off for a bit during this scene, though, and I'm too lazy to go back and check to see what I missed.  My dozing aside, though, I enjoyed these scenes; Eddie Cahill seems to have finally woken up, possibly as a result of playing alongside Dwight Yoakam.
  
Also awake, finally: Mike Vogel as Dale "Barbie" Barbara.
  
  
  
  
The writers are finally allowing him to become a man of action and have stuff to actually do in the role.  This is a good thing; Vogel is too good an actor to be wasted in the way he's been wasted throughout the majority of the series so far.  Barbie's romance with Julia still feels forced and lame; but that may not be recoverable, since it began on the shakiest of footing to begin with.
  
All in all, it was another episode that I'd get closer to giving a thumbs-up than a thumbs-down.  Not a slam-dunk, by any means, but a step in what I'd tentatively consider to be the right direction.
  
Anyways, any episode that includes this can't be all bad:
  
  
  
  
It ain't quite Schraderbräu, but it ain't bad.
  
And neither was this episode, for my money.

5 comments:

  1. I'd have to agree with this review, more or less. Whether or not a mythology is brewing, or even if King is behind the recent pick up in terms of story, I don't know. Though I am at least willing to bet that these last few episodes "may" have been the result of King at least reading some sample scripts and more or less saying something like, "Hey guys, don't you think something needs to start happening soon?"

    Other than that I do wish the re-intro of Phil could have been handled differently. Like I could see that whole element working more if it were actually several townspeople instead of or along with Phil. I think that could have worked because while reading the original novel, I thought it was going in a direction where the town would be split between Barbie and Jim, and somehow that just sounded cool, so I was really hoping it'd go in that direction. I don't know if that will happen here, but one can hope.

    Incidentally, the show has it's own version of Hounds of Dianna at this website:

    http://www.cbs.com/hounds-of-diana/main/

    There are some fictional testimonials from, surprisingly, a few of the bit players seen for a moment and then completely forgotten during last season. Among them, Norrie's Latchkey Dad, and Linda's steady. This may be an attempt at series mythos and if so, good luck.

    On the other hand, after a beat, this thought flashed in my mind: Oh crap, not the Dharma Project! JEEEE-YAYYY-PERS, anything but that!

    ChrisC

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    1. I wouldn't mind if this series ended up being an inverse of "Lost." That show was a great one that fell apart utterly by the end; maybe this one will instead find its footing toward the end. Probably not, but hey, a guy can wish, can't he?

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    2. I like that inverse-of-Lost idea.

      This sounds like an intriguing episode. I do look forward to watching the whole UTD series one day.

      I love that shot of "Not safe out here" and of Big Jim with the binoculars.

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    3. p.s. for what it's worth, I thought King's reworking of Greek myth for Rose Madder showed a keen interest (and talent) in the material and its implications. If this Hounds of Diana business is indeed King's hand guiding things and this is going down that particular road, that could potentially be very, very cool. Not just for the series but for the whole King canon. But, of course, we'll see.

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    4. That's a great point. Well spotted, Dr. McMolo!

      I'm not sure I'd recommend you marking your calendar for a full-series watch-through just yet. There are signs of life, but the show still has most of the problems which caused you to bail out; and it's added a few more on top of those.

      I'm cautiously optimistic. This (eight episodes in) is about the point at which the first season completely fell apart. It'd be cool if the reverse happened during season two.

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