Pop quiz time, kids:
"Black Ice," the eleventh episode of the second season of Under the Dome, is:
(A) A pretty good episode of the series(B) An average episode of the series(C) An even-worse-than-normal episode of the series(D) All of above(E) None of the above
Don't look to me for guidance; I honestly don't know how to answer the question. If you put a gun to my head and demanded that I answer, and answer truthfully, I'd probably end up bidding adieu to life. This scenario hinges on you having a Lying Cat like in Saga, the excellent comic book from Dome alumnus Brian K. Vaughan.
I don't know that I could accurately answer the question for myself, which means that I'd probably be toast.
Anyways, what sort of weirdo goes around executing people based on whether they know what to make of "Black Ice" or not? You've got issues, pal.
So do I. And right at this very moment, the foremost among them is that I just don't have anything cogent to say about this episode. It's debatable as to whether I ever have anything cogent to say about Under the Dome, but it's a damn certainty that I haven't this week.
With that in mind, we are going to simply do this: I'm gonna rewatch the episode, screencap whatever I feel like screencapping, and talk about whatever crosses my mind.
As was hinted at last week, Chester's Mill is experiencing a dome-tastic drop in temperatures. Everything begins to freeze, necessitating some significant effects work. There aren't a huge number of shots like the one above, but there are a few, and if my eye deceiveth me not, the "freeze" was accomplished via a combination of CGI and color-correction. It doesn't look bad at all.
Pauline has a reunion with Melanie, and despairs that she must look old. "I'd know you anywhere," says Melanie; "my best friend, who left me to die." Ouch. This show can sometimes do okay when the writers decide to slow things down a bit and let the characters interact with one another on an emotional level.
Good lord, did I actually just type that?
That actually tends to be true maybe 25% of the time; the other 75%, you can bank on getting something filled with unearned emotion, or something that just flat-out doesn't make sense given what we know about the characters involved.
This scene is part of the 25%, I'd say. To some extent, this may be because we don't really have too much of a handle on who Pauline and Melanie are; therefore, since their characters are somewhat unfocused to begin with, it isn't as possible to contradict them as with most everyone else. Instead, we're able to focus only on the acting and on the quality of the filmmaking, and both are fine.
Does it feel as if the series has already dropped the idea that Sam murdered Angie? I'm afraid that last week's scene in which Junior considered burying an axe in Sam's skull, only to be convinced not to by the avatar of Angie, might well be the last we hear on the subject. If so, what a strange decision.
It's too early to say for sure, but I fear the worst. It certainly wouldn't be unlike this series to ignore an issue.
Heh. Just kidding. Carolyn does not appear in this episode, which makes six in a row that Aisha Hinds has sat out. Okay, guys, seriously; what in the hell has Carolyn been doing all this time? Unless the final two episodes of the season offer an incredibly satisfactory explanation, then...
I don't really have a resolution for that sentence. All I can do is threaten to continue to roll my eyes at this series. Also, where is Ben the skater kid? I didn't much care for that character, but he was too prominent during the first season to be ignored altogether. Tell me he died of an asthma attack offscreen between episodes if you need to; anything is preferable to evading the issue.
I have virtually no interest in Max Ehrich as Hunter. He's a boring actor playing a boring character. That said, Hunter does rheorically ask Joe if he's aware that there is a "Little Bitch Road" in town, which as an all-too-rare mention of something from the novel.
Ehrich probably shouldn't be blamed too much for Hunter's deficiencies; this series has a way of making everyone boring. And I will say this for Ehrich; both Mackenzie Lintz and Colin Ford seem a bit better than normal this week in their scenes opposite him. (Lintz is typically good; Ford, less so.) Elevating the games of those around you is certainly a mark in your favor, so maybe I shouldn't write Ehrich off just yet.
Much of the episode revolves around the plight of Julia and Barbie, who are involved in an ambulance wreck when they hit a patch of the substance from which the episode's title derives. Julia's leg is impaled by a piece of metal, and Barbie dare not move her off it lest it set an artery a-spurtin'. So he tries to keep her warm in the face of the incredibly low temperatures outside, and the eventual resolution is that he lets her die of hypothermia, the better to prevent the artery from being an issue. He then totes her back to the diner, where he resuscitates her.
Now, I don't know all that much about all that much, but I'm led to believe by watching movies during five different decades that if you want to revive somebody, you need to do it more or less as soon as they die. Here, Barbie must first carry Julia's corpse for . . . well, admittedly, for an indeterminate distance, but one which seems likely to be much too far to permit for manual resuscitation afterward.
Actually, now that I consider it, I'm not certain she dies. Maybe she's just unconscious with a low heart-rate? I'm not clear on how that works. I'm going to continue to assume she dies, though.
But I'm just a hack amateur blogger, and admittedly I don't know much. I'll fall back on a paraphrasing of an old saying: all I know is what seems like bullshit to me, and this seems to me like bullshit.
I suspect your enjoyment of this episode will hinge on your degree of investment in the Julia/Barbie story. Mine is negligible. Both Mike Vogel and Rachelle Lefevre are good actors, but the fact is that they just don't have much chemistry together. So if you find the relationship between Barbie and Julia to be eyeroll-inducing, you are apt to find your patience tried quite severely during these scenes.
What's interesting to me is that by deciding to have the characters become romantically involved during the first season, all sense of actual romance was removed from the relationship. Imagine how much more effective it might have been for the two to instead merely become good friends, albeit friends between whom you sense an almost palpable romantic chemistry; a chemistry which might find purchase later on, but which events have made unrealistic at this precise time.
Under the Dome went the other route, which is to turn them into a romantic couple almost immediately; and to say it has not worked would be a bit of an understatement.
This scene involves Norrie tearfully uttering the line, "I never should have let Big Jim knock that egg out of my hand." Has there ever been a worse line of dialogue uttered during a scene of good, tearful acting?
While hunting for some gasoline, Jim just happens to be present when Lyle belatedly pops out of the lake. This blows my theory out of the water, so to speak; I assumed he'd somehow remained behind in Zenith, and that as a result he would (as one of the original Four Hands) be the only person in town who could handle the egg without being zapped by it. So much for that.
Instead, he has an interesting monologue to Jim about what he saw while in transit between Zenith and Chester's Mill: "The whole world was on fire," he says. "There were waves of flames a thousand feet up, circulating endlessly. Destroyed everything . . . everything was just . . . it was beautiful. You should start thinking about where you want to be at the end of the world, Jim; because the end is coming, and there's nothing you can do."
This should provoke a bit of a reaction from anyone who has read the novel, and I'm curious to see if the upcoming season finale ends on a cliffhanger of some sort involving this idea. I've got no faith in the show doing a good job with the idea; but, hope against hope and all that.
There is a good scene in which we see Big Jim -- who has been thoroughly tongue-lashed by Pauline, and by Barbie and Julia, for his rashness in tossing the egg over the cliff last week -- contemplating what we assume must be some high-school trophies with his name on them. Pauline shows up and makes reference to being present at a game when he blocked a field-goal to win a game for the "mighty, mighty Woodchucks." This is another sly reference to the novel (in which a woodchuck, rather than a cow, gets sliced in half by the dome when it drops into place).
This is a good scene all around, and it continues the trend of permitting Dean Norris as Big Jim to play complexity as opposed to cartoonishness.
The episode ends with dome beginning to shrink inward. Which is an intriguing idea, but one which seems likely to play absolute havoc with the show's effects budget unless the shrinkage stops almost immediately at the beginning on the next episode.
Where will this lead? Dude, don't ask me. Probably nowhere good.
And by the way, if you've still got that gun to my head, and your Lying Cat is sitting there waiting on me to say something, I guess I have to go with "All of the above."