TV Review: Under the Dome
In its first hour long episode we meet the small town of Chester’s Mill. It is the kind of town we are used to seeing in our TV shows and movies, small and quaint, untouched by national chains. These towns are usually stuck in a time that is hard to relate to anymore. But that is acknowledged here: We see an empty diner because everyone goes to the Denny’s in the neighboring town (adding to the nostalgia, the diner is run by Beth Broderick who played aunt Zelda Spellman on Sabrina the Teenage Witch).
And then, it happens. The Lost-esque event, the big concept here, is that seemingly out of nowhere an invisible forcefield plants itself right over the town. In a disturbing and enticing visual, a cow is split down the middle, with each piece slowly sliding down their respective dome sides. With this, the town becomes that fake town plucked from yesteryear. No cell phones work and the diner fills again. Anyone who was at Denny’s can’t get back home. They’ve gone too far.
The premier episode spent much of its time clarifying the concept. We meet a vast selection of characters (the sheriff, the young cop, the girl who just wants to leave town, the snooping journalist, the dark mystery man), but none truly come alive from the rough sketches drawn of them. Most enticing so far, however, are Britt Robertson as Angie, that girl who wants to get out of town, and Natalie Martinez as Deputy Linda Esquivel, that bright-eyed cop.
Angie wants to escape town even before the dome, but with its hit, her crazed boyfriend hides her in his father’s underground bomb shelter. Double trapped, Angie fights and kicks and screams, and Robertson plays her more as angry than afraid, a nice change from the damsel-in-distress trope.
Martinez, as Deputy Esquivel, doesn’t have much to do, but a whole lot to react to. Her dialogue consists mostly of variations on, “What do you think is going on?” But her eyes underline her sincerity and honesty. The final moments of the episode where (SPOILER) the sheriff is shot out of nowhere, becomes heart wrenching when seen from the other side of the dome. Martinez, no longer burdened by her shoddy dialogue, shows us true panic in silence as law enforcement and federal agents run about on the other side, unable to do anything about what is going on, or even hear it, and Martinez is catapulted into a much bigger role in the coming episodes.
Under The Dome relies heavily on its concept, but it’s an interesting concept, and timely: Our world is more connected than ever, so what happens when our connectivity is shut off, when we’re forced back into the quaint little town idealized by so many? Is it a blessing or a curse?
It is unclear if Under The Dome is going to look particularly deeply at these kinds of questions, but even if it doesn’t, it should be worth watching. It has teased some secrets of the town that will surely add “drama,” but mostly it is a fun show that goes down with less guilty residue than other summer network TV fair. It won’t stop me from watching The Bachelorette, but a dome over Baltimore might be the only fix for that.