November 16, 2014

Screen Time #2: "Under the Dome" (2013) - Pt.1

Welcome to Screen Time, my own feature where I ramble about spotlight some iconic and/or favourite TV series from the '80s, '90s and 2000s!
I'm a child of the '60s *big shock*. This accounts for me fondly remembering some oldies I grew up with, or having some of them in my all-time favourite list. But don't worry, I'm not stuck in the '80s ;). There are plenty of series I've liked and followed in the most recent years...and some current favourites too. So tune in with me, and don't forget your popcorn...

Logo property of CBS - no copyright infringement intended

Genre: Supernatural, Mystery, Drama, Sci-Fi? (Edit: yes. It's now 2015, the show ended, and I'm crossing out the question mark. I wasn't really sure the show could be labeled as Sci-Fi back then, since Stephen King said they had departed from the book - see below - but now...yes. Definitely)
Genesis: Based on the 2009 book of the same name by Stephen King
Time span: 2013-current
Seasons: 2+ (26+ episodes)
Main characters & cast: Dale "Barbie" Barbara (Mike Vogel) - Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre) - James "Big Jim" Rennie (Dean Norris) - James "Junior" Rennie (Alexander Koch) - Joe McAlister (Colin Ford) - Elinor "Norrie" Calvert-Hill (Mackenzie Lintz) - Sam Verdreaux (Eddie Cahill) - Melanie Cross (Grace Victoria Cox)
Story setting: Chester's Mill, a fictional town in Maine (though the show is filmed around Burgaw, Southport and Wilmington, North Carolina. Thanks to UTD Wiki for the info!)
Theme song: ??? by ???
Spin-offs and remakes (to date): None
In three words...: Claustrophobic, ambiguous, suspenseful

Note: since Under the Dome is a current show, I'll wrap up the facts and my thoughts about it in a future post after the series ends. This explains the "Pt. 1" in the title.
Facty facts & captions: Under the Dome premiered on CBS on the summer of 2013, as Brian K. Vaughan's TV development of the namesake book by Stephen King. While most of the 1st season main plot and characters come from the book (with some big and small differences, of course), the 2nd season departs from it. If you're interested in comparing the series to the novel, just click on the above link.

King is apparently very involved in the show: he not only wrote the S. 2 premiere episode, but even guest-starred in it, as a Chester's Mill towns-person (image 1 | image 2 | very short video). According to King, however, "the writers have completely re-imagined the source of the Dome". And this confirmed my sensation that S. 2 were hinting at a different explanation for the Dome than the original one (not sci-fi oriented, but supernatural...?). 
Under the Dome started up with a cast of eight main characters, more or less inspired by the ones in the book, with some small or more substantial differences. Dale "Barbie" Barbara (played by ex Levi's model and former Grounded for Life regular Mike Vogel) is an outsider, an Army veteran in a hurry to leave Chester's Mill after killing a man. With a weird sense of humour, King has put him against town's politician and schemer extraordinaire James "Big Jim" Rennie (Dean Norris, from the celebrated series Breaking Bad). [Note...I'm not sure why King chose their nicknames among the Mattel dolls, one of which of the female genre...LOL]. Barbie will soon get in a relationship with strong-willed newspaper editor Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre, best known for the role of vampire Victoria in the Twilight saga), not aware at first that the man he killed in self-defence was her husband. 

Mike Vogel as "Barbie", Rachelle Lefevre as Julia and Dean Norris as "Big Jim"

Big Jim, a widower (or so he thinks), has a son, James "Junior" Rennie (Alexander Koch, in his first important role), a damaged young man obsessed with his independent ex-girlfriend Angie McAlister (Life Unexpected star Britt Robertson). Angie's brother and science prodigy Joe McAlister (Colin Ford, formerly recurring in Supernatural as the young Sam Winchester) will meet a love interest in a passerby trapped under the Dome with her two mothers, tough Elinor "Norrie" Calvert-Hill (Mackenzie Lintz, known for a minor role in The Hunger Games). Last but not least, we have Linda Esquivel (former Detroit 1-8-7 and CSI: New York regular Natalie Martinez), a dutiful deputy who is appointed sheriff of Chester's Mill after her mentor Duke Perkins dies in ep. 1 (touching the Dome causes his pacemaker to explode).

Alexander Koch as "Junior" and Britt Robertson as Angie

Colin Ford as Joe, Mackenzie Lintz as "Norrie", Natalie Martinez as Linda...and again, Colin Ford, here as young Sam Winchester in Supernatural :)

One fine day, a permeable but indestructible force field of unknown origins entraps the (fictional) rural town of Chester's Maine, of course (need I to say that?). The first season of UTD mainly deals with the struggle for survival in a restricted environment, while resources diminish and panic arises. Of course, we are also introduced to the inhabitants' dark secrets (especially Big Jim's) and ever-shifting relationships, while we follow a small group of resilient people trying to understand how the Dome came into existence, and how it can be forced (or persuaded?) to go awayUnlike King's book - in which, I think, the events only unfold in the space of a week or so - the TV version of UTD deals with a much longer time span - not to mention, it kills or spares different characters than the novel sometimes.
The second season is more focused on the supernatural aspect of the story, and as a matter of fact it brings new elements into the mix (like a mysterious would-be escape route from the Dome, and someone who's back from the dead...). Also, we are introduced to a few new characters...some from outside the Dome, some not. Which is bizarre, to say the least, because where were they before? (More on the subject in my Fan stuff section below). Here they are...
1) under the Dome:
   Big Jim's brother-in-law and EMT Sam Verdreaux (former CSI: New York regular Eddie
   science teacher Rebecca Pine (Karla Crome, seen in the British series Misfits);
   barber Lyle Chumley, who dated Big Jim's future wife Pauline in 1988 (played by country
   singer and actor Dwight Yoakam);
   Melanie Cross, a friend of Pauline's and Barbie's half-sister, who was Sam's girlfriend
   in 1988,  found the egg that now powers the Dome for the first time, and was accidentally
   (?) killed by Lyle while trying to protect it. Only, now she's alive again...and still 17 (played
   by debutant Grace Victoria Cox).

Eddie Cahill as Sam, Karla Crome as Rebecca, Dwight Yoakam as Lyle and Grace Victoria Cox as Melanie

2) outside the Dome:
   Big Jim's thought-to-be-dead wife Pauline Rennie, whose paintings have been influenced
   by the Dome even before it came into existence, and who fled Chester's Mill thinking it was
   the only way to save her son from its arrival (former ER star Sherry Stringfield);
   Barbie's shady father Don Barbara (Brett Cullen, seen in West Wing, Lost, Make It or
   Break It, Persons of Interest);
   Don Barbara's employee and hacker Hunter May, who follows Barbie, Sam, Lyle and
   Pauline back under the Dome (actor, singer and dancer Max Ehrich, currently a regular in
   the soap opera The Young and the Restless).

Sherry Stringfield as Pauline, Brett Cullen as Don and Max Ehrich as Hunter

Did you know...: 

...The show will very likely run for a total of five seasons (according to executive producer Neal Baer, who already has an ending plotted).
    ...The site mentioned in the series actually exists (click on the first hound on the left to enter).

    ...Not only King guest-starred in the S. 2 premiere (see above), but also in the episode Going Home - he's a passerby whom Barbie runs into while leaving the playground in Zenith (my source is the Italian Wikipedia page about UTD, but I couldn't find corroboration of this info anywhere else).

    ...TV critics, who favourably welcomed the first season of the show, have done a 180° halfway through S. 2 and are now crying for revenge...


    Season 1 has already been released; Season 2 is scheduled for December (Region 4: Dec. 3; Region 1: December 9: Region 2: Dec. 29, according to Wikipedia). A Blue-ray version was/will be issued as well. Also, Season 1 has been released in a collector package last year (it was a limited edition of course, so I don't know if it's still available) coming as a snow-globe with a giant red hand print on it (LOL). The globe contains the discs plus several character art cards. A must have! ;)


    Stephen King's. Duh.


    There are only a couple of notable sites about the show so far: the Under the Dome Wikia and the Official UTD CBS Facebook page.


    Most of the images I used in this article are CBS promo shots. Some come from the UTD Wikia linked above. Please contact me (via the form on the sidebar) if you want them deleted. No copyright infringement meant.

    Fan stuff: I've started watching Under the Dome because my husband - a King fan - was curious about it, so I thought, what the heck, let's give it a shot. And as far as Season 1 went, I more or less got what could be expected - a claustrophobic show about struggling for survival in an unfathomable cage and making or breaking alliances under such a stressful (for lack of a better word) occurrence. Which, mind you, was perfectly fine and interesting enough. Also, the supernatural vibe was there - of course. As was the mystery. Anyway, I didn't start feeling really curious and involved about/with the show until the S. 2 premiere. Angie's death started a course of more and more creepy (and yes, wacky) events that piqued my interest as a lover of the weird (see my Christopher Pike addiction...). It's funny how, according to the critics, the very reasons why I've become a fan of UTD are those which have degraded the show to messy, incoherent babble or utter stupidity. And, (again) mind you, they may have a point here and there. The show keeps piling up surprises, some of which may be there mainly for shock value, while others are probably a bit cheesy. Characters are now coming back and forth from the Dome when it's convenient for the plot (not to mention, the way out makes no sense...a playground at the foot of a cliff? what do people do, apparently land there from the sky in front of the carousels users? "simply" materialise in the middle of the park?). People who have never been seen in S. 1 (in reverse order of importance: Lyle, Sam, and "I'm-the-expert-on-everything-sciencey-how-did-you-manage-to-live-without-me-before" Rebecca, a teacher and a future crucial player in S. 2) are conjured from thin air and nonchalantly put on the spot after 13 episodes. OK, Sam was kind of a recluse, but what about never even showing up at a Sweetbriar meeting and ask his fellow citizens "hey dudes, what's up?". Also, there are some...well...inconsistencies, to put it mildly. Sam, Lyle, Pauline and Melanie were supposed to be around the same age when they hooked up - too bad that Lyle looks like he could be Sam's father and Pauline's uncle right now. You need more examples? Joe wants revenge on Angie. (Well, he, um, mentioned it, but it sound like he's over the incident by now. Too engaged in being nerdy and building a vlog library and making amends to his girlfriend for kissing Melanie, you know). Too bad his sister spent days trapped in the Rennie's fallout shelter while he was too busy dating Norrie in order to do more than barely register her absence. Yes, Norrie - the one who used to have two mothers in S. 1, and lately goes around like she barely has one left. So you see, there are some issues.

    Image source: Mikey Dislikes It
    (he has some hilarious reviews about the show here - check them out!

    [BTW, there were even hints of a couple - yes, a couple! - of eek! dreadful love triangles at the beginning of Season 2...Barbie-Julia-Sam (or even Julia-Barbie-Rebecca, if just for a tiny moment...or was I the only one to sniff that?), and Norrie-Joe-backfromthedead-Melanie. Luckily, the adumbrated geometry didn't go anywhere. And I started to properly breathe again].
    So, you might ask, what do I like about the show? OK, the obvious, of course. If the explanation for the Dome isn't the same as King's - an alien experiment - what is it? I'm not sure if there's a blend of supernatural and sci-fi here yet, since it's still unclear if Aktaion Energy (Don Barbara's corporation) just want to exploit the egg that fuels the Dome, or is more privy to its qualities that it leads on. Also, Melanie. Being the not-quite-dead aficionado that I am (ever visited my Afterlife Room?), her resurrection intrigues me (though her character doesn't really do anything for me, in all honesty). But I do appreciate the moral ambiguity of Chester's Mill's citizens as well, which is - sic - fascinating. With the exception of Julia (I don't include Barbie since he murdered her husband, even if in self-defense), they can be both heroes and villains, trusty or not (or trusty one day, undependable the other), murder people and save the day. Even Big Jim, the power-consumed, resident serial killer. Even Junior, the girl-abducting psycho. And the list goes on...

    Image source: The Fishbowl
    (an UTD community at

    So yes, I like Under the Dome. And I'm curious about where we go from here (though S. 2 cliffhanger was, um, cheesy? like welcome to the land of Oz, dudes...). And I suspect three seasons would do, while the promised five sound like a stretch - but we'll see. Only, start giving us some bearings, please.

    Image source: The Fishbowl
    (an UTD community at


    1. I haven't watched this yet but I think I saw that they added it to Netflix so I'll catch up. I
      m so impatient with eerie sometimes. If I don't get answers I start to get bored. Binge watching helps :-)

      Karen @ For What It's Worth

      1. Suspense is OK, but the TV people should throw us some bones now and then! ;)


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