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Angie Drops the Big No: Under the Dome “The Fire” Review

By on July 3, 2013

Pictured: Dean Norris as James "Big Jim" Rennie and Ned Bellamy as Rev. Lester Coggins Photo: Michael Tackett/©2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc..

By Viv Mah

Under the Dome’s “The Fire” leaps right into the tough meat of fleshing out King’s characters. Watchers take note: character evolution, in Junior Rennie’s case, simply means campier dialogue. However, the vacillation between multiple plot lines leaves the bigger conflict of the eponymous fire at Sheriff Duke’s playing second fiddle to interpersonal drama and thuggish doings.

The one sour note that really doesn’t need any further accentuation is brooding pretty boy’s continued imprisonment of girlfriend Angie. This week’s episode sees Angie declaring a lack of love for Junior, and Junior promptly responding that he’s killed her boyfriend. That’s not enough: Junior lets his psychopath slide with a reminder of days past and bizarrely enough, Angie seems to respond. The actors work: bless, they really try to make the dialogue and bizarre Stockholm syndrome attempt work, but it’s more unintentionally hilarious than anything else. Attempts to flesh Junior out land him with dialogue that’s remarkable for feeling spontaneous in the moment, and stilted a few minutes later.

Pictured: Natalie Martinez as Deputy Linda. Photo: Michael Tackett/©2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Pictured: Natalie Martinez as Deputy Linda. Photo: Michael Tackett/©2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Meanwhile, Britt Robertson proves surprisingly pleasant. Little of this makes sense. The question remains, how long can they draw this out? Now that Angie’s dropped the big no to everything Junior wants, her days must hopefully be numbered. I’ll resist scanning Robertson’s IMDB page. For what it’s worth, the writers seem to have pinned their hopes upon drawing in the teenagers with the drama. As the weakest or surely, most cringe inducing of the story lines, it’s a risky bet and one that could dictate the character of the show to come. Hopefully it won’t end up with Junior pulling a Norman Bates and embalming the girl.

The problem with Junior stems not only from the writing, but the original text; King’s characters can easily fall into the role of two-dimensional archetypes. For what it’s worth, Dean Norris refuses to play Jim Rennie as the conniving, malicious, moustache twirling, greasy sneak a lesser actor would have delivered. I’ll admit it: in an apocalyptic scenario, the approachable and almost self-deprecating figure of Rennie easily has my vote. Despite my hypothetical support, Rennie’s the episode’s biggest villain of the night. He’s part of some hush-hush conspiracy surrounding propane that late Sheriff Duke (add ‘death by exploded pacemaker’ to the list of darkly hilarious) was cluing to. The natural solution to this? Send off crony Reverend Coggins to set the house on fire – and the house with it.

Pictured: Alex Koch as Junior  Photo: Michael Tackett/©2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc..

Pictured: Alex Koch as Junior Photo: Michael Tackett/©2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc..

In truth, my aforementioned support for Rennie might be in part due to the rapid fire allusions and spitting of orders that ultimately, revealed nothing but the obvious: there is more going on in Chester’s Mill than a giant glass dome enclosing them. Details in Under the Dome’s second hour are often unclear and thanks to this, it’s harder to empathise or dislike anyone or anything in particular. The same applies to story lines. We learn a little more about Barbie’s confrontation of Peter Shumway – that there was an unloaded gun involved and that Peter owed a certain amount of money to Barbie’s employer, but little else. By comparison, the score is almost too liberal with it’s ominous chords. My money’s on the orchestra being stocked with violinists that missed out on the chance to score Lord of the Rings. Junior Rennie makes an appearance – OMINOUS CHORD. Junior Rennie’s at the door, watching Barbie: CREEPING OMINOUS NOTES. The point’s been made.

Ironically, where the show excels – and where it could benefit from – is in moments of silence and misdirection. In a small community there’s bound to be lies that come back around to you, gossip, speculation – and therefore the question of whether you put your reputation or your intentions first. in some ways, the dome increases the importance of communication – not with the outside world, which is sterile and silent, but among one another. Vaughan’s script glances over these decisions of discussion in decidedly pretty little character building numbers: Barbie’s reticence on his deeper involvement with the Shumway family, Big Jim’s layered motives to assist in the house fire, Angie and Junior’s lying to one another.

This is wherein the issues lie; Under the Dome can’t seem to decide whether it’s drama or comedy, whether the audience is intelligent or not, whether it’s character or drama based. There is certainly plenty of potential in the set-up of relationships and plot lines – it’s only commitment to deciding which to explore that’s required. That’s the beauty of a series: its growth, not pleasing every member.

Additional thoughts:
A + weeping in a layered performance from Natalie Martinez.
Why is the kid standing around taking videos? More importantly: why is he not even mildly worried about where his sister is? Not even a peep?
Does anyone else continuously expect a car crash when someone we haven’t seen before goes driving down a road?
Even if it’s a cheesy expectation, it’s pretty damn neat to hear the words ‘under the dome’. Rock DJ Phil Bushe (Nicholas Strong) nails the delivery as the showman DJ is, but hopefully also in a nod as to how strange meta references can sound.
+ No more campy pre-ad break one liners, please. This isn’t CSI.
+I was hoping Reverend Coggins would die: the death of two good people, one week after the other, feels like it’s trying too hard to evoke pity. On the plus side, Junior has competition. Can they have a drama-off? I’ll keep score.

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