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Under the Dome “Manhunt” Review: Are We Still Holding Out For a Hero?

By on July 9, 2013
Pictured: L-R Mike Vogel as Dale œ'Barbie' Barbara and Rachelle Lefevre as Julia Shumway. Photo: Michael Tackett/©2013 CBS

Pictured: L-R Mike Vogel as Dale œ'Barbie' Barbara and Rachelle Lefevre as Julia Shumway. Photo: Michael Tackett/©2013 CBS

By Viv Mah

Were you back for a third installment of Under the Dome last night? Following a lukewarm second episode, hopes were high that “Manhunt” might promise some semblance of action or at least a greater sense of tension following the fall-out from last week’s shooting. Sadly the episode didn’t deliver.

We opened with a glimpse into the (not so secret now?) life of the teenagers of Chester’s Mill bonfire-ing it up, which served absolutely no purpose other to affirm that some parts of technology are still working and killing is bad. Thankfully, this particular storyline led to Norrie and Joe, who were an oddly sweet couple set among the other dysfunctional relationships showcased.

In general terms it could be said that the relationship-based stories were a bad fit among the other issues the episode tackled: primarily, matters of wanting and failing to receive. Plot-wise, this issue extended to Junior’s ongoing fixation with Angie and Big Jim’s growing power and elimination of opponents. While the focus was less on Dean Norris this week the decision was a smart one. Big Jim’s primary concerns last night week were divided into two categories: ensuring his (still vague!) plan remains kept under wraps, and the titular manhunt for last week’s shooter. Sadly, both were bland, procedural fodder that failed to titillate. A recurring theme over the last two episodes has been a distinct failure to deliver. This week’s”Manhunt” was particularly dry, with tension killed just as swiftly as it was created, particularly in the takedown of the shooter. One notable element was Big Jim and Barbie’s shaky camaraderie, where both attempted to slip their stock roles of hero and villain by hinting at a shared background.

Image © CBS

Image © CBS

The episode also saw other efforts of Big Jim to clock in father hours or ooze appeal as the potential leader of Chester’s Mill falling flat. While I respect Norris’s choice as an actor, his flat monologues to Junior appeared all the more comical when those efforts were combined with Alex Kouch’s increasing attempts at broodiness.

There  was yet another small upside to the episode: the lack of focus upon Junior and Angie. This week both characters took a step away from the screeching melodrama and psychopathic control. While it didn’t exactly preach any positive messages to girls, we saw Angie testing out a new tactic. Robertson does try to nuance Ange’s duplicity and her coaxing Junior to go check out the tunnels to see if there was a way to escape from underground was a nice progression in character development for them both. And seeing Junior pounding against the glass wall of the dome in something that was an escalated version of his usual melt-downs was unsettling.

While “Manhunt” was neither exciting nor worth tuning in for, there was one ray of hope among the scenes – a hint of tension in Julia and her determination to dig into Barbie’s past.

Additional notes:

+ Last week, I listed what I thought were the show’s biggest problems. Three episodes in, there’s a more daunting sense of “I can’t tell what the themes of Under the Dome are.” Call me a hack, but all shows can be boiled down to something we can relate to. In Dan Harmon’s much-acclaimed Community, it’s the tenuous nature of forging relationships. In Hannibal, it’s about identity and the nature of man. Under the Dome jumps all about the place with what it tries to cover; teenage angst, the pains of living in a small town where gossip gets around, the politics of money-making and sexuality?

Image © CBS

Image © CBS

+A major part of my conflict lies in deciding whether to be sympathetic towards the citizens of Chester’s Mill if they’re not attempting to proactively do anything to escape their situation. We’re expecting something more than a willingness to wait around and be rescued. We want heroes who will do something similar to Junior’s ploughing into the underground tunnels. We want to root for heroes who’ll try.

+ Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to play my drinking game with Junior Rennie and the honourable Reverend. I can’t tell what’s sadder: that I miss the campiness, or that I bought a bottle of vodka specifically for tonight.

+ The understated role of Linda is played particularly beautifully by Natalie Martinez. Showrunners, take notes! A lack of ominous music and action that speaks far more than two-dimensional dialogue is doing so WELL for you here! A lack of concentration upon her personal details; e.g, her fiancé, her emotional pain following Duke’s death, makes her focus upon her work all the stronger. She just might be the show’s breakout star.

+ Neat little ‘pink stars are falling’ chant. Props must be paid to the actors for their commitment: I wouldn’t be willing to jiggle on the floor and roll my eyes back lie that. That said, I suppose that’s why I’m the one sitting behind the keyboard.