Under the Dome “Outbreak” Review: Action Under the Dome
By Viv Mah
Finally, finally there is action Under the Dome. That, and the show runners have heard our pleas. Our questions of timing are finally answered in a neat, unobtrusive piece of dialogue. Revealed to have been three days since the dome’s come down, Joe’s previous insensitivity towards the disappearance of his sister and the lack of havoc is made clear.
Beyond the small-scale, personal dramas and the titular drama, a meningitis epidemic proves surprisingly entertaining, and runs throughout the background in the form of shivering figures wheeled into the hospital and the emergency room packed full of quarantined worriers.
We’re finally treated to some moral questions too, such as the allotment of medication to the sick patients. Rather than explore this in more selfish characters, the choice is fobbed off to Linda’s ex school teacher, who makes the appropriately moral choice of allowing the young sheriff to live on over her. Preachy and predictable? Possibly. Still, it treats us to indulge in the pathos we’ve been missing and grants us some beautiful acting from Natalie Martinez – as well as a mild peek into how the characters have reacted to her assuming such a necessary role. I maintain that Miss Martinez is the unsung hero and best-used member of the cast. (That said, no sudden shift of focus or new segment upon her is necessary. Part of the beauty’s in our interpretation of the subtext.)
Meanwhile, Reverend’s gone full psycho, and has begun to burn whatever medication the town possesses in order to allow for His will to be done. The little plotline about their stash of propane is relatively sidelined, though brief scenes of confrontations between him and Big Jim serve to remind us that the “small” scale drama is still churning on. On the plus side, Big Jim’s quiet ruminations on their partnership being cancelled afterwards, admittedly leads to the quiet discovery of Angie. Half-drowned. Probably emaciated. And all-but-afloat in his underground shelter.
That said, there’s no real need for me to reiterate that our favourite psycho-boyfriend-and-girl-trapped-in-a-basement plotline has thankfully rattled to an end. Sympathies aren’t played: Angie, who was displaying some semblance of intelligence last week seems to fail at the most basic instincts of self preservation and understanding how best to play Junior’s weakness. How is she still unaware of her boyfriend’s strengths? It’s difficult to empathise with a character that is simultaneously two-dimensional and thoughtless. The more powerful use of Alexander Koch has been surprising; he provides greater range and a sweeter, more compassionate nuance to Junior’s conflict between his own manipulative interests, and his want to reassure Linda of her running the town or his calming of the citizens.
On a different note, the dynamic between Barbie and Julia has shifted once more. The better relationship/character development out of the series, Julia’s confrontation of Barbie over his past connection to Chester’s Mill (and although still unknown, her husband) is gracefully handled. While there was the potential, both the characters’ implied maturity and the gravitas of the medical situation they’re situated within balances the drama. Peter Shumway turns out to have emptied his and Julia’s accounts for some yet undetermined reason. Similarly, Barbie reveals his past (as an enforcer, a kind of brute a bookie hires to ensure their money’s paid) in a quiet little moment – that ultimately leads to the revelation that Peter’s “taken off.” (Here, at least, is a useful moment of silence right after Barbie’s lie, where the music peters right out.) Don’t worry, potential shippers. It’s not a break-up if they’ve never been together, and it’s a progression towards a new kind of trust or closure that both required.
The ongoing story of Joe McAlister and Norrie’s burgeoning relationship is similarly sidelined, regardless that the two are the vision-having, floor-shaking chanters. Quirky as this episode’s writers may think constant photo taking might be, they should look to our past reactions of their use of teenage slang to get an idea of how we’d feel about this character device. Little happens with the pair – both to them and by them. They come up with the hypothesis the dome doesn’t want them saying anything, backed up on nothing particularly substantial at all. (By contrast to this waste of minutes, Joe’s finally twigged that his sister’s missing. ‘Grats, bro. You’ve proved to have an iea of how family works.)
Elements of the tensions left to boil under the dome are finally beginning to surface, as is a greater exploration of the facets of characters: Junior’s sweeter, more responsible side, Julia’s vulnerability, Barbie’s amorality. For once, I’m growing close to becoming invested again.
Things I’m Interested In Seeing:
+ Junior Rennie as a policeman. I AM HERE FOR THIS.
+ The possible return of Koch’s camp as a power hungry officer.
+ Angie being shot by Junior in the pretense he’s protecting the town. That’d be neat.
+ There is REBELLION against the DOME. I suppose my question from last week has been sort of answered.
+ Maybe a message to showrunners will become my regular thing, but this has to be said. When your viewers are more invested in the show and the possibilities the characters face, the less we’ll pay attention to the ominous chords you insist on using.
+ Under the Dome’s designated as a thriller, and still the thrills remain average. Even a flood isn’t doing it for my easy enthusiasm.
+ Pacing has eased out over the first half of the episode. Rather than attacking us with abrupt action, there’s a more palpble underlying sense of tension that continues throughout. Much better.