Review: Under the Dome – “The Fire” (Season 1, Episode 2)

We have a guilt-racked, ex-military murderer and a seriously deranged Junior. We also have a fire and no fire department. Under the Dome continues its course into the horrific situation it began, but it also continues its tone and pace: something that worries me. A series should often change tone and pace to keep viewers on their toes. Breaking Bad and Doctor Who are fine examples of shifting tone; a naturally occurring phenomenon on a series with a different writer and director tackling each episode. These same phases can not be afforded to the mini-series because, essentially, the producers are creating one long film — with commercial breaks. So, while I shouldn’t expect the ebb and flow of a conventional series, I find myself wanting it. Unfortunately, it seems Under the Dome will locomote forward at the same, steady rate.

I’d previously praised Under the Dome for it’s dialog. The same line I cited as proof the compliment was justified has been, in essence, repeated. Twice. There seems to be a formula the writers are using: 1) a question, 2) an answer, 3) “How do you know?”, 4) Pithy, smart-ass observation. The rest of the dialog is standard at best, but sometimes cliché — although, the delivery of these lines often cause the audience to forget such transgressions.

One of those moments passes between Junior and Angie. Angie asks an important, yet pointless, question about her captivity: “What did I ever do  to you?”. The answer, due to it’s delivery, is chilling: “You loved me.”

In the first minutes of the episode, we learn a major character, Sheriff Duke, has moved onto the big dome in the sky; assuming spirits can pass through the dome (we’ve learned water can, thanks to the government). I was surprised to see them kill a character that seemed so major, but I suppose I was wrong. Duke wasn’t nearly as important to the story alive as he is dead; I’m sure we’ll see the far-reaching effects of his demise in the character arcs of his deputy.

We did get a new character: Rev. Lester Coggins (Ned Bellamy). The good Reverend spends most of his time embalming the dead — a profession that has seen a dramatic increase in business as of late — and covering up conspiracy theories. Lester, a drug addict, is tasked by Big Jim to destroy some incriminating documents Duke was holding on to. Lester decides to burn the documents (which are, fittingly, receipts for the purchase of propane). Out of sheer clumsiness, Lester manages to burn the house down. The town comes together to extinguish the flames. Despite the minor victory, Officer Paul Randolph (Kevin Sizemore) loses his mind and shoots the dome. Which is bulletproof. Of all the hundred people there, he manages to hit a species that’s nearly extinct in the town: a fellow officer. As Freddy Denton (Joe Knezevich) dies, the episode ends.

As I watched Randolph freak out and discharge his weapon, I was reminded of a Twilight Zone episode I’d seen before. Randolph seems to be the herald of an Ibsen-type of paranoia. Coupled with the unexplained phenomenon, Under the Dome looks to set itself up for the same kind of twist The Twilight Zone used.

So far, I’m whelmed (not overwhelmed, not underwhelmed), but looking forward to the next episode.

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