Under the Dome could be so much better than it is. The show may eventually repeat the excitement of its pilot, but considering it's a massive success for CBS, which means we should expect many years of plot-dragging, insulin-stealing action to come, that's unlikely to be true. It's a perfectly fine summer series, with a couple of very good performance (especially Dean Norris'), but after three uninspiring episodes in a row, I'm worried.
I don't want to write it off already, though, so today, with the help of Dan Seitz's insightful recaps, I thought it'd be fun to rank 15 or so of the show's main characters, not only by how ridiculous they are (apparently being trapped in a dome makes you act a fool), but by how much I want them stranded in a dome for forever. We begin with the best.
#15. James "Big Jim" Rennie (the higher the number, the better)
Big Jim is Under the Dome's Cheshire Cat, with a smile too big for his face that reveals some mysterious truths. Namely, that he's the only all-around interesting character on the show. He's obviously in on something; we're just not sure what that something is, and whether it's good or bad. Well, it's almost certainly bad, and he's slowly beginning his march to become Chester Mill's ALL POWERFUL PRESIDENT 4 LIFE (don't blame me; I voted for the cut-in-half cow), but hey, as long as Dean Norris's the one doing the evil smirk, I'm Team Big Jim. (There's no way his city councilman campaign motto wasn't, "Snap into a Big Jim.")
#14. Joe McAlister
The best thing about Joe: he's at least cognizant of the fact that his town is SURROUNDED BY A BIG ASS DOME. This is a TV show, and TV shows, if they want to run for years, have to divert away from their central premise; otherwise, the writers will quickly run out of stories. Thing is, on Under the Dome, it seems like some characters have already forgotten about the dome, despite their saying "dome" every other word. Joe might be a terrible actor when it comes to faking seizures (and has already forgotten about his sister), but at least he gives enough of a sh*t to try to figure out what's going on. When he's not trying to get into Norrie's TOTALLY PUNK pants.
#13/#12. Phil Bushey/Dodee Weaver
They like Arcade Fire. I like Arcade Fire. HOW RELATABLE.
#11. Howard "Duke" Perkins
Oops. Sorry, Cap' Frank.
#10. Angie McAlister
Britt Robertson has given a great performance in a thankless role — there's only so much one can do when you're tied to a bed by a lunatic in a flooding underground bunker — but now that Big Jim has found Angie, and presumably rescued her (HAHAHAHA), hopefully she'll be able to choke Junior with her old prom dress. Wishful thinking.
#9. Deputy Linda Esquivel
Our hero. Or something. She's the definition of the "just there" character. In every scene, which she neither helps nor hurts, she's just kind of there. Her big, emotional the-student-becomes-the-teacher transformation after Duke dies? Yup, just there. Her big, emotional the-student-is-next-to-the-teacher-when-she-dies moment? Just there. There's nothing particularly abhorrent about Linda as a character; she's too inoffensive to think about.
#8. Dale "Barbie" Barbara
Maybe it's because he looks like every other generic hunk on TV right now (pretty sure I recognize the actor from playing Sookie's Boyfriend #84 on True Blood), but I'm having a hard time caring about Barbie. Especially now that we know his back story (ex-soldier, bookies, gambling, etc.), which isn't nearly as interesting as, say, Jack's from Lost. Now, I'm not saying Bai Ling has to guest star to spice things up, but yes I am. It also doesn't help that a) his name's Barbie, and b) he's now "friendly-ish-esque" with Junior, a plot development that makes no f*cking sense after what we saw in the first few episodes of the season. Barbie's underwritten and uninteresting, and the writers seem undetermined to make him anything more than Lead Guy by Default. That still makes him one of the most likable characters on the show.
#7/#6. Carolyn Hill/Alice Calvert
"I'm scared. What if the dome lasts forever?" I want that written on my tombstone. I have nothing else to say about these two, other than I had no idea they had names before putting this post together.
#5. Norrie Calvert-Hill
Simpsons did it.
#4. Julia Shumway
I'm going to quote the lovely (?) "numbersix" here: "Julia continues to be a complete idiot. Screw meningitis, I need to find the mystery of my husband and Barbie now. Even though we are in a dome and no one is going anywhere, I need to know now even though I may infect others." It's unclear whether we're supposed to sympathize with Julia, and that's a major problem. She's a brilliant reporter when the show wants her to be, but most of the time, she comes across as credible as an, ugh, blogger. Forgive me for coming back to Lost again (blame Brian K. Vaughn), but even though Kate had her faults — many, many, many of them actually — she was at least consistent. She was a good leader, a good fighter, a good fish biscuit fan. When she, and Jack and Sawyer, were at their worse, though, was the first half of season three, at the peak of the caged love triangle era. Once the writers learned from their mistake and got that nonsense out of the way, Lost was better off for it. Barbie's not really fighting with anyone for Julia's attention, except maybe her ghost of an ex-husband, but it's clear that at some point, they're going to hook up, everything will be awful, and then hopefully one of them becomes a cabin-bound recluse. The end.
#3. Rev. Lester Coggins
When someone inevitably writes about the Dumbest TV Scenes of 2013, if the one where the writers needed a contrived reason to burn Duke's house down, so they made the reverend set fire to some receipts, which he then threw into a GARBAGE CAN, isn't in the top-five, we riot, or maybe BURN THE DOME DOWN. Coggins is comically evil, and honestly, that's fine by me. The more ridiculous, the better, I say; otherwise, it's just boring. Related: I'm bummed that Deputy "Not Luke from Gilmore Girls" Paul isn't still alive. I would DVR every episode of his spinoff with Coggins, The Dome Rangers, and maybe actually watch it some time during the summer.
#2. These Idiots...
...for ruining perfectly good food when YOU'RE STUCK IN A DOME. (Looks like Walter White in the back)
#1. James "Junior" Rennie
NO. Junior is the worst kind of villain. Joffrey from Game of Thrones is a complete and total monster, but I still like him. Well, maybe "like" isn't the right word, but I enjoy scenes that he's in. No, that's not exactly it, either. What I'm trying to say is, whenever Joffrey's screeching about this or whining about that, I'm completely fascinated by what I'm watching. He's the perfect combination of superb writing and a wonderful performance — Junior is neither of those things. I know people around the Interwebs are calling him Not Andy Samberg, but to me, he's Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels, an inky, charisma-less void who's more laughable than loathsome. He's not fun to root against, and hopefully Big Jim mistakes him for Marco Salamanca sooner rather than later.