‘Under The Dome’ Goes On A ‘Manhunt’

Senior Contributor
07.09.13 67 Comments


Three episodes in, a few things about Under The Dome have become clear. One is that Dean Norris and Mike Vogel should act opposite each other more often. Another is that if the show has a great moment, it’ll come cheek and jowl with a weaker writing decision.

There are three plots in this episode: Barbie and Big Jim hunting an armed nutbar in the woods and hate-bonding; teenager Joe handling a house party accidentally thrown by his idiot stoner friend; and the two most annoying characters on this show not dying. Take a guess as to which plot is the most compelling!

Let’s deal with the bad, first: Julia is officially a godawful character, what way too many Hollywood screenwriters think a reporter is. Essentially, she’s a self-righteous nosy scold, and making it worse is the fact that she’s terrible. It doesn’t help Julia’s likeability that she and Junior get stuck in some tunnels and, as she saves Junior’s life, she relates a story about how she, well, really, really, really sucks at her job. Rushing in and doing the exact wrong thing is increasingly becoming Julia’s main characteristic.

This contrasts sharply with the manhunt. Big Jim is possibly the best-written character on the show, and Dean Norris plays it for everything it’s worth. Furthermore, he and Mike Vogel play off each other well. A nice touch to the writing is that Big Jim is genuinely right, most of the time, just for the wrong reasons, and Barbie is the only one who can see him for what he really is. But at the same time, it’s obvious Big Jim likes Barbie: Barbie’s strong, capable, smart… everything Junior isn’t. There’s a weird, clever “Son I Never Had” vibe that Vogel and Norris use effectively.

The less said about the house party plotline, the better. It’s not bad, just very, very stock and featuring a kind of Junior Lite as the antagonist who will hopefully not be returning except to die; there’s not a character less interesting than the smug teenage bully. The whole thing really exists to remind us that, oh yeah, there’s a dark force behind this dome, and people are perfectly willing to steal the resources of others.

We’ll keep watching, not least because whenever Dean Norris is on screen, this show is great. But they need to start bumping characters off and paying off plotlines, or else this will feel like it’s running in place.

A few notes:

  • Apparently the subplot around Angie will only start going somewhere next episode, if the trailer for next week’s entry is any indication.
  • The “lesbian couple” plotline officially went preachy this episode. Ugh.
  • Linda ends the episode with a far more effective, and sad, comment on her relationship with Duke than anything in the previous episode achieved.
  • The episode is filled with little touches that things are beginning to fray. Electricity has become valuable. Milk is becoming questionable. It’s minor, but it’s nice.
  • There is a notable lack of Truman, the adorable Horace substitute.

Your own thoughts are welcome in the comments.

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