'Under The Dome': Five Reasons To Watch

I admit it: I’d pretty much completely tuned out that Under the Dome was coming as a summer miniseries of thirteen episodes. This is partially because the book is, for better and worse, classic Stephen King: The sprawling story has some great characters and some absolutely disturbing heartbreaking moments, but those are cheek-and-jowl with some terrible “political satire” and a weak ending. And King does not have a great record of page to screen, especially recently. But recent developments have caught my attention and might just break the streak.

Brian K. Vaughan Is Writing The Entire Series

You might know Vaughan as a writer on Lost. Comics fans will know him for, say, Y: The Last Man, the current hit book Saga, or his current crowdfunded ongoing The Private Eye. Either way, Vaughan is a talented writer, and he’s written all thirteen episodes of this series, or at least done enough on them that he’s the only credited screenwriter.

It’s Not The Book

Vaughan has, with Stephen King’s blessing, apparently made substantial changes to the overall story. Dale Barbie, for example, is far more unsavory of a character, and might actually be in the town for reasons directly related to the dome. If this means they’ve done away with the ghost-sensing corgis and the villains are less cartoonish, that’ll be a welcome difference.

That Said, There’s Enough To The Book To Sustain A Miniseries

Part of the reason Under The Dome was such a sprawling book is that King had dozens of characters and at least six or seven plotlines going at any given time in the book. King made a point of drawing a huge cast of characters and giving nearly all of them something to do, and the series seems to have taken that up to eleven. Chester’s Mill is an intrigue-packed small town even before the dome turns up the pressure, something Vaughan in particular enjoys playing with.

CBS Isn’t Pulling Any Punches

The first episode alone features a cow demonstrating rather gorily what happens when you’re half-in, half-out of the dome, a massive truck crash, and other mayhem. In fact, the preview is pretty heavy on the gore for network TV:

Considering that the books most disturbing and creepy parts are psychological rather than violent, that seems to be a good sign. Especially since they are seriously hinting that they will go all the way with Junior Rennie’s plotline, which… well, let’s just say King doesn’t get much nastier or darker.

It’s Got A Great Cast

Pretty much the entire cast turns this into a game of “Hey, it’s that guy!” The main antagonist is none other than Hank Schrader from Breaking Bad, Dean Norris. Mike Vogel, the crooked cop from Bates Motel, is playing Dale Barbara. Also, believe it or not in that preview, the sheriff is none other than the Lawnmower Man himself, Jeff Fahey.

In short, CBS is delivering something rare for network TV; a big-budget science fiction story that might be about more than special effects while still delivering the carnage. OK, so it took Stephen King AND Steven Spielberg to do it… but the pilot, at least, should be worth watching.