Monday, June 24, 2013

'Under the Dome' Premiere Review - 1.01 Pilot

        On the series premiere of CBS' Under the Dome, when the residents of Chester's Mill find themselves trapped under a massive transparent dome with no way out, they struggle to survive as resources rapidly dwindle and panic quickly escalates.

        CBS' summer series Under the Dome - an adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name - is filled with familiar character archetypes and recognizable faces for fans of TV - including Bates Motel's Mike Vogel, Breaking Bad's Dean Norris, Lost's Jeff Fahey, Supernatural's Colin Ford, The Secret Circle's Britt Robinson and more. But despite some familiar characterizations and a trippy sci-fi premise, this series is executed very well. Throughout its pilot, it kept me engaged and intrigued me. I wanted to learn more about these characters and the mysteries of this town. That tone is incredible hard to pull - and even harder to sustain - but at the moment I applaud the series for getting me hooked. It's still very confusing whether or not the series is a 13-episode limited event or a continuing series. But as of right now, I will happily keep up with the show over the slow summer months. And unlike fellow scripted series this summer on broadcast networks - NBC's Save Me and FOX's The Goodwin Games, Under the Dome is not being set up as burn-off. CBS desperately wants this to be a thriving success for them so that they can challenge the cable offering and be competitive this summer. The series itself is set up well to do so but we'll see how successful it will be once the numbers come in tomorrow.
        Now, on to the actual events of the premiere. First of all, it was stunningly directed. Niels Arden Oplev (the Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) did an amazing job of capturing just how small this world is while throwing in some terrific special effects (that cow will definitely be sticking with me for awhile). Also, the series is exceptionally well-cast and the characters all feel multi-dimensional. "Big Jim" easily could be this antagonistic character just trying to benefit himself from this ordeal but Dean Norris does a great job of showing off the man inside and how he sees and understands the world. No character in the piece is fully good nor fully evil. Vogel's Barbie is shown burying a man in the opening minutes and yet we're captivated into learning more about the specifics of that as he is now trapped in this town.
        The Junior kidnapping story is probably the most problematic from the premiere simply because it fell so easily in line with your typical horror story of a man terrorizing and kidnapping a woman. It all started innocently enough - with the two having as much sex as CBS could depict. But just went off the deep end and into creepy stalker mode too quickly without as much justification as one probably would have liked. I was also indifferent to the stories happening at the radio station and with the family with two moms. But that is more likely due to them largely being on the back-burner to the bigger, broader events of the pilot. They should be fleshed out and more integral as the season goes on.

So what did everyone think of the premiere? Is it weird seeing Dean Norris as slyly villainous after his turn on Breaking Bad? Was Alexander Koch too creepy or too campy? Sad to see Jeff Fahey killed off already (and just as he was started to share the town's secrets too)? Share your thoughts in the comments.

NOTE: While series producers Brian Vaughan and Neal Baer have stated that the series will be taking several narrative departures from the book, it would still be vastly appreciated not to discuss the events of the novel in the comments. You can mention them in vague terms but don't offer up any major spoilers that could ruin future events in the series.