'Under the Dome' TV Review: The Show Falls Short With "Thicker Than Water"
Under the Dome continues to confuse with “Thicker than Water.” It’s not so much the mythology that’s confusing, (although, yes, it is, and, no, I have no idea what the mini dome/egg thing is) it’s the quality of the show that confuses me.
The show has an interesting premise, promising story lines, intriguing actors, and yet, Under the Dome fails to be truly good. What the show is lacking is balance between all its moving parts and commitment to difficult storylines.
“Thicker than Water” was a particularly disjointed episode, mainly because it kept creeping up against a good, dramatic, topical storyline without actually reaching it. When Big Jim (Dean Norris), Barbie (Mike Vogel), Sheriff Linda (Natalie Martinez), and Junior (Alexander Koch) go up to Ollie’s land and try to seize it as public domain, the weight of their plan was only casually thrown around. Were they prepared to act for the people of Chester’s Mill and take away one man’s private property? In a country where socialism is a bad word and capitalism is sacred, this question is automatically a brilliant dramatic premise. Or it would be, if Under the Dome took the risk and explored it. Instead, the show turned it into a debate on war strategy: should Barbie be trusted to destroy Ollie’s well and divert the water back to the other wells of Chester’s Mill or should Big Jim take the lead and gather up a rag tag team of volunteers with guns to attack Ollie (Leon Rippy) and seize his land? Barbie’s solution would (ideally) result in zero casualties, whereas Big Jim’s plan could mean war throughout Chester’s Mill.
In the end, both men take a shot, but Barbie’s plan works and is, clearly, meant to be depicted as the better plan of the two. Putting aside the fact that war under the dome is a ridiculously stupid notion considering how bullets ricochet off the invisible barrier and the clinic is quickly running out of medical supplies, Barbie and Linda see that waging a war against Ollie would, inevitably, result in another man (the winner) with a monopoly on water, the town’s most basic need and resource.
The very real fear is that Chester’s Mill would become a kind of dictatorship, its citizens given no choice but to devote themselves to whoever divides up the drinking water. At what point in this crisis do ‘American’ laws and views on certain issues (such as private property, ownership and monopolies) become obsolete to prevent a dystopian society like that depicted in NBC’s Revolution – which, at its most basic level, deals with the fallout of modern resources (electricity, technology, cars, etc).
Unfortunately, Under the Dome refuses to delve deeper into these issues, probably to avoid alienating audiences who would back away from a political show. This, in my opinion, is a mistake for a two reasons: 1) it robs viewers from the logical/reasonable results to the proposed premise of a dome cutting off one small town from the rest of the world (I mean, really, who was surprised to see a group of crazy guys with guns refusing to acknowledge the authority of the law?), and 2) it stops the characters from reaching a certain level of humanity and depth.
I’ve said it, and I’ll say it again, Barbie is a fascinating character, yet, his morals and personality remain somewhat mysterious. Sure, he has a sense of civic duty (though not enough to officially want to be called a deputy), but what are his goals and motivations? Does he want to help the town by ensuring everyone have access to drinkable water because he sees the state of Chester’s Mill as one of emergency? As for Big Jim, is his only motivation really power? If so, he still wants to be liked, so I imagine he wouldn’t become the crazy dictator Ollie was on the verge of becoming.
At the end of the episode, Barbie accused Big Jim of risking lives so that he could be the town savior and be in control of the town’s water supply. Big Jim didn’t deny the allegations, but he didn’t confirm them either – this would have been the perfect opportunity for Under the Dome to have a deeper political discussion on the ramifications of their actions. But, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
Maybe I’m being too demanding, and I am most certainly not saying that I wish the show was all about politics, or laden with political messages. I am simply suggesting that it should venture in that direction a bit more than it does now.
As it is, the promo for next week’s episode, “The Fourth Hand,” (see above) definitely looks like Under the Dome is ready to tackle the hot topic of gun control. I am definitely excited for that, especially if at least a few characters argue over the pros and cons of taking away the townspeople’s 2ND amendment right (or just their guns, that’s fine too). I won’t be holding my breath. (They really should just take all the guns away to make sure Junior NEVER gets his hands on one again. Am I right?!)
Other noteworthy occurrences during “Thicker than Water”:
– Big Jim’s teary confession to Junior was completely heartbreaking and sweet. I couldn’t help but be a little bit skeptical of Big Jim’s sincerity, simply because of the manipulative nature of his character, but Dean Norris played it beautifully.
– How completely unhelpful was Julia (Rachelle Lefevre) in this episode? Also, mean. She was so consumed by the mini dome telling her ‘The monarch will be crowned’ that she didn’t even take a second to tell Joe (Colin Ford) she’s sure he wasn’t going to die just because he appeared in her vision. He’s a teenage boy, and she just left him to consider his own mortality in the middle of the woods. Way to go, girl. Way. To. Go.
– I almost laughed at loud when Angie (Britt Robertson) asked Joe why he hadn’t gone shopping. She didn’t forget she was present when looters killed Rose and stole the food in the diner before trying to rape her, right?
Under the Dome airs Monday at 10 P.M. on CBS.