6.5

Under the Dome Review: "Manhunt" (Episode 1.03)

TV Reviews Under The Dome
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<i>Under the Dome</i> Review: "Manhunt" (Episode 1.03)

The most important thing we learned about the Dome in this third installment really had nothing to do with any glass-like, half-spheres at all. Hell, this detail was in place decades before Chester’s Mill was the town we called Dome. Three episodes, an hour and a half of screentime and countless character introductions later, we’ve settled on what seems to be this episode’s very important nugget of info: Chester’s Mill is a small town.

It’s a point that’s been hammered into our heads with imagery and circumstances alone, from Big Jim Rennie’s swift, unofficial rise to town leader (while Deputy Linda Esquivel is doing just a fine job and getting half the credit, thanks) to Barbie’s outsider, mystery dude status in the hearts of the townfolk. This is a town where secrets circulate quickly and everyone’s got dirt on everyone—just like it was one, two, 10 years ago. Chester’s Mill, more like Rumor Mill, right?

So it’s strange that we spend nearly all of episode three developing the Dome itself as this real, living villain. Because, really, all this Dome is doing is providing a real barrier around a line most didn’t dare cross on a weekly, even monthly basis, depending on who they are. Real dialogue in this extended realization that the Dome is basically the Devil included “It was the Dome that did it to Freddy! It’s gonna kill more before it’s done” and “It’s a Dome! It’s making everyone crazy and it’s going to kill us all.”

The idea’s burned into Barbie’s head after he realizes the town restaurant owner knows he’s shacking up during his stay under our Dome-sweet-Dome with Julia Shumway—our curious journalist who’s going to crack this case by asking hard questions like “Why are you carrying a helmet on your backpack, Junior?” Junior even picks a fight with the Dome at one point, slamming and punching into the surface, making as much progress as a vegetarian in a hot dog eating contest.

The point is, if we’re looking at how this Dome affects the residents of Chester’s Mill, we haven’t seen much past one police officer losing his cool, Junior bashing at the barrier and the most tamable mob you’ve ever seen gathering outside of the police station. Instead, we’re left with the uneasy feeling of small-town living without the comfort of knowing you can get the hell out of there whenever you like. Maybe that’s worse than living in chaos.

But while episode two might have been plagued with half-hearted realizations on the town’s physical restrictions, I did find myself getting into this week’s slow-building tales much more than last week’s exploration of the Dome itself. Almost instantaneously, episode three took last week’s slow-crawling Dome exploration, which was capped off by a violent gun misfiring that resulted in a death, and turned it on its head. The opening scene featured teens utilizing the Dome as a skateboard ramp, and if CBS is offering a little bit of humor as compensation for last week’s bone-dry offering, I’ll take it.

This week, we’ve got an escaped officer, Paul Randolph, on the loose with a rifle (hat-tip goes to Deputy Linda, who just got that clutch sheriff spot after taking care of this). Junior is still holding to that crazy kidnapping scenario with his ex Angie, who sends him out on a fruitless mission to see how far below the ground the Dome extends (A clue: It’s episode three, so way far). Barbie doesn’t seem so trustworthy anymore, and Big Jim still seems like he’s got the whole town under his thumb.

And while last week’s advancements felt shallow to say the least, there are characters who are starting to grow on me—mostly Linda, who is turning out to be the show’s only protagonist you don’t roll your eyes at (we’re looking at you, Barbie, you overly handsome, mysterious devil, you). Linda’s even come the closest in summoning any sort of real emotion after tearfully taking down her dead boss’ nametag from his work locker. And Dean Norris is still trucking along as the power-hungry Big Jim Rennie, a character we don’t necessarily hate and peg as an evil guy just yet, but have been given all the pieces we need to know we will in the future.

The fact is, Under the Dome has already shown us most of its cards as a compelling sci-fi idea (at its best) that struggles to propel forward with rough on-screen characters and false starts (at its worst). And although this has been a love/hate struggle with the series, I’ve still got my eyes set on next Monday.

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