I noticed that the last couple of reviews I have done for Geek Insider have come across as rather negative. Realizing this, I went into last night’s episode of Under the Dome trying my best to be positive and really enjoy the episode. That approach worked for about half of “The Fire,” until I ran into a couple of different plot points and character flaws that just couldn’t be ignored. All in all, this show still has an awful lot of potential and episode two was much better than episode one in setting up what we’re going to be seeing in the rest of the season. There were still some parts of the story that had me rolling my eyes.
In a show like this, backstory is always a nice way to fill in a character or two and for the episode opened showing us just a little bit more of who Barbie is and why he ended up killing Julia Shumway’s husband. It appears as if Barbie is some sort of enforcer and that Mr. Shumway owed money to his boss. The two tussled and Barbie accidentally shot Shumway. This still makes Barbie a guy who is palling around with the wife of someone he murdered, but at least he’s not a cold blooded killer. I also like the fact that he is the only character who is getting this kind of backstory treatment.
There had been talk that the show wouldn’t be doing a whole lot of flashbacks to life before the dome came down, because the writers wanted to make it clear that the people in the town were truly cut off … even from their past. By not showing us what happened before the show began and only vaguely alluding to some previous goings-on there is more of a mystery unfolding.
I also talked last week about how I wasn’t convinced that Alexander Koch could pull off the creepy Norman Bates type psycho character of Junior Rennie. He was much improved this week and I actually bought his “I’m just trying to help you … but I’m pretty darn nutty,” act this week. His assertions that the dome somehow changed Angie when it was pretty clear from the beginning that she simply didn’t care all that much for Junior is a nice piece of writing.
Lester Coggins is an interesting character because he’s supposed to be the town reverend but doesn’t strike me as someone who is really anything more than some greasy criminal who wears a priest’s collar. He’s certainly not remotely pious in any of his scenes, but considering that he apparently is a criminal, thanks to conversations with Big Jim Rennie this character works well. The actor who plays Coggins, Ned Bellamy seems to have made this exact character, someone who is supposed to be trusted but doesn’t strike you as trustworthy, his bread and butter.
Despite the fact that the show started off moving quite nice, advancing the storyline of the townspeople trying to figure out what had happened to them and why there were still parts that left a bad taste in my mouth. Most of these parts tended to have to do with various people in the town being quite a bit dumber than anyone could fathom.
I understand that when something traumatic happens to a person, they tend not to think rationally, but this isn’t what was going on in the episode. There were a couple of characters who quite literally seemed to lack the common sense God gave an acorn.
The first cringe worthy moment of the episode came when Joe McAlister and Ben come across soldiers spraying the dome with water, as a clear experiment to see if anything can get through the barrier. Joe puts his hand on the dome and it comes away wet, leading to his explanation that some water is able to get through. Ben’s contribution to this conversation is something I don’t believe even the youngest child would consider saying out loud. “So maybe we can get through … isn’t the human body made up of 70 percent water?” Keep in mind that Ben is supposed to be 15 or 16 years old. Apparently the writers of Under the Dome believe that teenagers are some of the dumbest people on the planet … while having one of those teenagers (Joe McAlister) be one of the smartest people in town.
The second mind numbingly stupid comment comes from Dodie at the radio station. Julia Shumway has just overheard the soldiers on the radio talking about they know the barrier is actually a dome (something that isn’t common knowledge to the townspeople at this point). Julia asks Dodie why they haven’t told the town about the dome yet. Dodie responds, “We’re not a news station.” This comment is especially dumb since Dodie had earlier been arguing with Bushie about why they hadn’t yet told the townspeople about the dome.
The final and silliest act of dumbness is also the moment that sets the stage for the episode’s title. Reverend Coggins is in Duke’s home, burning incriminating files in a trash can. As he moves from one end of the room to another, he bumps into the burning trash can (which appears to be made of plastic, not a great attention to detail from the writers) which moves the can towards a set of drapes, which instantly burst into flames and those in turn set the house on fire.
This scene is actually a combination of bad writing and inherent stupidity and it disappoints as the key moment in the episode. Everything that ensues after is tamped down a bit because of those factors.
Under the Dome – The Fire: Final Say
All in all, “The Fire” wasn’t a terrible episode. It did move the storyline of Big Jim Rennie being looked at as the town’s hero even while he was actually doing nefarious deeds. It also set up a couple of clashes that readers of the book know are coming down the pike. I just hope that episode three avoids the people of Chester’s Mill looking like complete and total morons from time to time.