As we take our third trip under the dome, Big Jim recruits Junior’s nemesis, Barbie, when Deputy Paul (who accidentally killed his partner last week) runs off into the forest with a rifle, threatening to kill anyone who tries to stop him. Meanwhile Junior and Julia (wasn’t that a film with Amy Adams and Meryl Streep?) search the Chester’s Mill underground tunnels as they bond over secrets and running from the past. It’s all very sweet in a ‘let’s have a sleepover and braid each other’s hair’ way, but this endless chatter has ground the series to an underwhelming halt. It’s like setting out on what you think will be a mammoth hike up a mountain, only to find that you’re trudging for hours on the spot. Reeeally, reeeally slowly.
We’re almost a quarter of the way through the first season and there’s been next to no progression from the pilot. What’s worse is that it’s all a bit too boring and repetitive to explain because you could read last week’s review and know exactly what’s happened – it has truthfully not developed any further. To put the episode in a nutshell: Deputy Paul has a serious case of the ‘WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE’ jitters and locks Linda in a prison cell before stealing a rifle from the police station and disappearing into the forest. After giving another of his award-winning, Martin Luther King inspired speeches that all too easily subdues the townspeople, Big Jim recruits a couple of meat-head, presumably inbred, homophobes and Barbie (who he knows had a violent run in with his son Junior), and the four embark on a manhunt, which seems rather fruitless as Deputy Paul can’t exactly go anywhere. Oh yes, that reminds us about the dome…you’d be forgiven for forgetting that the dome existed in this episode because it makes all of one appearance (if you forget the bizarre skateboarding scene at the beginning), where it merely acts as a punching bag for Junior’s petulant outburst as he screams ‘I hate you’ with admirable feeling…I’m sure the feeling’s mutual Junior. Or is it James now?
Junior, who’s become increasingly tired of living in his father’s shadow, decides that going underground might reveal an escape route and travels down the town’s abandoned cement tunnels, all the while being followed by Julia, who’s becoming progressively irritating with her so called ‘investigative skills’. Rather than actually digging for dirt on the dome, all she seems to be doing is reminding people that she’s a ‘journalist’. We get it dear, your job is to ask questions, now stop reiterating the point. After initially fearing for her life when she witnesses Junior’s two-year-old like outburst, the two bond over their shared insecurities as they try to find their way out of the ‘maze’ of tunnels – as it turns out, it’s not actually that difficult. It’s an unlikely allegiance but one that softens Junior and reveals his vulnerability, no doubt a product of his absent mother and a father who’s overbearing. This fragile side of Junior is emphasised in the scenes between father and son. Being the alpha-male that he is, Councilman Jim still treats his son like a child with patronising lines like ‘let the grownups do their work’ and ‘drink your milk’, passing Junior a glass of calcium as he glugs down some scotch. We almost start feeling sorry for poor James, until we remember that he still has Angie locked up in the bunker. She appears to be doing remarkably fine for those few viewers interested in her character.
By the end of the episode, we’ve gone underground with Junior and Julia, gone into the woods with Big Jim and Barbie, and the police force is now down to one single person after Linda shoots Deputy Paul and is promoted to Sheriff. Sadly this episode was all too angsty and teenager-driven to make it anything other than a filler, though the big thrill came at the end where Joe and Norrie touched hands and had a joint seizure, again repeating the phrase ‘pink stars are falling in lines’. The significance of this phrase is still a complete and utter mystery and, with the pace crawling along at snail-neck speed, the likelihood of us finding out its meaning this season isn’t very promising.
At episode 3, Under The Dome already feels stale and clichéd with its overemphasis on following characters around the town on senseless missions instead of giving us the sci-fi action we’re all craving. On the one hand, Manhunt gave us bite size fragments of a story worth watching, but these fragments are so fleeting that you could blink and miss them, very much like the dome itself. The same issue that surfaced in last week’s episode is still hanging over the series like a bad smell – that being the lack of impending danger and doom. It begs the question, what has writer Brian K. Vaughan got in store for the next few episodes? Stop dragging your feet Vaughan and give us something to sink our teeth into – give us aliens, the supernatural, government experiments, some of The Crazies inspired madness, anything to make Under the Dome worth watching. At this rate viewers are going to be falling into their own Dome induced slumber, which would probably be more exciting than this tosh.