I thought last week's Under the Dome episode was white-knuckle riveting, while this week's episode was so-so. I've realized that my satisfaction levels with each episode have to do with whether we're doing a Dome/outside world story, or a scarcity/Hell is other people story. You know what I mean?
Under the Dome is two things: a mystery show about a crazy Dome that envelops a small town, and an existential drama about how awful it would be to be trapped behind an impenetrable wall with your neighbors. At its best, the show deals with both things. Last week's episode, where the army tries to blow up the Dome, did both quite nicely. We got the fucked up plot with Junior kidnapping his girlfriend, but we also got a developing sense of what the Dome might be.
We also dealt with one of the other scary things in this show, which is how the outside world is responding to the Dome. First the military was ordered to ignore everybody under the Dome, then they bombed it. We only get to hear bits of radio chatter from the outside world when the engineer at the radio station is able to tune it in — and it's all terrifying. The people trapped in the Dome are basically being written off as a loss.
But this week, we got an episode that dealt with scarcity. How will everybody cope with diminishing reserves of water, food, fuel, drugs, and more? We already dealt with this question in a previous episode, about a pandemic. And replaying it again, with people going all zombie and killing each other, feels like a detour from our basic plot. Of course we have to deal with this issue; they're stuck without resources under a Dome. But it felt like last night's episode was treading water.
Yes, we got some plot development with Big Jim deciding to tell Junior not to kidnap the nice girl anymore. And Julia the reporter, along with the engineer, figured out that the two teens are somehow linked to the Dome's power source. That's seriously intriguing. But mostly it was a lot of running around and screaming about resources. There was too much of that "Hell is other people" stuff and not enough "fucking insane mystery tech."
The problem is that you can't build a multi-season TV series around characters who are so evil or stupid that you want them all to die. And now that Under the Dome has been renewed for a second season, we need to start having a throughline to this show that goes beyond watching everybody freak out. We are seeing characters like Julia and Barbie form relationships (though the whole "I killed your husband" thing might come up at some point). And yes, the Dome started raining on everybody, as if in answer to their needs. But is that enough?
I want to feel like there's going to be a payoff to the mystery at the heart of this show, and right now it just feels like we're getting more filler. I'm not saying filler isn't kind of thrilling — and, when it comes to Junior, genuinely upsetting — but I still don't really see where it's taking us.