We've seen the pilot episode of the much-anticipated new series, Under the Dome, based on the Stephen King novel where a small town finds itself trapped under an invisible, impenetrable dome with no explanation. Yes, it's freakin' scary. Here are our spoiler-free first impressions.
In some ways Under the Dome is the perfect King tale, because it's basically a scenario where a single, incomprehensible event occurs that prevents everybody from escaping the psychological pressure cooker known as a small town in Maine. Nothing is more scary than your neighbors, especially when all roads away from them are blocked by a force field.
The pilot episode introduces us to our gang of heroes and villains: Barbie is a man with a tough past who nevertheless knows right from wrong; Julia is the rattled but headstrong town journalist; Junior is a psychopathic college student; and Big Jim (Breaking Bad's Dean Norris) is Junior's power-hungry father. We get the sense that in this town, the balance has always been wobbling dangerously between the forces of clear-eyed rationality and those of authoritarian madness.
We're given time to get to know our characters briefly before the truly chilling scene where the dome comes down. Slowly, people inside and outside begin to realize that something creepy is happening, and the tension is fantastic. There's the human drama of who is trapped in the town and who is trapped outside — families and marriages are broken apart — but then there's also just the incredible weirdness of this . . . invisible thing. It blocks sound, electricity, and radio waves. The townspeople can only communicate by writing things down and pressing them against the dome for people on the outside to read.
There are also some outsiders who are stuck in the town, as well as a strange affliction that seems to be striking a few teenagers. Is the affliction related to the dome? What is the dome made of? And who is going to take over the town now that nobody from outside can intervene? Already, we've got some major hints that things are going to get very ugly, very fast.
Overall, it's a promising pilot episode. The dome itself is properly bizarre and scary, and I'm already dying to know what's going to happen next with these messed up characters.