To say that the new CBS series Under the Dome "hit the ground running" would be problematic, since to hit the ground running in Chester's Mill means you'd splatter headfirst into the clear dome encasing the city. An adaptation of Stephen King's brick-like, 1,070-page 2009 novel, the ambitious 13-episode summer event is full of potential—hopefully, it doesn't hit the wall.
Nervousness about Under the Dome's ability to sustain last night's impressive balance of rapid-fire intrigue, underlying dread, and solid character development is high. King's book, for starters, has way too much story to cram into 13 hours, and, at least in the pilot, some of the performances are a wee bit over-the-top—namely, Junior Rennie, the town councilman's (Breaking Bad's Dean Norris) son, played with zero nuance by Alexander Koch. That leather jacket, the way he menacingly plays with his switchblade, the almost comical look of imbalanced anger in his eyes—all because Angie MacAlister (Britt Robertson) isn't equally obsessed with him. Koch's performance is only marginally subtler than the marijuana-filled piano player in the 1936 don't-do-drugs oddity Reefer Madness. He might as just start chanting, "No play from Angie MacAlister makes Junior a psychotic boy. No play from Angie MacAlister makes Junior a psychotic boy. No play from…" Anyone who's read King's Under the Dome novel knows the as-yet-revealed reasons for Junior's escalating insanity, but, still, there needs to be some kind of character development before he goes full-on looney tunes.
That said, Under the Dome didn't waste but 10 minutes before treating viewers to its first "Oh, shit!" moment: the dome ripping into the ground, slicing a poor cow in half. It's certainly the show's most indelible image thus far, and proof that Under the Dome—as overseen by Lost alum and comic book veteran Brian K. Vaughan, alongside director Niels Arden Oplev (the 2009 Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)—isn't skimping on the gore, even if it's slightly cartoonish in its glossiness. And, please believe, the story's hardcore nature—assuming it retains the level of violence that's in King's book (differences between the novel and show are already apparent)—will soon make that diced bovine victim look like a Chik-fil-A ad.
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)