When we saw all the fire trucks leaving Chester's Mill before the dome came down in the first episode, it was only a matter of time before those trapped under the invisible barrier would have to deal with a fire. Sure enough, this week's aptly-titled episode finds Sheriff Duke's house going up in flames, creating the first of what will no doubt be many post-dome crises for our sprawling cast of characters. The cause of that blaze leaves a little something to be desired from a storytelling standpoint, but we'll get to that in a moment.
First, a moment of silence for all you Jeff Fahey fans, as it turns out that Duke did, in fact, die when his pacemaker exploded in his chest. That's the expected result from such an incident, of course, but I'm sure I wasn't the only one holding out hope that somehow it was just a flesh wound. This development serves the narrative, as it creates a power vacuum that has already set several conflicts in motion, but Fahey's exit nonetheless diminishes the show's star power considerably.
Overall, the momentum has slowed as Under The Dome settles into the weekly grind. As with any ensemble piece, some storylines are more compelling than others, and it already looks like the saga of Junior and Angie is destined for the bottom of the list. I'm on record as being unopposed to the series making wholesale changes from the book, but I'm hoping Angie isn't going to be locked up in the bomb shelter for an extended period of time. That's just a little too Kim Bauer for me, 24 fans. And I'm still not sold on Alexander Koch as Junior. He can do creepy, but it's a whiny brand of creepy; so far, menacing doesn't seem to be in his repertoire.
On the Barbie front, we did learn a little more about what happened with Peter Shumway. Barbie did kill him, but it was sort of an accident, and anyway, the guy had a gun, even though it wasn't loaded, and… yeah, we didn't really learn all that much. Except that Peter owed money to whoever it is Barbie is working for, but I think we already knew that. It's safe to assume this is another mystery that's going to be doled out in bite-sized increments over the course of the season.
Another mystery concerns the stockpiling of propane, a conspiracy that involves Big Jim Rennie and a new character introduced this week, Rev. Lester Coggins (Ned Bellamy). This is where the fire comes in, as Coggins is dispatched to remove any evidence of the propane expenditure from Duke's former house. Coggins finds the receipts, sets them on fire, and… tosses them in the wastebasket. He then seems surprised when the curtains catch fire and the entire place goes up in flames. This was easily the clumsiest piece of plotting so far; the kind of moment that leaves me thinking, "Oh, so this is just going to be another TV show."
But the episode wasn't completely discouraging. One change from the book that's working for me so far is the fact that sound doesn't travel through the dome. It adds an extra layer of eeriness to see these military and scientific personnel just a few feet away, working on their various experiments and completely ignoring the people of Chester's Mill. At some point soon, I think, we're going to have to go outside the dome and get a different perspective on these events, but for now, I find the simultaneous proximity and distance of "the cavalry" interesting.
I would have liked to have seen a little more urgency on the part of the domers to escape. At least we did get to see a few people trying to dig their way out, but for the most part, Chester's Mill seems to have settled into "life goes on" mode way too quickly. I did like Joe and his friend trying to find holes in the barrier and figuring out the circumference of the dome, but are they really the only ones curious about this stuff? It's also weird that the radio station is just carrying on with normal programming until Julia arrives. (And are Phil and Dodee the only ones who work there? How long is their shift?) There's nothing wrong with a slow burn, but given the show's extreme premise, it would be nice if the characters showed a little more awareness of their extraordinary circumstances.
- One character who does seem to be aware is Deputy Paul, who seems ready to install martial law. And then he actually tops Rev. Coggins' dumb move by firing at the dome, killing his fellow officer with a ricocheting bullet. (As a result, the second episode ends in exactly the same way as the first, with a police officer's heart exploding.)
- Nice of Jeff Fahey to show up for the second episode just to play a dead body, huh?
- "He screwed my brains out" is a thing you can say on CBS now, apparently.