Under the Dome, "Pilot": different paths, same destination

(S0101) I want to preface this review with a spoiler-free description of the eponymous object of Stephen King's magnum opus, The Dark Tower: it is the centre of every universe ever. Whether real or fictional, if you can think of a world, it's connected to the Tower. It finally occurred to me that Stephen King has effectively written a perfect plot device that explains away any deviation from his stories in their adaptations: they happen in a some parallel but alternate universe.

Ridiculous? Perhaps. But it helps me past the glaring changes that have breached the otherwise impermeable dome that has surrounded the town of Chester's Mill. Whether the television event of this summer, or summers to come, Under the Dome won't be anything less than entertaining, and promises at least one award-worthy performance.

Dean Norris as "Big" Jim Rennie is an inspired casting decision; perfect, if I may be so bold. Rennie is the kind of guy who knew something like this would happen; an act of terror against the innocent, God-fearing people of the Mill. And even though he seems to work tirelessly for the good of the town, his propane stockpile and unaccommodating fallout shelter suggest him to be a more cynical man than he lets on to his constitutents.

Though born under the same name, James Rennie's son is known by the people of the Mill as "Junior" (Alex Koch). It's unclear whether he suffers from the same affliction as in the book, but there is certainly a similar darkness just beneath the dead-eyes Koch brings to the role. His confrontation with Angie (Britt Robertson) doesn't quite go the way it does in the book - in fact, it seems that this incarnation of Angie is made of much tougher stuff.

An only child in the novel, Angie now shares a family tie with one of the Dome's heroes, "Scarecrow" Joe McAllister. The teenager's curiosity gets the best of him in a matter of hours; with his parents trapped outside the dome, Joe has no one preventing him from investigating the dome and what its presence implies - namely, a power source.

He doesn't get far in his search, however, as he is struck by an ominous seizure that seems to plague the Dome's youth. Norrie Calvert-Hill, a reluctant tourist in the Mill with her parents Alice and Carolyn, is also struck by one of these seizures. She and Joe both mumble the unknowingly prophetic phrase, "The pink stars are falling in lines."

There are a number of storylines set into motion in the show's first forty minutes, including some new ones that I can't assume to understand. Dale Barbara (Mike Vogel) is still retired military, though his reasons for being in Chester's Mill are apparently more violent than being a fry-cook. One of very few strangers in the tight-knit town, Barbie isn't exactly the clear protagonist he is in the book, especially when we discover that it was newspaper editor Julia Shumway's (Rachelle Lefevre) husband that he buried in the woods.

The show's closing scene was the one that initially sold me on reading the rest of the novel, and which gives me hope that we'll see more key moments from Under the Dome played out over the next twelve weeks, taking different paths to the same destination.

A small detail to keep an eye (or ear) out for: Sam Verdreaux, the town drunk, is name-dropped early in the "Pilot," hopefully hinting towards his larger role later in the series.

By Mark D Curran

About the author

Mark is a freelance writer, student of English and Philosophy, and still has too much time on his hands. If you have any of your own, check out the blog and follow him on Twitter!

http://twitter.com/#!/MarkDCurran

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2 Comments
On: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:
I was surprised at how much I liked this pilot, and like you Mark it had a hell of a lot to do with Norris' involvement/performance. The performances were pretty solid all around with material that could easily have been mishandled.

By the end of the hour I was a bit bummed that I did not have a few more episodes queued up on my DVR, always a good sign!

One more difference between the book and show in the early going: Barbie was headed out of town after a bar fight in the book but here we see something... a little different. Will be interesting to see how they introduce his conflict with some of the town's inhabitants.
On: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:
By the way: I'm a huge fan of King's since childhood and a mega-fan of The Dark Tower. Had not read any of stuff in a few years (though the last I read, the time travel/Kennedy novel, is freaking great), but just started reading the novella 1922 while on a business trip yesterday. Super dark, gritty, compelling thus far.
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