I think I need to revise my viewing schedule. Every Monday, in the Harley household, the TV itinerary runs like this: The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and Under the Dome. It may have Dean Norris in it, but that Heisenberg fellow casts a mighty long shadow. Maybe I should devote a whole day to recovery after I watch these weekly episodes of Breaking Bad, since everything tends to come up wanting.
That said, there's been a real step up in quality since Under the Dome's first episode. Its pilot had a lot of characters to introduce and lots of information to get over to the audience. While it should have been slightly less character-driven, more of a disaster movie style descent from the Dome (think Lost's opening, which gives us real spectacle before we get to know the characters) fitting all that in less than an hour was no mean feat. Bad form though, killing off Jeff Fahey's Sheriff Duke already. We get but a glimpse of Fahey in The Fire, resting upon a morgue table with a gaping hole where his heart used to be. Not dead five minutes, and already Big Jim Rennie has started his scheming.
His chance to become Chester Mill's guiding hand comes when the titular fire wreaks havoc in the town, thanks to Big Jim's partner in crime, corrupt preacher Reverend Coggins. It's Big Jim to the rescue, quickly bulldozing the flaming house to the ground. The townfolk lap him up, but then so did the villagers of Woodbury, and we all know how that Governor fellow turned out. Barbie and new chum Julia seem less than taken in, as well they should be. Jim's son, Junior continues the creepiness, with Angie still stowed away and chained up in the family bomb shelter. Junior is still too small and pretty to seem like a genuine threat, but we do see the start of the Junior/Barbie rivalry here, as the two have at one another for the first time. Obviously Junior comes off worse, but given his Pa's growing importance, Barbie might want to watch his back...
Elsewhere, there's more dome fun as we see the effects of water, spray paint and bullets upon the invisible barrier which covers the town. 'Like a sieve', one of the characters surmises, feeling droplets of water leaking through his side of the force field. A sieve; and you know what you can't sieve? Bullets. A panicking town cop finds this out to his cost (if this were the eighties, he would have been played by Bill Paxton) as he shoots himself dead faster than you can say 'ricochet.' As we're treated to the grisly sight of a disembodied picnicker's legs on the outskirts of the dome, it's evident that the bodycount is only going to get higher as the series progresses. No skimping on the gore, either, which is always nice in a Stephen King adaptation.
While it still has its faults, this second episode is a vast improvement over the previous. It's fast, action-packed and with some nifty character moments for both our heroes and Big Jim Rennie. There's still a sense that it's not quite as it could be, but on the basis of this second episode, Under the Dome is rapidly beginning to pick up steam.
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