Under The Dome episode 3 review: Manhunt

Review Frances Roberts 9 Jul 2013 - 15:00

Under the Dome risks losing us if it keeps using its main attraction as a backdrop. Here’s Frances’ review of episode three…

This review contains spoilers.

1.3 Manhunt

It took twenty-two minutes this week for Under the Dome’s titular cloche to make it on screen, and there’s the rub.

Like Monica Geller singing Delta Dawn in a see-through blouse and thinking the crowd was going crazy for her voice, Under the Dome is labouring under the misapprehension that we’ve come to spend time with its characters. We haven’t. We’re here, to a person, for the cow-slicing, pacemaker-exploding, enigmatic dome. It’s the sci-fi see-through blouse of this summer’s schedule, if you will.

The more the dome is relegated to the role of wallpaper for a series of One Tree Hill-ish teen rivalries and a low-rent version of Rambo, the faster we’re going to lose interest. 

Even when the town’s mysterious lid did finally show up this week, it was only as a punching bag for Junior Rennie (isn’t that a brand of children’s antacid tablets?), who tried to work out his daddy issues by thumping it and shouting “I hate you”. That’ll work, kid. Why not give it the stink-eye next week to see if it runs off bawling ‘I only wanted (sniff) to be friends. You don’t understand how lonely it is being a mysterious otherworldly barrier.’

It’ll be even lonelier being an Under the Dome viewer if the focus doesn’t swing back to the sci-fi sharpish. When we weren’t watching teens charge their iPods this week (realistic perhaps, but hardly a scintillating plot point), we were generically traipsing through the woods in search of a rogue cop who’d lost his mind less than a day after the dome’s arrival.

At least the wannabe-Rambo’s reaction roughly corresponded to the gravity of the situation. The rest of Chester’s Mill couldn’t give a fig about being trapped inside a magical fishbowl. Big Jim and the crooked vicar are more concerned about covering up the tracks of their drug deal, L.A. brat Norrie just wants to listen to her like, music and give nerdy Joe funny feelings in his tummy, and the rest of them are pootling along like the cast of King of the Hill, sipping on beers, nodding, and saying “Yep” every so often.

Dean Norris’ character Big Jim, by dint of being played by Dean Norris, remains the most watchable Chester's Mill resident. Even his scenes this week though - threatening Reverend Coggins, naming Linda the Sheriff, belittling James ‘don’t call me Junior’ Rennie via the medium of milk, and telling Barbie his short-man football origin story – were hackneyed. On the subject of cliche, oy, skater teen Benny's dialogue... There aren't enough meta The Simpsons Movie references in the world to balance that out in the scales of awfulness.

“We all have secrets”, said journalist Julia the journalistic journalist (she asks questions about things, because she’s a journalist). You might well do, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have the slightest interest in finding out what they are.

Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, The Fire, here.

Please, if you can, buy our charity horror stories ebook, Den Of Eek!, raising money for Geeks Vs Cancer. Details here.

Disqus - noscript

Sorry Frances but I have to strenuously disagree with you on this. You have missed the mark by a mile on what should be the focus of the story. It's not the dome which is the main attraction but, as with the best zombie stories, the conflicts caused by the isolation of a small community and the power plays which come out of the woodwork in such a situation.

Going back to the dome week in week out would be gimmicky in the extreme. We already know about as much as we need to about it - it's sound proof but radio-waves and small amounts of air and water can pass through like a filter, it's impenetrable and it is troublesome to electronics. There's not really much more to it than that.

We all know it's there and we all know it's not coming down for a few more months - why keep going to look at it just to point at it and say "Oooh look... the dome is still there and it's still mysterious"? Those are the cheap tricks of a poor story teller who doesn't know what to do with their characters.

I'm much more interested in the human element and, having read the book, what will transpire differently and what will be the same.

And have you met any skater teens? Almost their entire lexicon is cliché!

You're right of course, except in this instance, the human element is risible. Hoping it will improve though.

I totally agree with the reviewer on this one. The first episode was great, the second passable but this one was frankly quite boring. A ridiculous and badly acted forest hunt, pointless dialogs and plot, formulaic soap writing made the show drop flat this week. It is supposed to be a SF and I agree that character developments is welcome but it has to be related to the event itself as possible. Otherwise it become a boring, common and mediocre soap opera like the ones which flood the tv every week. No one seems to care anymore on learning about the dome itself. For me to keep watching it has to get back on track next week or the series will spiral in flame under a dome of indifference.

When Frances said it was "about the Dome", she didn't literally mean the camera had to be focused on the Dome the entire time (I hope, though the 'we didn't even see it until 22 minutes in' mark makes that a dubious claim on my part).

I want to see more real issues surrounding this dome coming down. Episode 2 was great because it showed a real crisis - the town had to go frontier-style to stop a fire. THAT's psychology of isolation right there. Episode 3, though... I was never under the impression that the crazy cop was a real danger to anyone, since he shot the other cop by accident, and I didn't buy that Rennie - who in the book quickly maneuvers himself to become Big Boss of Chester's Mill - was willing to spend a whole day out in the woods hunting one man when civic leadership is pretty much up in the air. Meanwhile, kids throw a party because their parents are (forcibly) out of town. Both of these plot points ultimately did nothing for the series but force certain characters together. I was iffy about episode 1, loved episode 2, and hated episode 3. Based on that average, I'm still gonna watch, but I'm not eagerly awaiting episode 4 like I awaited episode 3.

I think you have entirely misunderstood my response.

Paul...you've nailed it on the head. Anyone who's read the book knows that the story is not about the dome, but about the snapshot of the human condition that the isolation of the dome creates.

You don't have to have read the book to understand this based on two things; 1.) how the story is being told 2.) how different the way things are being played out compared to the book. The overall story is the same though.

What I think maybe you did miss, is that the actors portraying the characters are just not strong enough to run the gamut of emotions they will need to have in order to be really successful. This is a slow build, so my judgement will be reserved until later. I may be pleasantly surprised. Only time will tell.

Isn't Angie the Waitress/Candy Striper/bomb shelter hostage also the sister of Joe Home Alone? How come he isn't wondering where she is?

While I agree with Paul Childs in that it's about the human element and not so much about the dome, I do think everyone's going about their things a little too much right now, instead of actively trying to find a way out, or trying to determine the circumference of the damned thing. The entire Dome is practically non-existent as a story element in this episode.

I haven't seen this, but I assume that the central dichotomy of the series is that you want to learn more about the dome, which you can only do through the characters, but they can't learn more about it because they're stuck inside it. Presumably all the interesting sci-fi plot-lines are located on the side of the force field that you never get to see.

Why is there no attempt at interaction with the outside world? No deaf people doing sign language; no attempt to use morse code. Flash cards? Fiber optics?

"Bugger, there's a dome - lets just ignore everyone on the outside and get on with our small town isolated lives - lets just drive around wasting all the fuel and continue having a full English at the greasy spoon cafe imagining our money is still valid in this isolated dome."

It's a snapshot of the human condition alright - tedious people going about their tedious lives.
I can see that just looking out of the window.

That's something I'm wondering as that isn't in the book...Angie is in for only a little bit in the novel. There is a lot going on, and I expect we'll see quite a few advances in the next couple episodes.

LOL, well I don't usually see house explosions or manhunts outside my window. Where do you live? LOL

"Under the Dome is labouring under the misapprehension that we’ve come to spend time with its characters. "

Frances, you fundamentally misunderstand why Stephen King is a popular and successful writer. (If often repetitive and trashy).

Please can someone else review this show?

There are no interesting scifi plots, it's a contained population drama with a sci-fi framing device.

Paul, I agree totally with you. Too many people aren't realising that the Dome is just the mcguffin to allow the rest to happen.

In the novel it felt almost as if King had been forced to whack in an explanation at the end for why the dome was even there. The reason given for it was at best a bit stupid. Lots of people might be disappointed come explanation time.

It might be marketed as scifi, but as with lots and lots of King's work, it's about the people who are experiencing the scifi. A fact too many directors (and viewers) seem to either purposely overlook or forget.

I can't comment on the acting as I'm yet to start watching the show, but if it's any good I'll be amazed as mostly adaptation's of SK books are badly handled, with the focus misplaced.

I believe the reason for the dome is different than in the book...

i agree. have to say the whole girl chained in the basement is old already and i think she dies of toxic shock next week. wanted to love this show but its getting hard to like already

i really dislike under the dome as it is a ripoff of michael grant's gone. You can tell as there is an antagonist who tries and take control (Caine-Big Jim) a reluctant hero (Sam-barbie) the hero's really annoying girlfiend (julie, astrid) and the psychopath (Drake-Junior). The background is not interesting, and the plot is fairly predictable.

What ? you haven't start watching the show ? may be hard to comment, no ?. Well if you remove the scifi backdrop and effects, there is nothing to see in that show which you can't see everywhere else (or care about). That's the only thing which make it interesting.

Right, as I was watching the guys having their beers, wouldn't they be freaking out thinking that's the last ones there going to get, ever ? Wouldn't anyone under the dome bother to think that they are running out of everything, that they are returning to the stone age and probably will be dying fighting for food (or the last un-split cow) ?

You can't comment on the tv series just because the book is good.

They are burying the lead.

Sure, all of these things are important (characters, the mysteries of the town and its residents and they psychological issues, etc.) The problem, and it's a fairly glaring one, is that the first episode was the headline "DOME IS HERE!" and now the next two episodes have been "BUT WHO CARES LET'S LOOKS AT THE TOWNSFOLK". That is burying the most interesting thing about the show, instead of embracing it, and allowing these character traits to grow from the situation, instead of in spite of it.

I fully agree that the meat of the story should come from the characters, and how they react to the isolation. But that's not what's happening. We're getting flimsy plot-lines, most of which are weak, and most of which are not propelled by the GIANT OTHERWORLDLY SHEILD around the town.

I am not writing this because I hate the show. I LOVED the pilot. It was unique. It was mysterious. It presented an event, and allowed it's characters to grow from that event. Every episode we move past that (no one is trying to figure out what is going on, no one is really doing anything, except , I guess, waiting...) we move away from the lead.

I'll keep watching, hoping for more.

And a quick side note...the teenagers dialogue is beyond cheesy. It's like what my grandma would think a 15 year old sounds like "this day and age, with their iPods and their 'dude, bro, forcefield man' lingo". It's a little insulting that everyone under 20 is an idiot in this show.

I hope so!! LOL

I agree. I just saw this episode. And I'm going to watch 4 but it is just because I'm hoping the show can hold up this great premise. It is a great premise. But everything else sucks.

And I love Dean Norris as much as the next guy. But he sucks in this, probably because they are giving him the worst lines possible.

But you have to establish the Dome first. We love the Dome AND THEN we transition to the people. But I can't love these people yet (except for the girl in the bomb shelter for obvious reasons) so you have to knock the softball out of the park.

The Dome will wear off and that is when the relationships take over if they do the show right.

I don't have much hope of that.

Exactly, exactly. No one is rationing anything except for Barbie buying 3 packs of cigs.

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