Under The Dome episode 11 review: Speak Of The Devil

Review Frances Roberts 3 Sep 2013 - 16:30

With just two episodes left in Under The Dome’s first season, Frances is looking forward to finally breaking out of Chester's Mill…

This review contains spoilers.

1.11 Speak Of The Devil

So much for hoping Max was here to stay. What looked like an uptick in Under the Dome’s quality last week must have been a mirage caused by the TV equivalent of wandering exhausted and parched in the desert. I thought I’d seen water. Water there was none.

Things got so bad in episode eleven, even the props tried to put the audience out of its misery. A porch swing launched itself at Angie and Junior, ready to make the ultimate sacrifice and rid us of their wide-eyed whining forever more. A tree branch burst into Julia’s hospital room to take out ‘everything amazes me’ Joe. The dome itself was ready to suck the Fantastic Four up that giant, revolving, growling sphincter of opprobrium until it lost heart and flicked the off switch. For a few glorious moments, Speak of the Devil was like a Final Destination crossover episode. We came so close.

Like a primitive civilisation convinced they’ve angered their Gods, the witless quartet spent this week trying to interpret and then follow the dome’s instructions. “It’s the dome. I think it’s angry at us” said Angie, with all the acuity of someone discerning emotions in a goldfish. “I think Barbie’s the monarch” said Joe, amazed. “So now I control the weather?” scoffed Junior, as if everything else that’s happened up until now in his life has been entirely plausible.

It doesn’t take long before the guardians of some secret cosmic mystery go all Mark Chapman-reading-Catcher in the Rye and decide that the dome wants them to stab Big Jim Rennie to bits. What they’re going to do with this information is anybody’s guess. I mean that. So logic-lacking are the gang’s spurious narrative leaps that if we came back next week to see them forming a glee club and knitting Big Jim a hat because that’s what the dome wants them to do, I’d swallow it as easily as anything we’ve seen so far. Besides, Big Jim could use a hat. It’s quite sunny in Chester’s Mill.

He’d prefer a crown if you’re offering of course, as Barbie pointed out fifteen times in that argument about power, kingdoms and thrones. And a parade, as he told Linda, for his heroic propane stockpiling. Poor man, all Big Jim’s been trying to do is make the trains run on time, while everyone else is trying to “fill those trains with drugs and liquor, and every kind of sick vice human beings can get into”. If he’s talking about the Network South East line out of Bromley on a Saturday night, then I’ve caught one of those before.

Big Jim’s trains were metaphorical of course, a bit of fascism-referencing rhetoric to pep up his mawkish, Days of Our Lives-style speech to Junior in the fallout shelter. Seeing those two in the same shot has to make you wonder what kind of a glamazon Junior’s mother was in her lifetime. It may seem like hair-splitting (I’m way past trying to be charitable at this point), but casting Dean Norris a son who bears not even a passing physical resemblance to him seems indicative of Under the Dome’s not contempt, but disregard for its audience’s ability to suspend disbelief. ‘Believe it or don’t’, that casting choice seems to shrug, ‘pretty Alexander Koch’s going to bring us the female teen quadrant, so whether it helps or hinders the story, we really couldn’t care less’.

Speaking of contrivance, Dodie pulled the age-old TV trick this week of turning on her radio just as the salient information was broadcast. It seems the military is interested in Barbie, and judging by the number of things that life-savin’ man can do with a biro, I’m not surprised. He took the Blue Peter approach to treating poor Julia (Rachel Lefevre’s beautiful hair splayed out like Sleeping Beauty's on her hall carpet) after his ex did the out-of-nowhere, inexplicable thing and put a bullet through her chest.

Just what drives these characters’ actions? They roll unpredictably around inside that dome like ball bearings around those old-fashioned Tomy Pocket Games from the seventies, manipulated not by by motivation, but whatever serves the cliff-hanger plots.

Now Barbie’s on the run, framed for Big Jim’s crimes, he… oh, I honestly give up. It’s just tripe isn’t it?

Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Let The Games Begin, here.

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