Under The Dome season 2 episode 8 review: Awakening

Review Frances Roberts 19 Aug 2014 - 11:52

Under The Dome’s cyber-thriller reboot appears to be paying dividends. Here’s Frances’ review of Awakening…

This review contains spoilers.

2.8 Awakening

After a viewer-shedding half-season of bonkers visions, mystery dead girls and egg-based shenanigans, Under The Dome has chosen to shake off the weirdness and proceed in much more generic fashion. The result is an instantly more watchable show - one in which characters remote-hack into the secrets of shady corporations and disguise themselves as government scientists rather than battle biblical plagues and argue themselves blue in the face over what an egg is thinking.

By leaving the dome and slotting its characters into a ready-made cyber-thriller though, has Under The Dome lost something?

Not really. As they say, you can’t lose something you never had. What made Under The Dome such a disappointment early on was the speed at which it wasted its enormous potential as satisfying sci-fi drama. By going for a crisis-of-the-week structure with (as capricious season renewals demand) more than a hint of ‘making this up as they go along’ when it came to the mythology, the series became a tired composite of network TV’s most popular bits interspersed with the odd wackadoodle moment. We had police chases, local government corruption, a drug smuggling ring, a fight club, teen romance… none of it gripping and none of it exploiting the premise’s trapped-town potential.

Had the show lived up to its initial, fascinating promise, then this new identity would give us something to mourn - because it didn’t, the Zenith reboot is comfortably the best thing to happen to Under The Dome in a long while. With a new villain in the form of Aktaion Energy, which is trying to get its grubby mitts on the alien technology powering the dome, and a competent new regular in the form of Barbie’s hacker sidekick Hunter (Max Ehrich) things really seem to be looking up.

That’s not to say the show has revised its cavalier attitude towards contrivance and plausibility. Needing to put Lyle on the back burner for an episode while Sam and Pauline plodded their way through some exposition, last week the barber was locked into a playground-portal-induced psychosis. Lucky for him then that Pauline’s hospital was this week developing an experimental new drug to combat precisely that. One injection and hey presto, Lyle was back in the gang, muttering about Pauline’s dreadful Tumblr fan-art postcards and having to find the mysterious red door we’ve already glimpsed in Barbie’s dad’s garden.

The introduction of Don Barbara and Hunter (the brains behind the Hounds Of Diana resistance group, and so far the only character on the show under the age of twenty-five who doesn’t make you want to reach into your TV and turn the gas on while they’re all sleeping), appears to be a good move too. Especially for Barbie, whose original plan of chatting to random kids in a children’s playground would likely have landed him into a different kind of trouble than he now faces. At least while we’re watching the fresh blood, we’re not having to sit through more of Joe’s cross-promotional synergistic marketing v-logs.

How badly a fresh injection of intrigue and characters was needed in Under The Dome was proven by this week’s Chester’s Mill dead-end C-plot, which saw DJ Phil’s short-lived campaign of terror on Big Jim fizzle out almost as soon as it began. The same goes for Julia and the gang, whose story minus the Nerd-Barbie-does-Cape-Fear interludes from Zenith would just have been about some people getting patchy email reception.

Having dug an escape tunnel out of Chester's Mill is paying dividends so far for Under The Dome. Fingers crossed it will continue to do so.

Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Going Home, here.

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