Under The Dome season 3 episodes 1 & 2 review: Move On & But I’m Not

Under The Dome is back with a ponderous double-length season 3 opener, which is already squandering its sci-fi potential...

This review contains spoilers.

3.1 Move On & 3.2 But I’m Not

Credit where it’s due. There were decent sci-fi ideas in Under The Dome’s season three opener: the cocoons, the alternate world, the strangle-happy alien disguised as a mild-mannered dead teen. Granted, they weren’t original sci-fi ideas, but they had potential. More potential at least than the tedious romances and ‘I love you/I’ve shot you!’ familial conflicts that pass for emotional drama round these parts.

But like a toddler first learning how to tell a joke, this show just can’t stop fluffing its punchlines. Under The Dome squandered every bit of promise the fake world concept had in record-breaking time, by a line uttered in the episode’s opening minutes. “We hope it takes us home,” said Barbie of the swirly vortex out of which a beckoning Melanie had stepped at the end of the last season, continuing, “but what if it takes us to an alternate reality?”

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Thud. Clunk. Ba-dum, ba-dum, baaa-dum. That’s the sound of a script falling washing machine-heavy down stairs, toppled by the weight of its lack of confidence in its viewers. To give credit to the writers, I can only imagine it was a particularly tone-deaf note from the studio in the vein of…

Exec: Yo, the report’s in. We’re worried the audience won’t get that they’re all trapped in alien cocoons, dreaming their bright, shiny, post-dome lives.

Writers: They’re not supposed to get it. Not ‘til the end of the episode. They might suspect it. That’s the mystery element.

Exec: Yeah, we’re going to have to go ahead and lose that.

Writers: The mystery?

Exec: Yup. People are too dumb for that. You’ve got to tell ‘em them it’s all fake at the start.

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Writers: But…?

Exec: [moonwalks out of writers’ room, beat-boxing]

As soon as we heard the words ‘alternate reality’, GI Barbie playing ‘do you feel lucky, punk?’ with an insurgent, Norrie pledging a preppy sorority, and skateboarder Ben having his asthma cured (way to dream big, guy) were just tiresome hurdles to get over before the real story could continue. Whatever in the Sam Hill that is.

Let’s attempt to pin it down. In 1988, an alien race sent a whole bunch of magic eggs to Earth, the only one to survive intact landing in Chester’s Mill, ME. A teenage girl accidentally died hitting her head on it, so her friends buried her in the woods and went on to become an alcoholic murderer, a god-bothering barber and Mrs ‘I make terrible art and faked my death’ Big Jim. Twenty-odd years later, an impenetrable dome surrounded the town of Chester’s Mill, trapping its inhabitants and the dead girl’s unwitting half-brother inside. The egg elected some teenage lackeys and a gloriously-maned journalist with a Prius to do its bidding. The dome proceeded to cause all sorts of monkeyshines from plagues of caterpillars to rains of blood to twisters and magnetisation and whichever other suggestions fell out of the Mad Libs book that week. Sometimes the dome let email through, for reasons of plot advancement. Sometimes it let people through, for reasons of plot advancement. All the while, Big Jim’s shirts were getting progressively tighter.

The dome’s endgame is now revealed to be capturing the few townsfolk that survived its experiments, subjecting them to a “process” that takes place in a gloopy chrysalis (hence there being more butterflies in this show than are tattooed on the lower backs of the USA’s entire cheerleading cohort) for an as-yet-unspecified purpose crucial to its alien race’s survival. While the townsfolk are cooking in those pods, the aliens conjured up a shiny dream world for them to live in, controlled by the dead girl avatar puppet master, but nobody knows why. Perhaps they once saw a double-bill of The Truman Show and The Matrix on their home planet.

Does that more or less sum it up?

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Compared to season two’s magnetapalooza, this was a fairly subdued opener for Under The Dome. More time was given over to ponderous psychobabble about closure, making amends, being a prisoner of the past and (said roughly every two minutes what with it being the episode title) the importance of moving on, than it was to action. Junior and Julia did their best to provide some peril by punching some butterflies, and Big Jim almost burst his buttons shouting at a stray dog, but neither encounter really ramped up the excitement.

In true Under The Dome form, this interminable double-length episode left us with more questions than answers. Who are Eva and Inappropriately Flirty Trauma Lady? Clones? Aliens? Is Eva really pregnant? Will Barbie choose her over Julia? Did the “process” change the cocoon-people, or did the egg being smashed stop it in time? Are Big Jim and Julia now the only two ‘unprocessed’ people left? And perhaps most puzzing of all: why do butterfly bites hurt the residents of Chester’s Mill more than gunshot wounds?

I suppose there’s nothing else for it *steels resolve, takes deep breath* we’ll just have to stick around to find out.

Read Frances’ review of the season two finale, Go Now, here.

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