Under the Dome opens in typical Stephen King fashion with a bird hatching in the woods before dawn. It’s creepy and uncomfortable, which I suppose is what the writers wanted. The bird’s mother flies off and the camera pans to a man digging a grave. He picks up the body of another man and drops it into the grave.
The next scene shifts to the police station where Deputy Linda Esquivel informs Sheriff Duke Perkins that a loud bang was reported. He questions whether it was a car backfiring or Tommy Anderson finally shooting his wife. “You never know with this damn place,” Sheriff Perkins says.
At the local diner, the Sweetbriar Rose, “Big Jim” Rennie sits by himself reading a book. Rose asks him why he isn’t with the rest of the council getting ready for the game, and he talks about his many responsibilities, including the sale going on at his used car lot. Rennie notes that business isn’t going well at the diner and leaves $100 to pay for his meal. When she questions his large tip, Rennie replies, “That’s me buying your next vote.”
“Says the guy who always runs unopposed,” Rose notes. Rennie tells her that they’re all in this together and leaves the diner.
Meanwhile, Big Jim’s son Junior and a girl named Angie finish making love. Junior tells her that he loves her, and she replies that it’s been a great summer. “Ouch,” he says. She reminds Junior that he knew what this was when they began their fling. Angie tells him that he has to go back to college. Junior replies that he dropped out of college. When she chides him for giving up a free ride to college, Junior says that he’s loved her since the third grade. She’s the only person in the whole world who knows the real Junior. “That’s why I can’t be with you,” Angie says. He grabs her arm, and she slaps him before heading off to work.
Sometime later in the day, Julia Shumway, the new editor of the town newspaper, shows up at the home of Mrs. Grennell. She tells Shumway that there have been some extra propane deliveries made to the area recently, and when she asked the sheriff about it, he seemed nervous. Shumway promises to look into it.
The show returns to the man who buried someone in the woods. He finishes the job and drives away. The man makes a call and explains to an unnamed recipient that the person he killed engaged in aggressive negotiations. He ends the call when he sees Sheriff Perkins driving towards him. He opens his glove box and pulls out his gun.
Esquivel notices the man’s car has no front license plate and calls it in to dispatch. She and Perkins pass him and keep going. The unnamed man looks back to make sure they are gone. When he turns around, there are cows in the road. He swerves to miss them and ends up with a flat tire in the middle of a field.
While looking for his spare tire, the earth starts to shake and the animals get nervous. Birds fly away and the cows start making loud sounds. Car alarms blare across the town, and the church bell rings. Perkins stops his police car and clutches his chest, while the man stuck in the field watches something come down and hit the ground. He looks on as a cow collapses, split in two. The man touches the cow and coats his hand in blood. He then sees the barn off to his right and notices how it too is split in two. He nervously looks at what appears to be a transparent wall and puts his bloody hand on it. It leaves a handprint. Just then a teenage boy appears and asks if he is okay.
The sheriff recovers as calls start to flood in about downed power and telephone lines. Esquivel questions what could cause that as a plane flies overhead. The man and the teenager are examining the wall when the plane flies into it and explodes. They dive out of the way of the falling parts and ask what’s happening as a human leg lands in front of them.
A firetruck appears on the road and heads towards them. They race over to stop the truck before it hits the wall. It comes to a halt just inches before making impact. A fireman gets out and runs into the wall, breaking his nose. The two men can’t hear the firetruck, so they guess that sound isn’t going through the wall. They write a note to the fireman telling him to report to the FAA what’s happened.
Sheriff Perkins and Deputy Linda arrive at the scene of the crash. She sees her husband Rusty with the other firemen on the other side, but they can’t hear each other. Jim Rennie also arrives on the scene. Perkins surmises that the whole town is cutoff after more accident reports come in. Shumway arrives on scene, and Rennie tells her to leave. Perkins overrules him and has Linda take Shumway’s care to investigate the rest of the town. Shumway asks the man who is he is; he tells her his name is Barbie. When she looks at him funny, Barbie says it’s a nickname and notes that he isn’t the story. “Then why don’t you show me what is,” Shumway replies.
Barbie shows her the wall. They come upon a house that has been split in two. A woman is outside crying for her help; her hand has been cut off. Shumway says her husband is a doctor and could help her.
Dodee informs Phil that there are all kinds of problems going on across the area. Bushey says it’s not the end of the world as Jim Rennie bangs on the door of the radio station. They tell him he better have a warrant, but Rennie tells them they had better let him make an emergency broadcast or someone is going to die.
The scene shifts to his son Junior, who is about to attempt suicide when he hears his father’s announcement. Rennie tells people to stop driving their cars immediately.
Meanwhile, a couple and their daughter, Norrie, are driving down the road. They are heading to an addiction recovery camp for Norrie when they hear Rennie’s announcement. They initially ignore it when they see an oncoming truck smash into the dome. They get out of the car and wonder what’s happening when Norrie collapses in a seizure. She talks about falling stars as her mothers try to help her.
Joe, the boy who witnessed the plane crash with Barbie, comes home and asks his sister, Angie, where their mother is. It turns out that both parents are out of town; they’re on their own.
Shumway and Barbie bring the woman to the hospital. It’s full of injured people, and one of the nurses ask Shumway where her husband is. She tells him that her husband always works Sundays. The nurse replies that he hasn’t worked a Sunday in weeks. Shumways surmises that he must be at home and promises to go check on him. A suspicious Barbie looks on.
The U.S. military shows up at the bridge leading out of town with troops in radiation suits. They look at the dome as Deputy Esquivel looks on. She’s still unable to hear what they’re saying.
At the hospital, Angie bums a cigarette from Barbie. He asks her if she wants to be a nurse; she replies that she’s only a candy striper. Angie then asks Barbie what happened. She appears to be flirting with him, which disturbs Junior Rennie, who was watching from his truck. He gets out of his truck and is about to do something when the women pull up in their car crying out for help for Norrie. Angie takes her into the hospital as Junior watches Barbie cross the parking lot.
Jim Rennie approaches Sheriff Perkins and asks to add more police officers due to the emergency. Perkins replies that the last thing they need is to add amateur police officers to the force. Rennie threatens to tell the public about the propane tanks, but Perkins notes that the tanks are Jim’s thing, and he doesn’t know anything about them. Big Jim tells him not to play dumb; Perkins says that he did what he had to do to keep the town from going under. Rennie reminds him that they are all in this together.
Back at the radio station, Dodee finds a signal radiating within the town, but she also hears outside authorities refer to the wall as the “dome.”
Barbie is cleaning out his car when Junior Rennie approaches him and asks if they know each other. Barbie says no. Rennie calls him a dumbass, and Barbie asks what he did to tick him off. He then says that Rennie doesn’t want to start anything with him. Shumway arrives just as Junior is saying that maybe he does want to start something.
Shumway offers Barbie a place to stay when she discovers his plan to “rough it” for the evening.
Joe begins looking for power source when he collapses with a seizure. Like Norrie, he too starts calling out “the stars are falling.”
Angie arrives at home from the hospital. She’s getting something to eat when Junior attacks her. Angie’s knocked unconscious when she bangs her head on the floor. Junior notes that he didn’t want that to happen.
Sheriff Perkins informs the town that 12 people are dead. He tells them to be patient as a solution is worked out. He asks them to check on their neighbors and to find him if they need anything.
Angie wakes up in some sort of metal chamber; Junior opens the doors and walks in. Angie immediately starts screaming, but Junior tells her to save her voice – no one can hear her in his dad’s old bomb shelter. Junior explains that he understands why she acted weird that morning. She tells him that he’s lost his mind and attacks him. He locks her in the shelter.
Junior is leaving the chamber when his father finds him. The younger Rennie offers to help his father, and the two men walk back to the family home.
Shumway and Barbie arrive at her house. He sees a picture of Julia’s husband on the mantle and realizes that he’s the man he killed. Julia states that she doesn’t know where he is, but the town believes that he’s having an affair. She says that she knows her husband better than that; he will turn up.
Sheriff Perkins and Deputy Esquivel are investigating the wall of the dome. She wonders how this could happen, and Perkins notes that maybe they are being punished. He says that there is a lot that he has tried to protect her from. When she asks what he’s talking about, Perkins begins to tell her about the propane. However, the area around his heart explodes when he touches the wall. Perkins dies before he can tell Esquivel what happened with the propane.
The show ends with news reports detailing how this unexplained wall is a first in human history.
It’s been a long time since the old Stephen King miniseries on “The Stand” and “The Tommyknockers” have aired, but “Under the Dome” reminded me how much I valued them. I don’t have to wait six or seven seasons for a resolution. Instead, I simply have to tune in for 13 one-hour episodes to enjoy the journey through the book.* This journey got off to a good start on Monday night.
Let’s be honest and say the special effects weren’t very good, nor was the dialogue. I certainly wouldn’t advise tuning in for “Under the Dome” if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s not awful by any degree, but I can find better scripts elsewhere on television. It’s also important to note that there wasn’t much character development in the episode.
However, “Under the Dome” did an excellent job reaching the audience right away. The story moved briskly through the cast from the moment the show began, which gave us a solid introduction to each person. That’s incredibly valuable with such a large cast involved in the storyline. There wasn’t much development, but we got to know each character enough to care about their well-being.
Moreover, each scene in the episode had value. “Under the Dome” wasted none of its roughly 42 minutes on stupidity. Even the small Phil Bushey/Dodee scenes had significance, and it kept me wanting more. I found myself wondering where they are going with each character. That’s what a successful television does for viewers..
That said, people believing that the show needs to be 100 percent true to the book should stop watching now. There are significant character changes, especially in Barbie, Norrie and Julia. But overall, this was a solid first installment of “Under the Dome.” Hopefully, the show maintains its momentum throughout the summer.
* Note: it’s been hinted that the series could be extended beyond this 13-episode run. However, this first season is expected to cover the book alone.