It’s a really bad sign when a giant dome encases your town and that’s not even the worst part of some residents’ day. The sci-fi series ‘Under the Dome’ is based on a novel by Stephen King, who also serves as one of the show's executive producers. Many of King’s stories take place in seemingly picturesque little New England hamlets whose residents are often forced to deal with dark forces, supernatural phenomenon and sinister secrets. Chester’s Mill, a place where a stranger disposes of a corpse before breakfast, is no different.
In any crisis, the really compelling stuff happens after the dust settles, and the victims are forced to figure out how to survive. We’ve seen plenty of examples in literature, movies and TV that when it comes to life and death, humans are capable of being completely self-serving. You can amplify those emotions and reactions when the survivors face supernatural or inexplicable adversaries.
In the pre-dome hours, a man named Dale “Barbie” Barbara (Mike Vogel) buries a body in the woods and starts to make a hasty retreat out of Chester’s Mill. A summer romance between Junior Rennie (Alexander Koch), an apparent beloved son of his hometown now attending college elsewhere, and Angie McAlister (Britt Robertson), a local girl who dreams of being anywhere other than Chester’s Mill, comes to an abrupt and violent end. And, a local woman named Andrea Grinnell (Dale Raoul) regales the local newspaper editor, Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre), with conspiracy theories regarding a number of frequent and large propane deliveries that have been rolling into town over the past few weeks.
It’s not an ordinary day in Chester Mills in more traditional ways as well. There is a giant parade in the nearby town of Westlake that includes the involvement of some of Chester Mill’s police officers, firemen, and town council members. In fact, only one member chooses to stay behind in order to oversee the running of his car dealership, James “Big Jim” Rennie (Dean Norris). Police Chief Howard “Duke” Perkins (Jeff Fahey) is informed by one of his deputies, Linda Esquivel (Natalie Martinez) that the town drunk called to report hearing a loud bang. They decide to go and check it out because Duke says, “You never know with this damn place.”
As Barbie flees town, he makes a phone call that gives viewers some indication as to why he has committed a homicide. He passes Duke and Linda who call in his plate number but don’t turn around to pursue him. Barbie is so distracted, he fails to see several cows standing in the middle of the road and swerves to miss them which results in a minor accident. Barbie escapes unscathed but with a flat tire and no spare. Suddenly, there is a loud rumbling noise, the wind picks up and the ground begins to shake. The disturbance lasts less than a minute and stops. Barbie is the first to discover the invisible barricade but the extent of its size and the implications of its presence remain unknown.
The brevity of the phenomena quickly becomes apparent as cars crash at full speed into the barrier at various points around town, a plane crashes and residents realize they have no cable, cell phone service, working landlines or power, with the exception of those with emergency generators. The barrier is also completely soundproof, so nobody can hear someone standing directly on the opposite side. Radio station employee Dodee (Jolene Purdy) is able to piece together a transmission that identifies the structure as a dome.
People find themselves not only cut off from loved ones but the rest of the world. This event is most definitely bad news for the townspeople but an even worse development for those just passing through, like lesbian couple Carolyn Hill (Aisha Hinds) and Alice Calvert (Samantha Mathis) and their delinquent teenage daughter Norrie (Mackenzie Lintz).
In the midst of this chaos, there are residents who are already formulating personal agendas and uncovering family secrets. Junior’s goes completely bonkers and uses the mayhem as a cover for some sinister activities. Big Jim sees an opportunity to parlay his leadership position into one of real power, but finds he’ll have to go up against Duke if he wants to become the town’s alpha male. And, Julia realizes her physician husband has been lying to her for weeks and has now gone MIA.
The dome is an interesting mystery in and of itself especially since it appears to be causing seizure-like episodes in both Norrie and Angie’s brother Joe (Colin Ford). The idea of being without the benefits of modern technology in a society where we rely on it not just for convenience but for survival is truly frightening. There are endless logistical issues such as limited resources including air that have to be examined. But, it will be the displays of baser human instincts and emotions that will make ‘Under the Dome’ engrossing television. Toss in some nasty townies with closets ready to burst open with skeletons, and you’ve got the makings for a creepy summer addiction.