Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Pedigree: Under the Dome is based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. The show was written, created, and executive produced by Brian K. Vaughan (Lost). Niels Arden Oplev (Unforgettable) directed the pilot.
The Cast & How You Know Them: The large ensemble cast includes Mike Vogel (Bates Motel), Rachelle Lefevre (Twilight), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), Natalie Martinez (CSI: NY), Britt Robertson (The Secret Circle), Alexander Koch (Underemployed), Colin Ford (Supernatural), Nicholas Strong (Nashville), Jolene Purdy (10 Things I Hate About You), and Aisha Hinds (Cult).
The Premise: One day, an invisible, impermeable dome suddenly imprisons the small Maine town of Chester’s Mill. The residents must deal with the emergency situation this causes as well as the various secrets it brings to light – all while trying to figure out what the dome is, where it came from, and how to make it go away.
What Works: The pilot was fast-paced and entertaining, and it did a good job of maintaining the atmosphere of tension that suffuses Chester’s Mill. It introduced the mystery and a whole lot of characters reasonably effectively, and some of the characters were immediately interesting and/or sympathetic enough to draw the viewer in. It seems like a few of the characters might actually be more complex on the show than they were in the book, which would be a good thing. The cast is strong, and the acting, writing, and sets combine to make a fairly believable – if rather more ethnically diverse than is the norm – small town in Maine.
What Doesn’t: There are a lot of characters and plotlines, and the pilot didn’t really have enough time to devote to any of them. The ones that are most engaging at first aren’t necessarily those that will stay that way in the long run, but the show needs to develop a better sense of focus and cohesion to make it feel like one narrative. I expected changes from the book, of course, but I was slightly shocked by how many changes there were. I can’t say much without spoiling, but some of the changes make me a bit worried about where the show is planning to go.
Our Favorite Line: “What if the government built this thing?” “I doubt it.” “Why?” “Cause it works.”
You Might Like This if you like mysteries with a sci-fi tinge, mixed with a lot of human drama and small town politics. Haven, also based on a Stephen King novel, definitely comes to mind here.
(Photo courtesy of CBS.)