Stephen King strikes again in TV land and so exhales another collective groan. His usual brigade of Yankee stereotypes (local writer, war veteran, religious crackpot, redneck politician, child genius, murderous bully and so on) are residents of yet another Maine town, but this time they’re all trapped under an invisible dome. Yes, The Simpsons Movie (2007) already did it, although in truth, King began the novel in the early seventies; but in any event this is a great device to use and it works intriguingly well here. The townsfolk either divide or unite whilst trapped together with diminishing resources. Eventualities are of course rioting, murder, leadership competition, new relationships, practical problem-solving, oh and the odd fire and explosion. Despite the inevitability of these usual-supects of the King pantheon, the relationships are what give this show some strength as morality is constantly thrown into question under a more lawless society. Even romantic relationships have an air of believability and family ties are enduring. The acting is generally good and there is endless intrigue as to where the dome came from and what might be its full purpose. If you like King and stick with the initial episodes of season one you will want to find answers just as much as the people of Chester’s Mill.
Therein lies the problem. Season two comes along and the writing shifts pace. King wrote this season’s opener and he gladly assassinates two of the first season’s essential characters. Was he on drugs again!? Did he want to kill the show? Not sure. It probably didn’t help that the original show creator, Brian K. Vaughan left either, but one can only speculate. There is a good escape-from-the-dome plot, which takes some of the blow, but even that is tainted by too many a murder and the ineffective reactions they elicit. Whilst this may be some comment on the consequences of lawlessness after a period of time, one suspects it’s more of a writing-one’s-self-into-a-corner type dilemma. It’s weak. Season one was the thematic epitome of morality and corruption in a pressure-cooker, but now in Chester’s Mill, homicide is simply yesterday’s news. Kudos to an enduring anti-hero, but Chester’s Mill now seems to believe that with a handshake and a hoedown all can be forgotten. Writers, take note: viewers always take note. Still, we want to see the original characters get some answers and we follow them into this new darkness.
Season three arrives and uh-oh spaghetti-o now what the hell-i’m-not-smiling happened here? Viewers are treated even more moronically by the latest writers. The tone and plot have completely changed and what used to be an exploration of relationships which either thrived or died under intense conditions is now in fact The Tommyknockers (1993), complete with special guest star Marg Helgenberger herself; only now the special FX are pink rather than the circa 1993 green. At its worst it’s skim-watching television whilst you’re otherwise occupied; at its best it’s a fascinating train-wreck. Poor Rachelle Lefevre (Julia) who can just about get through her terrible lines. Still, you’ve come this far and you must journey to the conclusion… Oh, dear God (gasp) no. Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, CBS: What have you done? Wait, for the past several weeks what have I done? Time to get out from under my dome.
In short: season one = great, season two = problematic, season three = ugh, what’s this now?
Enter the dome at your own peril.