Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Under the Dome

Under the Dome
Episode 4: Outbreak
Episode 5: Blue on Blue
By: Carlos Uribe

Under the Dome is a series about a small town that is trapped under a literal dome.

Spoilers Ahoy!


The crisis in Outbreak is in the title: an outbreak of Meningitis. The closed nature of the dome has made it so that the disease can easily spread among the citizens. It doesn't help matters that the hospital is not only short on staff but medicine as well. The highly contagious nature of the lethal disease makes it a major problem if they aren't able to contain the problem. They have to find a way to diagnose everyone, treat everyone, and ensure it doesn't spread. All three of their solutions comes with obstacles. The lack of doctors gives an opportunity for Alice to shine as she's able to use her experience working at a hospital to use. She might not exactly be a doctor, as she's a psychologist, but she did intern as one or something. She's able to determine that it's meningitis and she encourages that they quarantine the hospital to limit it's ability to spread. Alice largely does a good job but it gets complicated because she's basically the only doctor and her diabetes makes it a challenge for her to stay on her feet. Well the second one is at least in theory as it really only comes up as a concern because her partner keeps bringing it up. There's a moment at the end where Carolyn actually tries to steal diabetes medicine for Alice because she realizes that there might soon be a shortage. Alice stops her because of her optimism that things won't get so bad. It would have been nice if this diabetes plot actually played a role in Alice's attempt to play doctor because it could have added to the drama rather than be a worry for Carolyn. What would have happened if she suffered a diabetic attack in the middle of trying to help people? Who could help her? Could it have been confused with her getting meningitis symptoms by those who didn't know she got the vaccine? There's definably ways the show could have used that to actually build tension rather than merely hint at it's possibility. So the solution on how to diagnose all the people came with a theoretical obstacle rather than a real one.

The whole treating everyone is a whole different ballpark because it means having to find more medicine within a short piece of time. They try to hit the town's pharmacy only to discover that someone hit them first. Big Jim is able to figure out that the reverend had taken the drugs. He rushes to the Reverend's house just in time to stop every drug from being destroyed. The reverend is clearly acting irrationally due to his faith and it's a bit annoying. I didn't mind that he was corrupt, but does acting like a zealot mean making stupid decisions? I don't know, as a Christian I'm not happy with this show's portrayal of the sole representative of my faith. Their able to get the medicine back but not before the cop's teacher dies because somebody whose name we knew needed to pass or it would have been a joke of a threat. A teacher that was introduced for this sole purpose. They probably could have saved her life if the reverend hadn't ransacked the pharmacy's medicine. The final solution is how to stop the spread. The genius idea is to have everyone stay in the hospital by having Junior guard the door so that nobody can leave. There's a small problem when the people in the waiting room panic but Junior is able to calm them all down. This gets him deputized into the police force, which isn't good because he's a crazy kidnapper. Most importantly is that he finally gets some respect from his dad but I'm sure he'll lose it soon enough because the episode ends with Big Jim finding Angie in his bomb shelter. Finally.

That isn't the only obstacle to stopping the spread although the show doesn't seem to realize this. Julia is intent on finding out what Barbie is keeping from her. The map doesn't lead to her husband's body but the DJ's house. Parked right outside the DJ's house is her husband's car. This only makes her more curious as she struggles to find out what is going on. She's able to get the cabin where Barbie had fought her husband out of a delirious DJ. She leaves the hospital even though she's obviously sick with meningitis which is just plain stupid. I understand wanting to know what happened to your husband but it's not exactly like waiting to get better is a bad idea. She was under no deadline. She basically risks infecting the whole town, making the situation worse, because she's selfish and doesn't take anybody else under consideration. It's the most frustrating part of the episode and I quickly found myself turning against her. She's lucky the writers didn't use her decision to turn the outbreak into an epidemic because then they wouldn't have been able to wrap this episode nicely. She does learn part of the truth but she thinks her husband ran away from her rather than lying dead on the ground. She's still mad at Barbie for keeping this version of the truth from her. So he's homeless now. Outbreak isn't a bad episode per se but it's filled with a couple of mistakes that stopped it from being good: Julia was just too stupid this episode to the point where I was actively rooting against her while the writers missed multiple opportunities they presented themselves to make the situation worse.

Blue on Blue:

Blue on Blue shifts things up by pretending that everybody is going to die. The military realizes that the dome is messing with the magnetization of the planet. They don't know what it is and it is starting to affect the outside world. The only clear answer for the military is to do what they do best: blow it up with the best non-nuclear bomb they have. They start the day out nicely by having a “visitor's day” where people from outside can visit their loved ones inside. They have to find ways to communicate: some use the Microsoft Surface, some speak in sign language, and others just hope the other can read lips. This visit is really supposed to be a goodbye even though people from neither side seem to know this. It is a good way for the writers to develop some of the conflicts. Linda has to break the news to her fiance that his brother is dead, Norrie finds out that her biological father was not an anonymous sperm donor but an ex-boyfriend of Alice, and Julia receives a “letter” from her husband explaining that he's run away. The Linda one is a good plot as it's a way to force the character to confront that someone died under her watch but it's sadly rushed due to the time restraint. The writers only had so much time to dedicate to visitor's day before they had to introduce the missile. The Norrie plot makes sense as a way to create conflict between the daughter and her two moms but it's not like there wasn't enough animosity between them. It felt more like trying to stir the pot for the sake of it but hopefully there's a good reason on why the truth about her father was kept from her. The Julia plot is the perfect way to allow her to buy Barbie's story so that they can basically be back to where they were before she realized his connection to her husband. I'd say visitor's day is a good way for the show to create conflict but it's never really properly utilized. Linda's inner conflict is all too short to work, the Norrie plot felt forced and unnecessary, while Julia's letter was used to remove a conflict. Overall, I think that if the series had been able to spend a whole episode with the idea of visitor's day then it would have been properly executed. As it stands, it's a rushed idea that quickly gets shoved to the background in exchange for a rocket.

The whole rocket drama is a little better. I never really bought the idea that: a) they were going to die or b) the rocket was going to destroy the dome. The first is obvious because then we would have no characters to watch. The second can't happen until the series finale because that's what the whole show is about. Putting both in jeopardy might be a good way to try to increase the tension but the stakes are too high to properly be believable. So it should have come as no surprise to any viewer when the rocket was stopped by the dome. It explodes on the outside. Now this is where the show does to one thing right: it shows the destruction that the rocket had on the other side. The green forest has been wiped out, the road is a wreck, and it looks like a war zone. We get a visual sense of the power of the rocket rather than merely being told of it's theoretical power. Would it have been nice to get this idea before the rocket hit so that we could understand the threat more? Sure but I don't think that was necessary since I still wouldn't have bought the stakes. No, showing us the destruction of the rocket shows how powerful the dome is. This wasn't a weak missile but one that should have been able to destroy it. It didn't make a dent. That's a good way to really show how powerful the dome is. I might have known that the dome was going to survive the impact but I get to truly understand what that means thanks to what we see on the outside. It's also a pretty cool image to end the episode on as it's iconic in it's own right while creating the necessary narrative momentum to get me to come back. Blue on Blue might have had trouble with the content of the episode but it had one hell of an ending that was knocked right out of the park. Well, except for the whole kiss thing. That was a little bit too cheesy and fake to truly work.

The episode does have some frustrating bits during the missile drama. Big Jim takes forever to decide that he's going to let Angie go. Only he doesn't bother to tell her that a missile is heading straight to the town and that she might want to head to shelter like everybody else in town. I understand he might think their going to be dead anyways but he could have at least explained what was happening to her. She runs home because she thinks she'll find her brother there but Junior is waiting there with a gun. Since the world is ending, she basically pities him but I hope this doesn't mean that she's going to be taken hostage again. I'm kind of already fed up of her as a prisoner and literally only one person in the whole town noticing she's missing. Her boss and the people she helps out at the clinic? They don't seem to be worried at all. It's not like the writers could excuse that as they think she's on the other side of the dome considering enough people saw her after it fell that they should have realized a teenage girl went missing inside the thing. I, mean the writers keep trying to call her a flake but it's a little ridiculous how nobody really cares enough to actually investigate the matter. Hell, the only reason her brother is looking for her is because she missed Visitor's Day and their all going to die. Now he finally starts to get worried despite not having seen her for days. There's a difference between being a flake and nobody getting suspicious at all when nobody knows where somebody is. Here's hoping she stays free so that people can pretend their happy to see her again because it's pretty obvious nobody in town actually missed her. 

Blue on Blue is like Outbreak in that it's not bad per se but it stops from actually being good due to a wasted visitor's day to create real drama and the rocket drama having too high stakes to truly be believable.

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