Catching Up with 'Under the Dome' Season One, Telephone Style: Episodes 1-4

Last summer's silly sensation Under the Dome returns for a second season on Monday. We're catching up by playing a game of TV Telephone, watching one episode, explaining it to the group, then passing along to the next in line. It's sure to be fun/dome-y.

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Last summer's silly sensation Under the Dome returns for a second season on Monday. The show, a Stephen King adaptation that is, upon closer inspection, about a town that finds itself placed under a mysterious dome, was at turns junk and addictive and infuriating, and somehow all of us here at The Wire missed out on it.

In the interests of catching up in time for the season two premiere, we've decided to employ a lighting-quick catchup method. Rather than marathonning all 13 episodes, the three of us are going to play a bit of TV Telephone. The game of Telephone, as is classically understood, involves whispering something to a friend, who then whispers it to the person on the other side of them, who then does the same, so on and so forth, until the story gets back to you with hilarious embellishments. (As with most concepts, this one was best illustrated by The Simpsons.)

So that's what we're doing with Under the Dome season one. One of us will watch the first episode and tell the other two about it; then we'll pass it off to the next person for the second episode; and so forth. We won't be watching the episodes we're not writing about, so we'll be dependent on each other's reports to fill in the blanks in between. Hopefully by the end, we'll have a better understanding of just what is happening under that dome, and we'll have had a little fun at the expense of Chetser's Mill, Maine in the process.

Next: Episodes 5-8

Episode 1, "Pilot"
Watched by: Joe Reid

Dear David and Ben:

To the best of my knowledge, here's how the acclaimed limited-but-not-too-limited Stephen King kicked things off: So there's this dome.

Okay, fine, before the dome we meet some people in this town of Chester's Mill (Grovers Corners?) which I'm going to assume is in Maine. Hank from Breaking Bad is a councilman or some such approximation, and he seems super shady, particularly when interacting with the airplane pilot from Lost, who in this show is a cop. Also shady: Mike Vogel, who comes to town in a stolen car and with his face all busted up, after burying a dead body in the woods. He immediately crosses paths with Rachelle Lefevre (the wife of the dead body he buried, sure, yes), who plays a reporter; and the girl from Life Unexpected, who's called Angie in this one. Angie's a problem because she has a jealous and psycho boyfriend who ends up accidentally (I guess?) shoving her to the ground and knocking her out and then chaining her up in his basement.

But also there's this dome! So Mike Vogel's just chilling in a cow pasture when BWANG! there's a dome, and it cuts a cow in half, which is pretty gross/cool. Here's what we know about the dome so far: sound-proof; you can't really see it too well unless you put a bloody handprint on it, so there are a lot of scenes of people/cars approaching the dome and you're just waiting for them to crash into it, and then they do; the first time you touch it it zaps you, but afterwards it just kinda vibes; nobody knows how high up it goes; it makes certain people (both of them teens, that we see) have seizures, during which they babble something about stars falling. Oh, it also makes things like pacemakers explode, which isn't great news for the pilot from Lost. By the end of the episode, the outside world is getting news of this dome sitch, and the military starts rolling in.

Lotta Stephen King tropes already being set up, including the drifter guy with secrets, the nice family just passing through (in this case a lesbian couple with a teen wherein one of the lesbians is Samantha Mathis), and the people with folksy nicknames like Big Jim. We get a few really cool visuals with the dome, too, which I appreciated. The season gets off to a hot start, I have to say.

Episode 2, "The Fire"
Watched by: Ben Cosman

Joe and David:

First, Joe, the pilot from Lost has a name, and that name is Frank freaking Lapidus. Second, he’s dead within the first five minutes of “The Fire” thanks to that magical exploding pacemaker of his, so there goes my favorite character. His death brings Deputy Linda (surrogate daughter for our dearly departed Duke) and Big Jim to Reverend Lester’s house, because he’s also playing mortician, I guess? It’s revealed here that Jimmy and the Rev have some serious shady dealings together, which first seems like a drug ring but turns out to be something to do with propane. Whatever it is, Duke knew about it and was covering up for them, so they have to cover their tracks before Linda inherits all of Duke’s stuff.

In other news from dome-world: Angie’s still locked up by her psychotic boyfriend James, who’s adamant that she loved him right before the dome came down and thinks it “scrambled her brain.” He’s also convinced she’s doing stuff with handsome drifter Dale, so James stalks him and tries to fight him. Let’s just say it doesn’t go well for James. Julia teams up with the DJ and the engineer to figure out that they’re definitely trapped by a dome, and the military on the outside has no idea where it came from. We also learn that Dale killed Julia’s husband accidentally in a gun struggle because he owed money (or some “it” that has to be paid up) to Dale’s boss, whoever that is. And then there’s our seizure teens, math-genius Joe and “we’re all gonna die” Norrie, who totally have a thing going on.

But back to Big Jim and Lester: the Rev goes to Duke’s house to dispose of some sort of evidence, but ends up setting the house on fire. Which is no good, because the fire department is on the other side of the dome. The town eventually bands together and puts the fire out, but there’s the whole problem of where, exactly, all the smoke is going to go.

Also, don’t try to shoot the dome – the bullets will bounce off and kill someone. So that’s where we’re at right now. I don’t trust anyone except Duke. And he’s dead.

Episode 3, "Manhunt"
Watched by: David Sims

Joe and Ben:

There's no texting or calls under the dome, but cameras and apps still work, or so the teens tell us! There's lots of teens in this one, mainly abandoned kid Joe, who has a whole house to himself, and emo runaway Norrie, who turns out to be the daughter of Carolyn (Aisha Hinds)? Has this been revealed already? [EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, in the pilot. Carolyn is married to Samantha Mathis, who is pumping up the volume in a much more domesticated way.] Also Carolyn is a lesbian and gets homophobically bullied by some yokels at one point, and Norrie seems ashamed of her two moms, but flirts heavily with lil' Joe. The episode ends with Norrie getting found by her mom with Joe, and then the two kids have one of those "pink stars falling" seizures, WHATEVER THOSE ARE.

The main storyline is focused on that Deputy who I guess fired wildly into the dome last week and killed someone? He's put in jail but escapes, and Big Jim and Barbie [EDITOR'S NOTE: a.k.a. Dale, a.k.a. Mike Vogel.] go into the woods to try and take him out, but Big Jim really seems to want to kill him, whereas Barbie is kinda just whatever. At one point, Big Jim gives this Big Jim speech about how he used to be shrimpy and he tackled some bully and broke his pelvis to prove what a big-shot he is. It's supposed to be telling of his character, but it feels a little too on the nose. But that's true of a lot of stuff in this series. Anyway, eventually Deputy Linda takes out the runaway, and she's gonna be the new Sheriff, as anointed by Big Jim.

Also there's Britt Robertson in the cellar, which doesn't really go anywhere, and Big Jim's crazy kid Junior, who tries to find a way out through the "cement factory tunnels," but the dome goes all the way underground. He gets found by journalist Julia (Rachelle Lefevre, who SUUUUUCKS) who tells him some story of how she got disgraced in her old job and oh my god I do not care. I don't care at ALL. She has some map, too. Or maybe Barbie did, I don't know. There's mystery, that's what's important.

Episode 4, "Outbreak"
Watched by: Joe Reid

Ben and David:

So remember when Lost had established its premise in the first few episodes and then seemed to realize that it was going to have to make this story last a billion episodes, so it was going to have to start telling stories that had nothing to do with getting off the island? Welcome to "Outbreak," the episode where everybody kind of stops trying to figure out the Dome because they've all got meningitis or Dome Flu or whatever. As Carolyn says at one point, "What if the Dome lasts forever?" If wishing made it so, Carolyn/CBS. So there's this outbreak, and then there's this tension over whether anyone will find out Mike Vogel's secret strangle-y past, and somehow both of these threads converge on Julia, played by the luminous and talented Rachelle Lefevre. Mike Vogel comes clean-ish to her ("Your husband was a degenerate gambler, and he, uh, must've skipped town?"), and she's pissed at him, when she's not hallucinating visions of her dead husband, whose name was Peter Shumway, because [ALF joke].

Anyway! This episode is stuffed to the gills with TV cliches, from fevered confessions to not having enough meningitis vaccines (meaning Hard Choices Must Be Made) to the Chester's Mill resident (Samantha Mathis in this case) who needs regular insulin injections. I'm frankly shocked that no one is pregnant and awaiting a fraught delivery for Sweeps. Everything at this point feels designed to keep the perpetual motion of the series going. And so Joe and Norrie make a pact not to tell anyone about their pink-star seizures because: reasons. And Carolyn steals insulin from the hospital for Alice, so we can all worry about pedestrian concerns like stealing instead of OH RIGHT, THE FACT THAT WE'RE LIVING IN THE ACTUAL BELL JAR.

The other major storyline involves poor Angie, still chained up in Junior's basement (how very convenient that Big Jim and Junior have a fully equipped prison cell where the washer and dryer would normally be). After a poorly telegraphed attempt to get the jump on Junior (dear trapped women of Hollywood: stop screaming before you strike!), Angie is left alone, chained to the bed, and that's when the C.H.U.D.s came at me the water pipe bursts. Junior heads to the hospital, where his able-bodied white-male privilege ends up getting him gifted with a shotgun and the responsibility of preserving law and order. The soundtrack makes damned sure you know that it thinks this is a terrible idea.

And so, by episode's end, Big Jim comes home, hears the unusual sound of a girl screaming coming from his faucet, and ultimately finds Angie chained up in his rapidly flooding basement prison-cell. And since the mandate is now to keep things going for as long as possible, I have zero confidence that Big Jim will actually liberate Angie. But that's the next episode.

Next up: Four more episodes of dome-y goodness, and hopefully not too much about insulin or gambling debts.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.