Mania Grade: B
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- Episode: Blue On Blue (Season 1, Episode 5)
- Starring: Mike Vogel, Dean Norris, Rachelle Lefevre, Natalie Martinez
- Written By: Brian K. Vaughan, based on the novel by Stephen King
- Directed By: Jack Bender
- Network: CBS
- Studio: CBS Television Studios
Under the Dome: Blue On Blue Review
By Michael Henley
July 23, 2013
“Blue On Blue” is a tale of impending destruction that begins and ends with some lovely bookends. The key opening image is that of a swarm of butterflies latching themselves to the dome, creating a sort of undulating, living wallpaper that Joe and Norrie discover, stirring within them a sense of awe. The closing image is that of the aftermath of a missile impact, which leaves the dome pristine but the outside area devastated; while Chester’s Mill remains hermetically sealed, there’s now a wasteland on their front porch. This apocalyptic image is rather pretty, in its own depressing way. And it comes at a time when I was starting to doubt whether Under the Dome would ever recapture any of the spirit of its decent premise.
That “Blue On Blue” is the best episode of Under the Dome since the pilot speaks well for the involvement of showrunner (and writer for this episode) Brian K. Vaughan, but also speaks poorly for the previous three installments. And to be fair, “Blue On Blue” is not immune to the same lapses in logic and nonsensical character beats that plagued the show previously. It’s just that this week these problems feel yoked more agreeably to a decent structure.
The plot this week is pretty straightforward: the military busses in loved ones, ones that up till now the show has come close to forgetting about. This visitation day, replete with shocking revelations (Norrie’s father is on the other side of the dome!) and bogus product placement (buy a Windows tablet, everybody!) is later decoded by Barbie to be not a “hello,” but to serve as a “goodbye,” since the military is planning on launching a missile at the dome. Though I’m not sure how this could serve as a goodbye for the families when clearly none of them were made aware of what was about to happen, Barbie’s instincts pay off, even though he annoyingly presents some big deductive leaps as straight-up facts.
The town’s impending doomsday forces some characters into tight spots, as they gather at a makeshift bunker that will certainly not protect them from the destruction to come (and everyone realizes this, but what else can you do?) Big Jim has to grapple with how much of a leader he is. Barbie and Julia decide to patch up their disagreements, as she sourly keeps heading down the path that her dead husband left her, and Barbie is too slow on the draw in his attempt to set her straight. And Angie and Junior, well…
I can’t believe we’re still doing this. From what I understand, Junior is a huge character in Stephen King’s novel, and his story is essentially similar to what we’re seeing here (instead of the wild changes everywhere else that the show is apparently making). But a book is a book and a series is a series, and Junior and Angie’s subplot has officially outstayed its welcome, especially now since the writers are showing they are not above completely jerking us around about it. And this subplot seems to be a black hole, sucking in other characters and mingling them with maximum stupidity.
Case in point: last week we saw Big Jim discover Angie imprisoned. What happened right after that moment? Apparently…nothing. That’s right, nothing. Incredibly, Big Jim just up and left and slept on it and then the next morning comes down to see Angie and demands an explanation from her, implying that he said not one word to her the night previous, after walking in and seeing her in the state she was. This makes no sense. It’s clear the show is married to this whole “one episode = one day” conceit, but to build a cliffhanger out of consecutive emotional beats that occur hours apart from each other is ludicrous.
Big Jim, the snake, keeps Angie locked up in a bid to protect his son, but has a change of heart when news of the missile breaks, so he lets Angie go, but tells Junior, so that the boy can intercept her when she returns home and menace her with a pistol, just in case it wasn’t clear enough that Junior is a budding serial killer with training wheels. Inexplicably, Angie responds to Junior pouring his heart out with some tenderness, as he curls up in her lap, making it quite clear that what Junior wants is a mommy. I’m unconvinced that an unchained Angie couldn’t subdue Junior, even when he’s carrying, which means that this whole final beat to their story this week feels patently false, and makes a weak character like Angie seem even weaker.
But how’s this for weak? Joe doesn’t go to the bomb shelter, and instead runs through the streets with Norrie looking for his sister Angie, a person that he has barely said one word of concern about since the dome dropped five days ago. The impending missile strike makes Joe and Norrie give in to their teen passions, falling into a passionate kiss as the world ends against a fiery backdrop…one that, when the smoke clears, sees the dome sturdily in place. It’s another nice image which leads into the final one, the apocalyptic rubble outside the dome, which is seen by Big Jim and nicely reflects his state of mind, one that causes him to bash the ranting, raving reverend’s head (and hearing aid) into the dome, instantly killing him. This was a moment we all knew was coming from Big Jim, and it’s decently played by Dean Norris, who does a good job this week of navigating Jim’s fractured psyche, especially where his own son is concerned. While his wishy-washiness of doing the right thing by Angie was protracted, his plea to his son after he lets her go felt right on the money.
There were other little grace notes in “Blue On Blue,” that I liked, such as the secondhand information that Ben passes on indicating the global dramas that have ensued from the presence of the dome. And how
DJ Phil calms people for the apocalypse by playing a little Beethoven while dancing with his assistant Dodee (and how the two of them trade insults but still keep the rhythm). And I liked the go-for-broke corniness of Norrie admiring the butterfly wall and hoping that it’s a metaphor for the dome being a cocoon, even though the line she gets is exceedingly clunky. And the moment where Barbie, seeing the dome still there after the missile impact, puts his palm against it, and then turns his hand into a fist.
It’s perhaps no coincidence that “Blue On Blue” is an episode that is purely about the dome’s ramifications, not one that stages a mini-drama made more complex by the presence of the dome. We need more episodes like this one, that actually depict the townspeople of Chester’s Mill as scared and frantic, and giving them impossible choices to make; one that remembers all the different pieces in play with this concept, and juggles them all successfully. “Blue On Blue” has a bunch of problems, but it still stands tall as a decent episode of Under the Dome, but that’s probably because it’s been made clear by this point that we should probably grade on a…um…curve.