Mania Grade: D
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- Episode: The Endless Thirst (Season 1, Episode 6)
- Starring: Mike Vogel, Dean Norris, Rachelle Lefevre, Natalie Martinez
- Written By: Soo Hugh, based on the novel by Stephen King
- Directed By: Kari Skogland
- Network: CBS
- Studio: CBS Television Studios
Under the Dome: The Endless Thirst Review
Dome and Dumber
By Michael Henley
July 30, 2013
Under the Dome was just renewed by CBS today for a second season. I say that not as a bringer of good news, but as someone who is about to attempt what resembles a secular prayer. Please don’t let a single episode of any future season of this series be worse than “The Endless Thirst.” This is an episode of TV that’s so consistently bad that it forces one to endlessly speculate on the stars that aligned in order to create its badness. Too many network notes? Was the story editor sick? Did every scene get turned in at 5:00 on a Friday? I’m being snarky, and I’m sorry, but this level of carelessness brings out the worst in me.
Also not high on my list: being treated like an idiot, something that this show just loves to do. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this series thinks we, the viewers, are fools. Not only do characters display erratic inconsistencies in behavior that we aren’t supposed to notice, and not only does the show underline every single plot point, but it bends over backwards to explain obvious concepts. My favorite example? After Alice has a hypoglycemic episode (one that causes a truck to swerve and crash into the water tower) and she is identified as a diabetic, we get careful dialogue between Joe and Norrie that re-states the just-mentioned fact that Alice has diabetes, and also helpfully telling us that diabetics need insulin, and bad things happen if they don’t get it. Because the show thinks you are stupid.
But then, everybody is stupid this week. When Big Jim confronts Junior about the missing Angie and tells his boy to take care of this situation, he seems to be forgetting that he let her go last week. When Big Jim is informed the town creek is so polluted it killed every fish, he has to ask if that means they can’t drink it. When Linda quells a potential riot when a story starts rejecting cash in favor of propane and batteries, one of the troublemakers sheepishly says “Sorry for causing a scene,” which is something that no one would ever say. When looters raid a pharmacy and Deputy Junior threatens them, they snicker at him as if he isn’t armed and authorized to use deadly force. And when Norrie watches one of her moms fall into a diabetic coma, she takes the prize for dumbest line of dialogue this week: “I can’t just let my mom die. Not like this.” I’m sorry…not like this? The first line is fine, but “Not like this?” So she’s fine with watching her mom die, but only if the circumstances are right? What?
Who gets the second-worst line of dialogue this week? That would be Norrie again, explaining the history of her and Joe’s dome-related seizures: “All the people who have seen us seize have said that we sense something.” Huh? (For maximum enjoyment, repeat that tongue-twister out loud.) Norrie and Joe go on a treasure hunt for insulin, breaking into houses, with minimum success: one attempt is thwarted by a loudmouth with a gun, who rightfully points out the moral quandary that hey, you know, stealing is wrong. Their next step holds a big score, but Norrie reconsiders when a little boy, the actual diabetic, confronts her. She returns the vials of insulin, because she can’t just let that kid die. Not like this.
But the insulin plot is just an excuse to get the two kids to intersect with Julie and Dodee, who are tracking errant radio interference. They discover the kids themselves are emitting it, in a revelation that carries shockingly little weight. The two kids join hands and touch the dome, clearing the interference, causing Julia to wax metaphysical, claiming that the dome is just trying to “reassure” the townspeople, or something. It makes no sense, and while I’m okay with suspending disbelief for a show with a crazy premise like Under the Dome, but the capacity for characters in Chester’s Mill to speculate endlessly about absolute nonsense while practical matters such as food and water go unaddressed is downright bonkers. (Oh, by the way, the “Alice needs insulin” subplot is resolved in a perfunctory, unsatisfying manner.)
To be fair, some of the townspeople do react a bit differently to this week’s events: they decide to riot, having suddenly realized that being trapped in a dome may mean dwindling resources and every man for himself, and so on. But it’s not just any riot. No, no. this is a cartoon riot that starts so arbitrarily and increases in pitch so suddenly that it feels like an episode of The Simpsons, where a running gag is how quickly and needlessly the town of Springfield will turn to violence. Apparently only one person is killed in the town-wide riot: Rose, the owner of the café, who unsuccessfully tries to fend off a pair of yokels that seem like they stepped out of a backwoods horror movie. And wouldn’t you know that Rose’s is the place that Angie winds up at after escaping from Junior once again, so she’s knocked unconscious and then one of the yokels decides to rape her, because this poor girl just hasn’t been victimized enough. Barbie dispatches the rapist before he gets anywhere, but that only compounds the issue: this show can’t think of Angie as anything more than a pretty, vapid piece of meat who needs constant defending against rapists and kidnappers. I’m looking forward to three episodes from now, where she’ll be stalked by cannibals.
Angie even gets kidnapped again, this time by Big Jim, who offers her a deal if she forgets the whole thing, in the episode’s single scene that feels like it’s worthy of the actors involved in it. (Though I’m confused by the button where Junior comes home and sees both of them in the living room…what are we supposed to be feeling, exactly?) Big Jim’s olive branch seems to include the offer of providing for her and Joe. Angie fights for that part, which is really nice given the fact that Joe, with no incoming bomb to worry about, decides this week to go back to acting like his sister does not exist. That’s not a plot point or anything; the character is just too dumb to actually remember what he was shouting about or who he was looking for last week. I mean, “yesterday.”
The riot is ended when a rainstorm happens inside the dome, otherwise known as deus ex domia. To be sure, the possibility of the dome having its own weather is raised as a possibility early on, to which Big Jim responds with “I don’t know.” Given that his efforts this week are all about securing water for the town, you would think at some point he would ask a scientist to get a definite answer about this. But apparently he didn’t; he’s just as surprised as everyone. He orders the town to grab buckets, although given the intelligence level of Chester’s Mill, he may need to explain to everyone how a bucket works.
The only other significant thing this week is that Julia and Barbie have a make out session in the rain (the rainstorm lasts for hours, which tests this premise of “the dome has its own weather” pretty hard). I honestly couldn’t care less about this impending soap opera hook-up, especially because it’s been signposted since the beginning. And keep in mind the convoluted way two weeks ago that Julia was fed a line about her husband’s disappearance; the only way to forward this romance and not make Julia seem like a cheater is to, essentially, first make her look like a dope. Joy. As for Barbie, I have no idea where his head is at. He seems to spend the entire episode sulking that it’s not featuring him more often.
I really want to like Under the Dome, but “The Endless Thirst” shows it at its absolute worst: exploitative, ugly, dumb, insulting. So in closing I wish to pledge a burnt offering to whatever god there is that will answer my plea. Please make Under the Dome get better than “The Endless Thirst.” Much better. I just can’t watch this show get stupider. Not like this.