Under the Dome: Manhunt Review - Mania.com

Under the Dome Review

Mania Grade: C

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  • Episode: Manhunt (Season 1, Episode 3)
  • Starring: Mike Vogel, Dean Norris, Rachelle Lefevre, Natalie Martinez
  • Written By: Adam Stein, based on the novel by Stephen King
  • Directed By: Paul Edwards
  • Network: CBS
  • Studio: CBS Television Studios
  • Series:

Under the Dome: Manhunt Review

Bore Dome

By Michael Henley     July 09, 2013
Source: Mania.com


So, “Manhunt,” Under the Dome’s third episode, isn’t an awful episode of television. But it’s very very mediocre, the kind of TV episode that makes executives happy because it follows a clearly-defined structure. Not very much interesting happens, but there’s some running around to make it seem like interesting things are happening. It’s very rote and routine, right down to the episode title. It’s called “Manhunt.” It’s about a manhunt. There’s your hook right there. But it’s “about” a manhunt in a way that really squanders some potential.

The man being hunted is Freddie, the deputy-turned-accidental murderer last week. Locked up in a cell, Freddie quickly overpowers Linda (still over her head) and escapes, causing Big Jim to take charge of the search for him, eventually marshaling together a whole search party that consists of four people: Big Jim, Barbie, and two diner patrons who we’ve never seen before. Turns out those two are homophobes to boot. Yuck. They go into the woods and search for Freddie. Yup, it’s the dreaded “cast goes into the woods” episode.

I’m being glib. The story’s not a terrible one, but there’s one thing that gets my goat about this whole setup: Freddie. Freddie exists as the figure that shows up in a lot of Stephen King’s books, the guy who goes manic and finds himself capable of unspeakable, horrible things. These types of characters are fascinating because, with skill, they can be made relatable. Their spiral out of control could possibly be constructed realistically. We can share empathy with a man who falls of the edge of sanity, because there but for the grace of God, right?

Nope, not here. Freddie is a plot device, one designed to get our characters out in the woods and give them a tiny task to accomplish this week. Not one moment is ever dedicated to bestowing Freddie with any empathy—he’s a stock villain, shooting a rifle from behind some trees, eventually getting the drop on Big Jim before getting dispatched by the growing-into-her-role Linda. If Under the Dome is the story of a town that begins to turn on each other, why tell the first piece of that narrative in such half-hearted, useless measures? Never for a second do we care about Freddie or what he represents, and we should. Hitchcock’s defined a “MacGuffin,” as an inconsequential piece of story that only exists to fuel the parts we truly care about, and Freddie is essentially a walking, shooting, dying MacGuffin. What a waste.

The stuff we’re “meant” to care about in the dreary woods sequences is the contentious relationship between Barbie and Big Jim. While Barbie remains a mystery, Big Jim lets his guard down and tells a story of his past as a star quarterback—one that speaks plainly to his rage issues. I realize (presume?) this is foreshadowing of things to come, but there has to have been a better forum to put Big Jim’s character development in. It comes across as shoehorned, as does the growing complexity of the two men’s bond.

The other stories don’t really fare much better this week. Junior, after being confronted by Big Jim in an argument that falls upon “bad angry dad” clichés (lots of sports pressure and stuff) returns to Angie, still chained up. Angie, trying to play a long con, attempts buttering up to Junior and pressing him to think of ways they might escape the dome. Junior heads for some tunnels. He picks up a stowaway when Julia follows him. In a show that’s starting to become desperate at figuring out reasons why certain characters do what they do, this takes the cake: Julia, now feeding the news regularly via the radio station, looks out the window and sees Junior walking somewhere, and gets curious. Yup, she just sees Junior walking and immediately thinks he’s someone worth following. A nosy reporter is one thing, but this just plain doesn’t make sense.

The writing is all wonky surrounding Julia this week. Junior ventures into a long tunnel and finds at the end of it the dome driving into the Earth. Enraged, he pounds on it until a simultaneous power outage, and Julia accidentally makes her presence known. Junior looks at her with threatening eyes going into the act-out, and then, incredibly, the episode returns from commercial and resolves this cliffhanger with these two characters exchanging literally a line each of banal, passionless dialogue. Junior forgot to bring a flashlight and Julia only has matches (?), which they use to guide themselves out. But not before Julia tells Junior about what she’s doing in Chester’s Mill (short version: she wrote a libelous story that cost her career). It’s a nice attempt at a character moment, but it feels out of sorts with everything we know about Julia. Perhaps this is again due to Rachelle Lefevre’s limitations as an actress, but nothing about her performance says “disgraced journalist” to me. That requires introspection—the ability to show character thought, and that isn’t present. Inspired by Junior’s ramblings (“Barbie beat me up!”) Julia suspiciously poking through Barbie’s belongings and stories, and again, I’m not sold by the transition here. Julia is billed as a smart cookie, which means either she should have been suspicious of Barbie from the start, or shouldn’t turn on a dime due to the crazed mewling of a teenager. It makes her look incredibly weak.

The third subplot, related to the power outage, involves Joe using the resources of his house to throw a makeshift energy party, lending juice to teens trying to charge their iPods and phones. Originally designed as a private affair to get to know Norrie (who has run away from home, in a plot point the show just tosses off), Joe’s party soon devolves into strangers invading his house and a near-altercation with a bully. Although there’s a cute, self-aware reference in this sequence to The Simpsons Movie, they’re a little painful, mainly because while the teen focus is a necessary component of the societal cross-section strategy of Under the Dome, the teen dialogue and behavior doesn’t feel remotely genuine. That’s a shame, because Joe actually does have a decent chemistry with Norrie—their budding romance will probably be a plotline this year I enjoy returning to most. More seizures from these two kids close out the 

I’m enjoying Under the Dome, for the most part, but I must say that “Manhunt” is a huge, clunky disappointment. Hopefully we’ll have a nice rebound next time. We’re three for three on wounded cops closing each episode, too. So it’s confirmed: we have a perverse running gag.


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jd25u 7/9/2013 7:17:14 PM

 Big Jim was a star Cornerback, not Quarterback.  Why exactly did Norrie run away from home?  I totally missed it, if it was given.  The Simpsons reference was kinda funny.

redhairs99 7/10/2013 8:44:46 AM

 Damn it!  Wrote a long post and of course, it doesn't go through.

Quick recap...Michael, you called Joe "Colin" for the entire Pilot review which was incorrect.  Now you're calling Peter Randolph by the name "Freddie."  Freddie was the cop who caught the richoted bullet in the last episode.

A friend and I watched these first couple episodes and told me they've just about changed every single part and character in the book except they there's a giant dome.  For instance, Barbie isn't some ex-military, hitman, muscle working for loan sharks or whatever he's doing.  He's a straight-laced Iraq War Vet good guy who was doing odd jobs around town.  Probably the most straight-forward good guy King has ever written.

There's more, but as I said Mania didn't post my last comment with more detail and I don't feel like typing them out all over again.


rkngl 7/10/2013 2:12:53 PM

Well, let me see... they had one sheriff and three deputies. THe sheriff died in the pilot, one deputy on the second, and another in the third, there's only the girl left. This means... 



Iridan 7/11/2013 5:01:00 AM

I like Falling Skies. I think it's gotten better every season. I don't know why Mania doesn't cover it.

As for the review, I pretty much agree with it except the rating. I think a C is far too generous. I'd give it a D. I came close to deleting the episode several times before finishing it. To go with all the points made, I'd also point out that I found the dialogue to be very poorly written (and executed). I'll give it another episode or two.

karas1 7/11/2013 5:53:43 AM

All Freddie (or Peter or whatever) did was shoot a gun in the air.  He certainly didn't mean for a richochet to hit anybody, much less kill his partner.  Yet everybody treated him like a dangerous serial killer.  First a mob wanted to lynch him and then when he got the hell out of there without hurting anybody else (I would have too) they hunted him down to murder him on sight.  These people aren't too bright.

jd25u 7/20/2013 8:24:11 PM

 Yes ... why exactly doesn't Mania cover Falling Skies??  It that doesn't fall into this Genre, I don't know what does.



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