Under the Dome 1.11 “Speak of the Devil” Review: Character Flaws

So I guess Under the Dome 111 1Under the Dome is making some deadly strides as it heads towards its finale: killing off characters we barely got to know (see ya, Max), putting Julia’s life in peril by Max just randomly shooting her in an apparent attempt to get back at Barbie, and telling its “mystery gang” of teens through hallucinations that it must murder Big Jim in order to save Chester’s Mill. Under the Dome is attempting to raise the stakes before its last two episodes, but no matter how many bodies wash up from that magically appearing lake that Chester’s Mill just began to have a couple episodes ago, Under the Dome will still remain a disappointment because of its large cast of boring, inauthentic characters.

Let’s go over this quickly and start with Junior, Under the Dome’s biggest offender when it comes to character. Over the past eleven episodes, Junior has been painted as a psychopath, a brat, and now, suddenly, a hero, as he is one of the key members to unlocking the dome’s secrets and a great protector of Angie in last night’s episode. The Under the Dome writing staff may believe that they are crafting a multi-layered character in Junior, who has both faults and admirable qualities as well; however, as I’ve said before, the inconsistency of the writing for him only shows laziness on the side of the writes and causes frustration for viewers like myself. The only part of Junior that is consistent on Under the Dome is that he is consistently annoying.

Then we have characters like Linda, Norrie, or Joe, whose personalities are not inconsistent but that is because they have none to begin with. These three characters, as shown in tonight’s episode with Linda’s suspicion of Barbie, jump from conclusion to conclusion without any real motivation and blurt out stale or nonsensical dialogue that does not feel genuine in any type of way.

Lastly, there are Big Jim and Barbie, Under the Dome’s two most fleshed out characters, although that is not saying much. Both fall into typical archetypes: Barbie continues to be the sensitive, caring guy with the dark past, who you don’t want to mess with, while Big Jim’s “big bad” trying to do everything for the “good of the town” routine is something we’ve seen a million times. Even the power struggle between Barbie and Big Jim, which reaches its apex tonight with Big Jim tricking the entire town of Chester’s Mill into tracking down and arresting Barbie for murders that he did not commit, could resemble the battles between Jack and Locke in the earlier seasons of Lost, but it falls too easily into the conventional. There is no depth or intrigue in their disputes; it’s simple black versus white (Big Jim is even called “The Devil” in tonight’s episode), without any moral grayness that could be used for good, dramatic storytelling.

I know I must seem like I’m beating a dead horse when it comes to my complaints about Under the Dome, but it’s just when there are such major issues with the basic building blocks of character work, I find that I cannot invest myself too heavily into the series’ sci-fi mysteries. With only two episodes left in its first season, it’s unlikely that Under the Dome will change my mind in any way and make me see the light with regards to the series’ appeal, but I’ll still be watching, hoping that the series will show me something that has made all my frustration in watching it somehow worth it.

What did everyone else think about last night’s episode of Under the Dome?

Chris is a graduate of Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, where he majored in English and Film. He has been writing for TVOvermind for two years and has written about several different television shows, such as New Girl, Breaking Bad, Glee, and Homeland. Along with writing for TVOvermind, Chris also writes for two of our sister sites, Uncoached and Worthly. Contact him through Twitter (@ckinger13).
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  • Karen Evans

    I am hoping against hope, that somehow, these characters will all make more sense, once the Dome is gone. However, I have seen differt Stephen King books, turned into movies and miniseries and some into TV movies etc.
    And I find that many of the characters, that made sense in the book, have lost me on screen (exception: The Shawshank Redemption and Carrie (original), Stand By Me and Misery). So I will likely end up calling “The Dome” another failure to launch Stephen Kings’ book onto the screen.

  • andria gooden

    Yes I agree so far TV or movies have not been able to translate, adapt or flesh out a Stephen king book yet except for The Stand, the shinning, Carrie original shawshank redemption and the 2 others Karen mentioned. I agree with Chris it is sloppy writing when you flip flop a character mid season. I ‘ve been staying away from reading Stephen kings books for a while but these badly done TV mini series or movies make me want to read the books to see where the writers have gone wrong.