Under The Dome, Season 2, Episode 1, “Heads Will Roll”
Written by Stephen King
Directed by Jack Bender
Airs Mondays at 10 pm EST on CBS
Famed author Stephen King has a long history of film adaptations of his novels, resulting in features such as The Shining, 1408, and two theatrical versions of Carrie. His stories, however, have not been as explored in the television medium, save for a few tv miniseries, most notably of The Stand, and a tv version of The Dead Zone. Last summer added another show to the latter group, in the form of Under The Dome. With a first season marred by odd story segues and inconsistent character decisions on its shoulders, the show made its second season premiere on Monday night, removing some weak elements and offering potential for improvement, depending on how certain storylines progress.
The reformation of Big Jim Rennie is a development that could go either way for the show’s second season. On one hand, Big Jim’s descent into villainy last season was not as effectively portrayed as it could have been, leading to the question of why so many individuals in Chester’s Mill would align themselves with him. With the baffling arc reaching a head at the end of last season as the town openly cried for Barbie’s blood without trial based solely on Big Jim’s words, the character’s continued popularity in the face of obvious lies would have further stretched incredulity. Turning him good, however, opens up some potentially fascinating storytelling possibilities. Whether or not Big Jim continues his reform in the face of adversity, and how other people in the town, such as Junior and Barbie, deal with him in his changed state could make for a compelling season arc.
On the other hand, however, the change in Big Jim’s nature leaves the show without a clear antagonist for now. Despite the storytelling issues with the details, Big Jim gave the show’s first season a force that was hungry for power, but could also be defeated in a conceivable manner. If the second season looks to make the Dome itself the primary force that the town has to fight against, the writers will have an uphill battle making it an entity who can be defeated for now, yet feel imposing and dangerous in the future.
The continuing development of Junior also shows some promise. While the show’s first season transformation of Junior from kidnapper to antihero didn’t quite work, the potential for him to be a conduit to the outside world makes the character much more interesting, while also giving him a purpose beyond simply pining for Angie and trying to figure out his father’s motivations. It’s also a good way to tie into the potentially compelling storyline of Junior’s mother and the seemingly prophetic paintings she did before her disappearance. While the paintings came into play last season, how these visions came about continues to be a mystery, and with the egg now gone, the paintings are a solid replacement for the season’s mystery.
While not a start that erases all the doubts about the show that were raised by the first season, this is nonetheless a beginning with some degree of promise. The death of Linda is a particularly welcome development, as the character ended the first season as a bafflingly clueless and inept police officer, even given the circumstances. Rehabilitating such a character would have taken a significant amount of work, and her death shows the writers’ willingness to let go of elements of the show that aren’t clicking, which is a positive sign for the season. Angie’s imminent death is likewise a good sign. While not as disruptive to the show as Linda, Angie nonetheless is a character whom the writers were unsure of what to do with in the first season, and her death can manage to leave an impact without significantly altering the show. The best way the show can make the second season a marked improvement over the first is by focusing on characterisation. Much of the first season’s developments were stifled by the involvement of characters that the audience had not sufficiently been invested in, and focusing on making each member of Chester’s Mill more distinct before they’re thrown into the plot developments will go a long way towards realising the show’s potential, in ways the first season could not.
– Deepayan Sengupta