(With all recaps and reviews, spoilers ahead so be forewarned)
Famed horror writer Stephen King has had more than his fair share of material adapted for television and film with somewhat mixed results.
The latest offering from the king of horror is the adaptation of his 2009 novel “Under the Dome”, which debuted in a 13-episode miniseries on CBS kicking off on Monday night. (Note: I have not read the original book so I’m basing the review solely on the efforts made in making the television series)
The show focuses around the fictional town of Chester’s Mills and the residents that are thrown into a panic when an invisible force field surrounds the town, literally cutting off the people from the outside world.
Like much of King’s previous work, the show takes place in his home state of Maine with a mix of characters that cover the spectrum of the ultra good to the ultra creepy. The debut episode was headed up by acclaimed writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Lost), and set the stage for the summer series that will run for a few months.
The first episode was pretty much as expected with most of King’s work that’s made it to television—a stage setting up the characters we will all get to know over the next several weeks with the obvious intrigue about this invisible dome that gets dropped on the town.
The characters seemed a little too familiar with the one lone bad boy in town unexpectedly trapped after burying a body to open the episode, while a psychopathic teen traps his girlfriend in an underground shelter and surprise he’s also the town councilman’s son! There does appear to be a formula at work with this adaptation, but the action was intriguing enough to bring me back around for a few more trips to the television on Monday nights at 10pm.
Immediately there’s tension in town with the head politician “Big Jim” Rennie clashes with Sheriff Duke Perkins over mysterious propane deliveries that have been made in the weeks leading up to this horrific event. The propane deliveries are also coming under investigation from the local newspaper reporter (Julia Shumway), who is also missing her husband during this entire ordeal.
I won’t spoil too much in terms of plot points, but there are already a few shady characters in town while it seems likely the bad boy (Barbie) will end up being the town’s savior. Again, just educated guesses but there are hints throughout the episode as to which direction this show will take in the next few weeks.
Vaughan is a terrific writer and has done fantastic work in comic books and television, so his guidance should help craft this King story into a well done series.
The acting and casting in the first episode was solid although it appears we already lost Jeff Fahey, who played the sheriff in the town named Duke, whose heart literally seemed to explode at the end of episode one.
The advancements in CGI for television should also up the ante for King’s science fiction, which can sometimes be tough to translate without spending a boatload of money (see the spider creature in IT or The Langoliers for great stories with terrible visuals). Admittedly and maybe most gruesomely the coolest effect was a cow standing right in line with the dome when it dropped, and let’s just say he’s half the cow he used to be.
Under the Dome opened with huge ratings pulling in 13.1 million viewers, but now the key is will people return for future episodes? Did CBS and the show itself produce enough intrigue to draw viewers back for the next offering?
It’s enough for me right now to at least tune into a second episode, but I’m not weighing in yet on whether this series will be an instant classic or another King dud built for television. A solid first episode, but my judgment is reserved once the story unfolds a little bit more.