I haven't read the 2009 Stephen King novel on which this CBS series is
based, but I've looked at the synopsis and breakdown online. The
1000-page book has certain heroes and villains. This series adapted by
Brian K. Vaughn takes those same heroes and villains in the same premise
and slightly subverts each one's heroics or villainy.
Some characters in the book who commit murder don't, and other characters who don't commit murder do. Spoiler alert, Barbie, played by Mike Vogel, commits a murder. The opening scene of the TV show is him burying the corpse. From what I gather, Barbie doesn't kill anyone in the book. Spoiler alert again, Junior, played by Alexander Koch, does kill someone in the book, multiple some ones, but, in the TV show, he doesn't kill, at least not off the bat. He does kidnap Angie, played by Britt Robertson, and keeps her locked in a storm cellar, but already there is a bit of a reversal for those who are familiar with King's novel.
If you've never read the book, then the reversals won't mean anything to you. A cursory examination would liken this series to Lost, which wasn't based on a Stephen King novel but was inspired and influenced by one. Lost was about a group of people who become trapped or stranded in an isolated area. The people then have to learn to work together or else fight each other. Either a natural leader rises up or else someone tries to seize power and take control by force or trickery. Power and control come at a price. Often, it's through bloodshed. Under the Dome seems to be falling into that line.
The undercurrent of Lost was determining what the thing was that had trapped its characters. The undercurrent of Under the Dome is determining the same. In Lost, the trap was a mysterious, Pacific island. In Under the Dome, the thing is an invisible force field in Maine. The problem with Lost is that some people thought that undercurrent was drawn out too long and its ultimate explanation was unsatisfying.
Because this series has already diverged from the novel in significant ways, it's unclear if the ultimate explanation of what the dome is and from where it came will be the same as in the book. If it is the same, it will be the first time that CBS has embraced sci-fi in a long while. CBS had A Gifted Man and Ghost Whisperer, a year or two ago, but those shows were more supernatural and spiritual than science-fiction.
For me, whether the series embraces the sci-fi elements from the book or not is irrelevant. I appreciate the mystery here, just as I did with Lost, but having an appreciation for the mystery isn't enough. What kept me going back to Lost was the characters.
The characters were really distinct. They were diverse and they were compelling. The cast here approaches being those three things, but I'm not sure it quite gets there. The characters and cast in Lost instantly made an indelible impression. Not only from the writing but the acting was such that those people will never leave my memory. The characters and cast of Under the Dome have not yet made that kind of impression.
Mike Vogel who plays Barbie and Rachel Lefevre who plays Julia, the newspaper reporter, are both beautiful. Vogel who has recently been in Bates Motel proved that he's a good actor, but so far neither have been given much to give us a sense of why we should care about them.
Two Stars out of Five.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Mondays 10PM on CBS.