Well, last week I suggested that another bad episode could severely hurt the chances of Under the Dome living up to its potential, and “Manhunt” unfortunately pushes the show one step closer to failure. Where last week's shenanigans misfired mostly because of poor plotting and cringe worthy dialogue, there was at least a somewhat decent ending and important plot revelations. “Manhunt,” however, ramps up the terrible dialogue (specifically in the scenes with the kids, which not coincidentally ate up a lot of the run time), dials down the stakes even more and, perhaps most importantly, marks a complete deviation from the source material.
Unlike prior episodes, basically nothing from this episode happened in the books. I've stated several times that I'm not against altering source material, but what concerns me about Under the Dome as a show is that it appears to make alterations for no real reason. Like the closing of Walking Dead's first season, the alterations are entirely arbitrary and detract from the experience; they add to the existing flaws rather than fixing issues. The big “Manhunt” promised in the once again self-explanatory title revolved around officer Paul, who is no longer just a confused moron with a gun, but now kind of rabid and thus presented as the greatest threat to the populace after he tricks Linda by feigning a coughing fit before disarming her and locking her in his jail cell. To ramp up the chaos factor, we find out that somehow Paul is also a former marine, which makes exactly no sense given his actions and attitude. Paul notably does not exist in the book, but the character I thought he was an adaptation of played a very important part in future events and was far more believable because King consistently portrayed him as a dangerous because he's an idiot rather than switching back and forth as is happening here.
Not that it matters, because once again, the episode's threat is dealt with immediately and by the closing credits, we've moved onto a wildly different “threat.” Paul winds up gunned down by Linda, who had earlier clashed with Big Jim, only to come to his and Barbie's rescue after Paul turns the tables on them during the manhunt, which results in a weird scene where Big Jim appears to decide to make Linda his new no. 2. There are also some pointless subplots involving Julia and Junior searching through the tunnels of the old cement factory to see how far down the dome goes (all the way down, basically), the most hilariously scripted teen party of all time (“what do you say, can I refuel my iPhone at your place?”), a random “topical” bit of hate speech at the diner and the sudden, inexplicable realization from our wacky morning DJ that maybe he should let Julia do some news announcements since he's, you know, running the only broadcast operation in the town. Oh, also, Big Jim mocks Junior with a glass of milk.
I want to enjoy this show. I want it to be a sci-fi tinged dramatic hit for CBS that will open the doors for other, better shows. But each week, the quality has dipped and I'm worried that it has killed all the momentum generated by its mostly good pilot, which is impressive considering Walking Dead spent most of a season losing the same amount of ground. For this show to work, the stakes need to be higher and the threats need to be real, but beyond that, we need to actually give a shit about these characters. These cardboard cut-outs with no background or substance aren't sustainable, and the show needs to ramp up its character development to correct that. As Lost proved, bad acting and tail-eating mysteries can be forgiven if the characters are fleshed out properly, and considering this show is run by a whole slew of Lost vets, I'm baffled by their inability or unwillingness to learn from the lessons of their previous operation.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he's the last of the secret agents and he's your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Comics Bulletin, where he reigns as the co-managing editor, or at Panel Panopticon, which he started as a joke and now takes semi-seriously. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd rants about his potentially psychopathic roommate on twitter @Nick_Hanover and explore the world of his musical alter ego at Fitness and Pontypool.