We all build up invisible barriers at times. We shut off our loved ones if we're in a foul mood. We close off conversation with an associate. We lock ourselves in little bubbles of our own making. In fact, entire families, churches and communities can become insular—resistant to those we might consider outsiders.
But the invisible barrier around Chester's Mill, Maine? Well, that's another thing entirely.
One bright, sunny, normal morning, a big invisible bubble covers the entire community of Chester's Mill. No one knows what caused it. No one knows how to make it go away. All anyone is sure of is that it's a big pain (especially for a particularly unfortunate cow that was in exactly the wrong place when the bubble descended). No one on the outside (including most of the town's policemen, firemen and civic leaders, who were away when the dome came down) can get in. And folks on the inside can't get out. It's as if someone put a horrific twist on that old Las Vegas marketing slogan: What happens in Chester's Mill stays in Chester's Mill.
That's unfortunate, because there's a lot of bad stuff happening in Chester's Mill right now—some caused by the dome itself, some by the duplicitous people it surrounds. A teen girl has been kidnapped and imprisoned by her one-time boyfriend. Murders have been committed. A councilman seems bent on creating a temporary dictatorship, enforced by executions.
That dangerous and invisible barrier, meanwhile, seems to have a certain intelligence and morality connected to it, and as such it "encourages," shall we say, its tightly held hostages to see things through the same lens. It has chosen certain leaders to do its bidding. It has set "rules" in place. And woe to those that try to undermine its wishes ... not that some won't try.
Under the Dome, based on the novel by Stephen King, has snagged strong ratings and a smattering of critical praise. And the show is indeed everything that it's billed to be: a creepy, salacious summertime thrill ride. But while some TV critics have embraced words such as creepy and salacious with gusto, the rest of us should really be holding them a little farther away from our hearts.
The creepy part of the equation is the sheer number of potential sociopaths who were apparently trapped within that giant lid. It may not be as disturbing as The Following or Hannibal, but it's plenty dark and foreboding nonetheless.
That grim landscape is further pocked by sex, violence and gore. People and animals are grotesquely injured and killed. Characters have some pretty lewd sexual encounters. The early-on kidnapping sequence blends sex and violence. A key out-of-town family, trapped while traveling through, boasts a lesbian couple. The language can be quite harsh. And drug use has also played a disquieting role.
Under the Dome, as it trundles on through its second season, is deviating significantly from King's novel. But the horror author still serves as one of the show's producers, and Willa Paskin of salon.com observed that Under the Dome seems to be following the template used for many Stephen King adaptations—some of which she saw while growing up. She wrote, "For a teenager, these adaptations were perfectly illicit. Perverse, seedy and creepy, they had enough sex and violence to feel like something you didn't want to watch with your parents in the room, but weren't so mature as to be totally overwhelming."
That sounds about right. We'd add, of course, that parents should be in the room for this one—even if it's just long enough to turn the television off.
"Heads Will Roll"
Just as self-proclaimed head honcho Big Jim is about to hang flawed hero Barbie, the dome begins to pulse with magnetic energy. Townspeople collapse, the magnetism messing with their brains. Barbie and Julia believe they'll need to kill Big Jim to get the dome to stop—and Jim, through a variety of apparitional appearances, is told he'll need to sacrifice himself. And he tries to do just that. To save his son, Big Jim is in the process of hanging himself when Julia unexpectedly takes a knife and cuts the rope as the trapdoor opens. "The dome didn't want to kill you," she tells Jim. "It wanted us to end the killing."
Before the dome's own appetite for blood is temporarily sated, though, people spend quite a bit of time dodging flying pots, knives and appliances. A nail grotesquely rips through a teen's hand. One woman is crushed by an SUV that's racing toward the magnetized dome wall. Another's blood splashes as she's purposefully slashed by a blade. A third nearly drowns. A ghost, reassuming her solid-looking human form, sticks her finger into the fatal bullet wound in her own chest, wiggling it around and drawing out blood. Julia's bloody bullet wound is re-stitched.
Characters say "h‑‑‑" and "d‑‑n." They misuse God's name.
A dome descends upon Chester's Mill, killing several in the process. During its instantaneous arrival, it slices a cow completely in half, and the camera shows us the beast's bloody innards; when a man touches it, his hand gets drenched with blood. A plane crashes into the dome's upper reaches. Wreckage, including a severed arm, rains down. A woman has her hand sliced off. A truck smashes into the barrier at full speed. Birds fall from the sky with broken necks. A man is killed when the dome plays havoc with his pacemaker, which shoots graphically from his rib cage.
People have foam-at-the-mouth seizures. Junior's kidnapping gambit involves him manhandling the girl quite a lot. She hits her head in the initial struggle and, when she comes to, finds that she's imprisoned in a fallout shelter. A visitor buries a dead body. (We see the corpse's face and his body wrapped in a bloodstained sheet.)
During a sex scene, we see explicit movements and the naked woman from behind. She walks around the room in a bra and panties. One of the lesbain moms reprimands her daughter for sending naked pictures of herself to others ... and for hitting someone in the mouth. Elsewhere, people speculate on an affair. Teens talk about having "sick" parties. Someone smokes a cigarette. Characters say "h‑‑‑" (more than a dozen times), "d‑‑n" (a half-dozen), "a‑‑" (three or four), "p‑‑‑" (once) and misuse God's name (four or five times).