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. A teen girl has been kidnapped and inprisoned by her one-time boyfriend. A stranger has killed a local man. A councilman seems bent on creating a temporary dictatorship. Oh, and the police chief? He died when he touched the dome; his pacemaker burst straight through his chest. Others are having unexplained seizures.
Under the Dome, based on the novel by Stephen King, has snagged strong ratings (13 million people watched the pilot) and a smattering of critical praise early on. 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 the bubble. Junior (the jealous kidnapper) is probably the worst of the bunch, and probably needs a personal bubble all his own, just for everyone else's safety. And Junior's troublemaking is typical of the show's vibe. It may not be quite 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. Junior's obsession with Angie blends sex and violence and Saw. A key out-of-town family, trapped while traveling through, is parented by two moms. The language can be quite harsh. And if the show fully copies the book, we'll likely see some drug content here as well.
Willa Paskin of salon.com said that Under the Dome seems to be following the template used for many Stephen King adaptations—particularly the miniseries that she grew up with in the 1990s. 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.
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).