Under The Dome Review: “Curtains” (Season 1, Episode 13)

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Did the writing help things? Well, in the words of Bushey, one of many underserved residents that never developed an actual identity, “hell nah!” Alternately forcing characters to vomit exposition, or Frogger their way to the next plot point by leaping from one wild guess about the dome’s intent to another, the show never had anything of worth to actually say. It’s astounding how much of an average episode was spent having one character bring another up to speed on things we just saw. Reiteration of recent plot points rattled off the dome walls like an echo chamber; the constant game of walkie-talkie tag provided a great example of that tonight. While the younger cast was likely able to channel their excitement over being on a network TV show into their performances, the light in the eyes of the old hands (save for Zea, and her martyr-like dedication to this insane cause) faded more and more each week. Whether reading about their spirit-broken interplay at the Comic-Con panel, or actually watching the show, it was clear that the main cast knew you knew this was a paycheck, nothing more.

None of that would matter if the show had treated its star player, the dome, with the respect it deserved. But what have we actually learned about the central mystery of the show by the end of this first season? After the finale, we know the dome’s creators installed it in order to protect Chester’s Mill, and…that’s it. All the other revelations tonight were either rehashes (Mrs. Rennie had another predictive painting!), or got us no closer to any actual answers. So Julia gets crowned as the monarch. Great. Just what the hell is the monarch supposed to be? Why is she the monarch anyway? What exactly compelled her to dunk the egg in the lake, and why did that give the dome a paint job from Metallica’s Black to Beatles’ White?

Incidentally, “Curtains” director Jack Bender was also responsible for “Exodus: Part 2,” the fantastic first season finale of Lost, which also ended on an ellipses. The similarities end there, though. There was an organic gradualness to the progression of Lost’s mythology, where the individual curiosities and moments of strangeness all cohered into a greater question not of “why did this happen,” but “what does it mean for these characters, and this world.” Under the Dome, meanwhile, has no real characters, inhabits a world smaller than the space confined within the mini-dome, and has never met a plot-moving conclusion it couldn’t jump to, regardless of how infinitesimally small an understanding the characters (and quite likely, the writers) have of the mechanics of the dome.

I’ve barely touched on the actual contents of the finale thus far, because like I said, it’s become clear that the show just isn’t for me. While all the stuff with the Alex apparition, and Monarch Julia deciding to just add water, lays the show open to plenty of Contact/Signs riffing, and a thesis paper could be written on the staging that allowed everyone but Barbie to escape Junior in the concrete mine, there’s no point. If you honestly feel like watching more of this show after tonight, there’s simply nothing I can do to convince you otherwise.

Well, there’s maybe one thing. There are roughly 39 weeks separating us from the return of Under the Dome. That’s enough Mondays at 9 Central to cover a season and a half of your average TV show, or three whole 13-episode seasons. In that time, I ask you to watch something. Really, just tune or pop in something other than whatever comes on to replace Under the Dome. Looking for a soapy sci-fi drama bursting at the seams with crazy mysteries? Go watch the first season of the aforementioned Lost. It’s great. Want serious acting in a cheesy scenario, but one that’s actually well written and emotionally resonant? Watch Battlestar Galactica, or Firefly. Want just a really good show to become obsessed with? I wouldn’t even know where to start, there are too many options to list. TV has been so outstanding this last decade that a show like Under the Dome keeping you away from all the great content you could be enjoying is nothing short of an insult.

Between selected network shows, cable, DVD, Netflix, and streaming, the whole of TV’s greatness is your oyster, and despite what the final image of tonight’s finale might indicate, Dome is no pearl. In fact, all those board game and round object analogies I’ve been describing the show with over the last 13 weeks have been completely wrong. It isn’t Trouble, or a snow globe, or a Magic 8-ball: it’s a Russian stacking doll of awful, layer upon layer of cheap looking, wretchedly acted, and worse written tripe. The true crowning didn’t occur tonight: it happened 13 weeks ago, when CBS started laying a long, miserable turd in our living rooms, and decided to call it a TV show. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know for damn sure that I’m glad to finally be out from Under the Dome.