Airs Mondays at 9pm on CBS.
Based on Stephen King's 2009 novel of the same name, Under the Dome focuses on a small town in Maine called Chester's Mill. A typical Sunday morning in the fall is interrupted when an invisible dome is dropped from the sky, cutting of the town from the outside world and trapping citizens on either side of its impenetrable walls. Produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television and written by well-known comic book author Brian K. Vaughan, Under the Dome is a science fiction thriller that takes a little too much time getting started.
Much of the first episode of Under the Dome is spent introducing the large ensemble cast, whose characters get brief introductions via stressful circumstances. Anyone familiar with King's similar sprawling stories, like The Stand, Storm of the Century or The Mist, will notice recognizable archetypes and seeds for future complications. There's the Sheriff (Jeff Fahey), whose pacemaker acts up in the presence of the dome, a town councilman (Dean Norris) with something to hide, a young couple (Britt Robertson and Alexander Koch) who have different ideas about the future of their relationship, an intrepid reporter (Rachelle Lefevre) who's clueless about her husband's extracurricular activities, a mysterious stranger (Mike Vogel) with old ties to the military and a lesbian couple (Samantha Mathis and Carolyn Hill) from California—one of whom is diabetic—who made a pit-stop while driving their daughter (Mackenzie Lintz) to camp. While we get to know the confined residents of Chester's Mill, they gather evidence about the phenomenon that has trapped their town, gradually arriving at the one conclusion we are granted from the title (namely, that it's a dome).
Unlike most TV shows, Under the Dome was ordered to series without a pilot, which is perhaps why this first episode lacks momentum and feels like a bit of a slog. The first hour is primarily devoted to multiple townspeople watching things smash into the dome or discovering items (cows, houses, people's arms) sliced in two by the its descent. Plenty of seeds are planted for future mayhem, with communications and power being shut off, children collapsing in mysterious seizures and a suspicious town stockpile of propane that's been building up for weeks. But all of this table-setting makes for a fairly un-engaging start to the series, with very little to sink your teeth into. If you decide to tune back in next week, it'll likely have more to do with your faith in King's storytelling or your love of the novel than in what you saw in the opening episode.