Original Air Date: Jun 24, 2013
Kym Hoopes – Associate Staff Writer
If you’ve read Stephen King’s book, you’ve probably been anticipating this show as much as I have, and it’s a shame that circumstances caused me to go almost a week without getting to watch the first episode. You were also probably very confused by just the first ten minutes, because they didn’t seem to have much in common with the book at all. That said, Stephen King himself is the Executive Producer and writer for the show, so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. I’m going to trust that the changes were made with his blessing and that the story will be even better for them.
The show, for example starts out with an unidentified man burying a body in the woods and the town drunk (we readers know him as Sloppy Sam, although he did not actually make an appearance yet) calling in what he thought was a gunshot. We also get a tour of what everyone’s up to in town. Junior Rennie is with Angie – he’s told her he loves her – she responds that it’s been a fun summer. Ouch. His daddy, Big Jim Rennie is at the diner having Sunday breakfast. And Julia Shumway, the new reporter in town, is out visiting Andrea Grinnell, who’s suspicious of all the propane trucks coming in to town, but didn’t get anyway reporting it to Sheriff Perkins – Duke. Meanwhile Duke, along with Linda, is on his way to check out the reported gunshot and watching the fire trucks (along with Linda’s fiance, Rusty) head out to Westlake for the big game and parade. But back to the man who buried the body. He’s on his way out of town too, and telling someone on the phone that “Smith” didn’t have the money and “tried to renegotiate – aggressively” when he almost hits some cows standing in the road, spins out his car in a field and ends up with a flat tire. Doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere. That’s when the wall falls, slicing a cow in half right in front of him and screwing up Duke’s pacemaker not far away. And that’s the first ten minutes.
Duke’s okay, but his radio is now blowing up. The landlines are dead, power lines are down and things are a mess. Out in the field, the stranger is talking to a kid that’s come to see if he’s okay when birds start falling from the sky and a small plane goes crashing into the barrier. He pushes the kid out of the way before a piece of it hits him and they’re both standing there dumbfounded when they see, not hear, one of the fire trucks heading for them from the other side of the barrier. The stranger processes it immediately and runs to get the truck to stop before it hits too. It does, just in time. They can’t hear anything on the other side, but he gets the idea to write them a note to contact the FAA to have the government clear the air space. The kid, who turns out to be Joe McAlister (“Scarecrow Joe” McClatchey to the readers), asks what happens if the government built it. Mr. Stranger’s response? “I doubt it. Because it works.” At that point, Duke, Linda, Big Jim and Julia all show up to check out this incident, only to have Linda commandeer Julia’s car so she and Duke can split up to check out the barrier, leaving Julia and the stranger – Barbie – to explore on foot, until they find a woman whose hand was cut off when it fell and rush her to the ER. Meanwhile we get our first look at the radio station and DJ Phil Bushey and his assistant Dodee, who are trying to figure out what happened and why there are no radio signals from anywhere else anymore, when Big Jim storms in to make an emergency broadcast. There have been crashes on all the roads in and out of town and he’s warning everyone to stop their cars. Some out-of-towners passing through – Norrie and her Moms – hear it and don’t really take it seriously until the see a truck coming the other way hit the barrier. They stop just in time, but it looks like Norrie, who’s apparently been in a lot of trouble lately, won’t be on her way to camp anymore. In fact, she has a seizure and starts rambling about “falling stars” instead.
Joe heads home after meeting Barbie in the field to find his sister Angie, but not his Mom. There’s a note that says she went to Denny’s in Westlake for brunch with Uncle Steve. Dad’s still on the road, so they’re on their own. Angie had rushed home to check on the family too, but now she has to head back to her job as a candy striper at the hospital, where Julia has discovered that her husband Peter, a doctor, has been lying to her about working on Sundays. He’s not there. Barbie goes to have a cigarette and Angie joins him, hitting on him a bit and upsetting Junior, who’s been watching her, probably since she left his house that morning. At least until Norrie and her Mom’s show up to have Norrie checked out after her seizure. We go from the hustle and bustle at the hospital now to a deserted town hall and a dark conversation between Big Jim and Duke over the all the propane and what happens when the townspeople start asking about it. It’s clear that while Duke knows what’s going on, he’s not comfortable with whatever it is and only did it for the good of the town. It’s also clear that Big Jim is holding all the cards here, and knows it. Back at the radio station, Dodee’s been trying to pick up signals from outside the barrier and is getting mostly things that sound alien, or “like Bjork”, except for one fragmented news report referring to the “dome” over Chester’s Mills. And back at the field where it all started, Barbie’s gone to get some things out of the car when Junior confronts him for no apparent reason. It looks like violence is about to ensue when Julia shows up. She still hasn’t found Peter, but invites Barbie to stay with them when he says he was about to look for a place to camp since the motels are full.
It’s a restless town this evening. Out at a split bridge going out of town, a bunch of kids are hanging out watching the military forming up on the other side. Joe’s there and meets up with Ben Drake from school. He’s looking for the power source and thinking it might be inside the dome with them when he has a seizure too and starts talking about how “pink stars are falling in lines”. Meanwhile, his sister Angie comes home to the house she thought was deserted, but Junior’s been waiting there for her. He tells her that he won’t hurt her if she does what she’s told, then jumps her when she tries to run. She goes down and hits her head. Everyone else in town seems to be gathered at a shelter or local watering hole when Duke comes in to give everyone an update on the situation. There are still people unaccounted for, but at least twelve are dead so far. One of Norrie’s Mom’s wants to know if they can be airlifted out. Yeah, no. I don’t think that’s happening. But back to Junior and Angie. She’s still alive, and locked in his Dad’s fallout shelter, “for her own good”. He seems to think he’s the only person who really understands what’s going on and that she’ll thank him for this later. He gets caught by Big Jim coming out of the shelter. He plays it off that he was checking it out in case they needed it, but it’s flooded. He tells Big Jim he wants to help. It seems he hasn’t clued Dad in that he isn’t going back to school. Right now, he doesn’t really need to.
Things then go way afield of the book again when Julia and Barbie get back to her house. Peter still isn’t there, but his picture is. And it seems that Peter Shumway is the “Smith” that Barbie was burying in the beginning of the show. He’s clearly uncomfortable as Julia goes on about how she’s a journalist and didn’t see what was going on in her own house. She thinks Peter is just having an affair though and that he’ll turn up eventually. Meanwhile, Duke has decided to confess to Linda that he’s been protecting her from things in town, that he thinks they’re being punished. Except that he has a heart attack instead. The military on the other side of the dome can’t help at all. They’re busy running their tests and setting up the perimeter anyway, as the news reports outside echo the confusion of what’s going on in under the dome in Chester’s Mills.
So, what do I think of the premiere episode? I’m confused, probably more so than if I hadn’t read the book. You’re supposed to be confused about the events in this type of story, but I’m also confused by the differences in the characters and their relationships to each other. I’m confused because in the book Barbie was the good guy, so why did he just kill someone? I’m confused because characters who were all supposed to already know each other have only just met, and some aren’t even from town at all. The dynamic seems so much different. I guess I’m just going to have to roll with Mr. King and his re-write of his epic novel and see where he’s going with these changes. I just wish I hadn’t re-read the book so recently. Maybe then I wouldn’t be so confused.