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Under the Dome: Season 2
Under the Dome is a high-profile science fiction program for CBS television, with producers Stephen King and Stephen Spielberg on board. Based on the original novel written by King, Under the Dome originally started as a mini-series one season summer event show before it turned into a fully-fledge show as it became a huge hit for the network during the summer season. From creator Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man comics, staff writer on Lost) and showrunned by Neal Baer (ER) the sci-fi world of the series focuses on Chester's Mill and its inhabitants as the characters struggle to survive underneath a massive dome which dropped out of nowhere and surrounds their town in a bubble which separates it (and the people inside) from the outside world.
Season 2 picks up where the first season ended: the potential hanging of Dale 'Barbie' Barbara (Mike Vogel) by James 'Big Jim' Rennie (Dean Norris). The pink falling stars from the sky causes the town to pause and watch as the dome seems to respond to the event with a fury unparalleled before. Sheriff Linda Esquivel (Natalie Martinez), Angie McAlister (Britt Robertson), and Junior Rennie (Alexander Koch) all attempt to stop the dome from its destructive powers conquering the town, but not everyone survives.
The towns people black-out and only a few are left conscious. Barbie survives the event and over the course of the episode things turn (with Big Jim receiving a strange message from the dome that he interprets to mean he should die), but Barbie and Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre) are not willing to let that happen. The town is in a state of panic as an array of objects begin to fly across the town at full-speed towards the border. The metal on buildings (and even on people wearing certain items) starts to fly towards the dome as a electromagnetic pulse pulls these belongings and metallic items magnetically. What is it that caused the dome's strange new electromagnetic pulse to burst and how can the town be saved from this destructive force?
As the events unfold in the jam-packed season premiere, the story also opens up newer territory when new characters arrive on the scene. There is a mysterious man found in the dome who had no prior connections with the group since the dome fell: Sam Verdreaux (Eddie Cahill), who it turns out is the Uncle to Junior. He appears, along with a 17 year old girl named Melanie Cross (Grace Victoria Cox), who was found in a lake drowning but was saved by Julia. Melanie is left with no memories of the dome falling or what she has been up to beforehand and now Julia, Joe McAlister (Colin Ford), and Norrie Calvert-Hill (Mackenzie Lintz) must help her to recover her memories as they unfold a mysterious new attribute to the dome: a doorway that leads into the outside of the dome. Can they uncover the mystery of Melanie's past (which might in fact be connected to another time) and find a way out of the dome altogether?
Meanwhile, Big Jim befriends Rebecca Pine (Karla Crome), a science teacher who becomes involved in the scientific research related to the dome and tries to become a powerful leader alongside Big Jim. She wants to be a part of the leaders working to "save" and "lead" others living inside the dome of Chester's Mill by trying to decide on a list of who should be able to "live and die" based on resources and who she deems 'fit' enough to survive (ala survival of the fittest). As a new virus is discovered destroying and killing animals in Chester's Mill, a plan is hatched to kill off town inhabitants through the water supply and reduce the population so that fewer survive and the rest have greater access to dwindling resources. Will Julia and Barbie be able to stop the devastating virus from being unleashed on the town?
Season 2 takes the storyline of Under the Dome in new directions as Stephen King hops on boards the show as a contributing writer and guider for the season. As writer of the season premiere, King develops the plot-points and concepts for the second year of the show. In developing the show further, King also takes the series further away from his novel so it ultimately expands the universe of the storytelling as it can head in brand new directions. Understanding that the show needed room to develop further, King helps to pave the way necessary for new twists, turns, and adventures in the mysterious dome. The concept and thematic material have been kept largely the same as before but the path to the end has been altered significantly so that additional seasons have a larger canvas to work with on the show.
Series showrunner Neal Baer helps to take the new directions into exciting territory as this second season of the show promises more mystery and science-fiction intrigue than even featured during season one. The direction by Jack Bender remains extraordinary and is significant in the show's craft and style. Bender helps to give the show a great style that impresses at each turn. The series has strong production merits (from set designs to the complicated special effects) and Bender keeps these elements in line effectively. With performances by the wonderful cast staying impressive and enjoyable, Under the Dome ultimately succeeds due to the strong collaborative nature of the series meshing so well consistently between season one and season two. The show has a good team of creative individuals working to keep the show interesting and unique.
While the storyline is evolving and is developing new mysteries, the production team keeps a steady pace with the series style: effectively building a television universe that audiences will respond to. This helps this surprising television hit to be even more impressive and bold. It's a fun and exciting series which will surprise and delight audiences looking for a good television show with action, science fiction, and drama all rolled into one. While some might not want to consider it amongst televisions greatest series of-the-moment, there's little doubt it is one of the most ambitious and intriguing ones around. Under the Dome is worth checking out for viewers who enjoy a good television drama (and the science fiction is just the icing on the cake, though that icing is quite delicious).
Under the Dome arrives on Blu-ray with a practically perfect presentation quality. Each episode is presented with an absolutely stunning MPEG-4 AVC 1080p image in the original television broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen. Shot with the modern high-definition camera Arri Alexa Plus and handled with a 2K intermediate, the series is a slickly produced program which has been effectively released in HD with high quality encodings, with episodes hovering over 30mbps bit-rates on average and with nary any video compression-related problems of note.
The image looks sharp as a tack, has bold colors, and a clean cinematography style that feels both visually splendid and high-budget. This hardly looks like a television production at all: Under the Dome joins the ranks of television series which continue to effectively blur the lines between cinema and the television series which are so well produced that it's rather remarkable to behold.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation is terrific with great spatial imaging for the well designed surround dynamics. The sound is intense when it needs to be and also softly effective when a scene calls for it. The presentation allows for big-action sequences to have the ferocity needed and natural ambiances (such as outdoor storm-related sounds and rain) to sound mighty impressive. The high fidelity lossless audio also allows for the score composed by W.G. Snuffy Walden and A. Patrick Rose to have a necessary impact on the sound design. This is certainly an above average sound design. Dialogue clarity is also exceptionally good. Fans expecting to hear high-quality audio on this well-produced series release should be pleased.
Deleted Scenes are included for the episodes Heads Will Roll, Infestation, and The Red Door.
Inside Chester's Mill (41 min.) is essentially a clip-show episode which catches audiences up to date with the characters, setting, concept, and the important plot-points of season one. It's just designed to help newcomers delve into the show easier and to remind viewers who haven't followed the show for a few months what happened on the show prior to season two.
Readings from the Dome (7 min.) features Stephen King and some of the cast for a sit-down reading of selected portions of the season two premiere episode Heads Will Roll, which was penned by King himself.
Filming the Season Premiere (19 min.) is a decent behind-the-scenes featurette focused on the creation of the premiere episode of season two. It was wonderful getting to see some of the moments with director Jack Bender working with cast and crew to make the premiere. The complicated special effects sequences (which often employed traditional effects work) are showcased and the on-set visit by Stephen King is highlighted (and there is a bit of info on King's cameo appearance). From prepping the big moments to finding little areas in which Under the Dome could benefit, the process is explored in an easily digestible but entertaining way. (Watch out for the flying kitchen accessories! In one sequence, the crew had to maneuver flying pans and kitchen accessories as the prop team led some wire-led items around the room to create the appearance of the magnetic pull from the dome).
Stephen King and Season 2 (9 min.) features the legendary author discussing what he did to contribute to season two through his premiere episode script and helping to plan the season's story arc, new directions, and what characters would be killed-off during the season. (Well, and discussions on adding new characters as well.)
Welcome Back to Chester's Mill! (16 min.) begins by examining some of the successes of the introductory season of Under the Dome before it begins to delve into the new characters and storylines in the second season of the show.
A Journey Through Season 2 (25 min.) is the overall season-two making-of supplement with material focused on the topics of science vs. faith explored in the show's theme, how certain production elements were managed and created (such as the red rain), and where the show filming took place and other production tidbits.
The Transmedia World of Under the Dome (7 min.) explores the way in which multi-media aspects of pop-culture have had an impact on the making of the series and on one of the big plotlines of the season.
The Visual Effects of Season 2 (8 min.) explores the way the special effects were created for the season, with particular emphasis on some of the premiere effects shots (the effects crew discuss some of the effects work, such as the bell which flies out of the church building into the side of the dome).
Ready for Action: Tales from Under the Dome - Paintings by Jack Bender (3 min.) is a short featurette featuring producer/director Jack Bender (Lost) discuss the paintings he did for the series (which have been highlighted on the actual show and have played a part in the scripts storyline development). This piece also features brief interviews with cast members about the contribution of their head-director working on artwork for Under the Dome.
Ready for Action: Tales from Under the Dome - Creating Chester's Mill (4 min.) features some interviews with production crew about the location-finding and selections used for various big filming-locations featured as part of the Chester's Mill town during season two.
Gag Reel (4 min.) features outtakes from the filming of season two of Under the Dome.
Under the Dome is entertaining science-fiction television with a dramatic edge that keeps it interesting. While the show isn't quite as good as it's ambitions would suggest, the series is something worthwhile with unique concepts (largely from Stephen King) and solid direction from head-director Jack Bender (Lost). The cast does a solid job with their characters and the show features nice production design elements. While the show continues to be different when compared to the novel (which ignited some backlash from viewers hoping it would be more in-line with the novel) it's clear King and the rest of the team making Under the Dome want the television series to stand on its own. It's not perfect television but it's good, well-made television. Audiences hoping for a new sci-fi series to experience could do a lot worse than this well-made series which will be returning next summer with another new season. Fans of television dramas are likely to enjoy the series.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.