Under the Dome: “Let the Games Begin”

The injection of Max into the series has let the games begin under the dome. This week’s episode begins with the long-legged beauty using Big Jim and Barbie in whatever ways she can. Having to bite their tongues for fear of secrets being revealed, both find allies in one another if they are to survive Max being under the dome. While Big Jim is utilized by her as an errand boy, he takes some time to investigate a home on a small island off the coast of Chester’s Mill. It’s owned by Max’s real estate company, but when Big Jim shows up he finds a surprise holding a shot gun. It’s Max’s insurance policy, someone who knows all of Big Jim’s and Barbie’s secrets. Unfortunately for Barbie, this individual reveals Barbie’s secrets, something Big Jim will use in the future, no doubt.

under-the-dome-let-the-games-begin-mike-vogel-natalie-zeaAs for Barbie, he is introduced to Max’s new racket in town. Let the games begin is her motto when a town is in crisis. She has a gambling ring already created in an abandoned cement factory. Where does Barbie fit into all of this? He’s to be a part of Chester’s Mill’s version of Fight Club. But unlike the movie, everyone in the town now knows about Fight Club. There, Barbie must fight to keep his secret safe since Max has him in a bare knuckle brawl. He’s at Max’s every whim, holding the murder of his girlfriend’s husband over his head. Something anyone would want to keep buried.

But Barbie is fed up with Max and reveals much of his secret to Julia. Oddly, things don’t work out as bad for Barbie as one would think. Julia knows what her husband was up to and, in an odd way, was protecting her with his death. He presumably orchestrated it by pulling an empty gun on Barbie. Everyone loves a redemptive character, and Barbie plays it to the tee. The one time bad-ass now uses his skills to help instead of hurt with a new woman making an honest man out of him. Her only request: no more lies. What is it about the truth? Even if horrible, the truth is something we can all work with. Lies, on the other hand, are webs. Lies make whomever is trying to untangle them crazy. As corny as it sounds, it does set us free in the end. Will it work for Barbie? I’m thinking he has a few more skeletons in his closet than just Julia’s husband.

While “Let the Games Begin” starts rather formulaic with the Fight Club and Chester’s Mill’s citizens needing to exhaust their vices, its greatest strength comes from both the mystery of the story and the talent from those acting. Without those two, Under the Dome might be your average decent summer show. There is more to it than this reviewer thought. The mystery surrounding the dome is still there, but more so, as the mini-dome harboring the egg has taken all the sci-fi attention. This supernatural element, the need of the fourth hand (no matter how obvious it was) triggers more questions, something Under the Dome does a tremendous job of. Where one is answered, more questions sprout up. It makes for light, fun viewing, something needed during the long nights of summer.

Under-the-Dome-Episode-1.10-Let-the-Games-Begin-Promotional-Photos-3_595_slogoFurther, Under the Dome wouldn’t work as well as it does without some solid performances by its actors. But clearly it is Big Jim who has stolen Under the Dome. Dean Norris plays the shady car dealer who moonlights as the city councilman. What sets Norris apart from the other actors? His face. The expressions he gives, whether a crooked smile or a sly raise of the eyebrows, offer much more depth to a character that could be generalized. It’s Norris’s subtleties as an actor that gives Under the Dome such flavor.

“Let the Games Begin” concludes with the teenage crew finding their fourth hand and attempting to unlock the mini-dome and its egg. Something does happen (reminding me of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi looking at the Star Wars universe in Attack of the Clones) as a caterpillar has formed a chrysalis inside the mini-dome. What will come out? More questions, less answers – the true engine pushing Under the Dome into a summer success story for CBS.

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