The plot of this Monday's episode of Under the Dome was exactly what I was worried would happen. Instead of developing our characters, or getting down to the fascinating mystery at hand, we got a stunt story that could be summed up as "a thing happened — UNDER A DOME!" Spoilers ahead.
One of the dangers of turning a science fiction mystery story into an ongoing series is that you remove the most important part of a mystery: the question/resolution story structure. As we learned from Lost and many other shows, audiences grow weary and frustrated when this basic structure mutates into the ongoing question/question/question/question tease with little to no resolution. To avoid this problem, it seems that the writers of Under the Dome are going another route. They're extending the question of what the hell this dome is by showing us how everyday events are magnified into out-of-control mania when all the players are trapped under a dome.
Case in point: This week, our small town petri dish experienced a meningitis outbreak. Without doctors! (Because dome.) Without enough antibiotics! (Because dome.) Without crowd control! (Because dome.) So it's basically an ER episode with a dome. Sure, we advance the Barbie and Big Jim plots a wee bit in between all the hospital scenes. But mostly it's just a hospital show with a dome on top.
I could have used a lot more moments like the one where Hunky Geek and Gothy Geek shoot a video of themselves having seizures (especially with the creepy bit where Hunky tells himself not to talk about the seizures). That was spooky. And I'm still fascinated by the freaky backstory on how Big Jim and Junior feel about each other. I love how the actors make it obvious that there is something more than ordinary father/son weirdness between the two of them — Big Jim seems to know that Junior is messed up and can't decide whether that's awesome or awful.
Junior's creepy savior/psycho personality is becoming a pretty interesting anchor for the story. But the whole bit where Victim Girl almost drowned was as filler-ish as the meningitis outbreak itself. OMG she couldn't figure out how to aim a scissor at Junior's throat and now water is filling up the shelter for an entire day and now she has a wet t-shirt!
Also — Barbie lying to Curly McJournalism about her husband? Sorry, but yawn.
I guess the problem here is that this show has set up a fantastically compelling Big Bad, which is the dome itself. But we can't solve that mystery in a six-episode miniseries as we should, because for some reason everybody thought it would be a great idea to turn this one-shot mystery into a long-running soap opera. This might work if we actually cared about the characters, and wanted to watch them falling apart under the pressure of isolation. Unfortunately, however, the more we get to know everybody (like the drug-eating, drug-burning minister), the more obvious it becomes that they are all either foolish, evil, or both.
I don't mind watching cruelty and stupidity get punished for a short period of time, but I need more than schadenfreude to pull me through a TV series. It doesn't help when we get an episode like Monday's, where everybody reiterates that life is hard when you are cut off from the world. We've already had a fire emergency, now we've had a disease emergency, and I fear that we are looking down the barrel of a series that brings us situation after situation (no more fuel, no more food, no more water, no more air) instead of a clear narrative arc that reaches an intriguing resolution.