Let’s be honest here, every Stephen King idea, be it a book, be it a short story, damn even be it a half-baked idea, that he once was foolish enough to mention to someone in privacy might potentially end up as a film or a tv show. No matter how odd and no matter how unfinished. The fact that TV and film execs usually have little to no idea what the viewer wants, just adds insult to injury. In fact many times the viewer himself does not know what he wants, until it is presented to him, but that’s a completely different Story.
Anyway, TV series that are based on a book or even worse on a short story are particularly problematic, because of the dispute in interests, between the author who has written some kind of ending, weither it might be satisfying or not and the TV execs, who want to stretch it into a 14 Season cash cow, until even the most easy to please of viewers throw in the towel in disgust.
Under the dome is a prime example for this particular dilemma, plus and additional bonus Dilemma, with the second one being, that King like many writers come up and then go through with ideas they should know right at the beginning, will leave them no other option, but to write themselves into a corner.
So, what’s it about? The basic premise is very simple: One unsuspicious Day a Mysterious invisible and invincible force field manifests itself over a small, fictional town in the USA, trapping all the citizens indefinitely, which in the long run let them face a kinds of lethal threads: running out of resources, people losing their minds and turn against each other, fast spreading diseases …etc. That’s about it. To Spice things up, we get the usual Characters that basically every writer instantly would come up with, to add tension to the mix: you got the mysterious stranger, that just recently came to town, you got the egomaniac, psychopath Sherriff, you got the supercute Chick that everyone will root for and that has never intentionally done anything bad to anybody in their life, you got the unreliable back stabber and finally you got a whole bunch of people that are basically reduced to being sheep without any and I mean literally ANY survival skills or any spark of intelligence in their whole body.
For the most part the book and the TV series have all of this in common, which is also the reason, why it is not necessarily one
of King’s best work. It is a fine Idea, but as I pointed out earlier, a fine Idea does not necessarly mean, that it would make for a good story, because in this case it does not leave you with many option to go from there, most importantly when it comes to ending the story at one point.
Just think about it for a second. How COULD you end it? You could either explain that the dome was put there by aliens (yawn!), the government (yawn!) some private bio-terrorist organization (yaaaaawn!), something supernatural (oh fuck off!) or leave that part unexplained, which might even be the only sane option.
As it happens, King faced exactly those challenges and ended up revisiting his story over and over again, before he eventually released it. Along the way he had one or the other idea, but ended up with what was possibly the lamest of them all. I Won’t spoilt it for you, but if you are interested then I’d suggest you rather check it out the conclusion on Wikipedia, rather than sit through the whole Story and be utterly disappointed.
With the TV Series though, it’s much worse. While Kings Story would have been “good” or let’s say “bearable” for a 90 minute movie at best, this was Set up to be on air for as long as humanly possible, until even the last bored stoner kiddie found it to be too silly to hang on. As I said, with that basic premise there are just so many events that you can create for such an environment. oh, let me rephrase that: “with that basic premise there are just so many PLAUSIBLE events that you can create for such an environment” and when it comes to more or less plausible events, boy oh boy they crammed them all into the first series: lack of resources, armed militias, angry mobs, lynch justice, all kinds of failed plans to find a way out and much much more. They crammed so much stuff into the first season, that every sane person wished for a definitive Series Finale at the end of the first season, even if it was only for the sole reason that by that time it had already been extremely difficult for even the best writers in the world to somehow explain all the silliness and illogical events up until then. It would have taken a 3 hour finale to tie all the lose knots. Didn’t happen, though. Of course not.
Instead they brought us the insanity that was season 2. Since everything plausible that could happen, already happened in the first season, there was no other way than go straight to fantasy land. Long, illogical, contradictive storylines about a mysterious, portable mini dome (!), bringing people back from the dead, magical portals, telekinesis, chosen ones, tons of flashbacks and basically everything else that was far from reality. Did they explain all those events? Of course not. Why? Because it is more fun, just to stock pile open question after open question. My guess would be, that the writers that have done Season 2 secretly knew that they would not be onboard for much later and just out of some notion of pure, misanthropic, black humor did this, 100% aware of it’s insanity, just to have the devilish pleasure to find out at a later point, how their successors would try to dig themselves out of that hole. Did I say hole? I meant Canyon, of course. Hmm, ok, maybe black hole would be the right term.
Of course in the middle of all that madness, there is no way to write the characters behavior in a way that makes sense. On the contrary the writers seemed to have seen that as an invitation to throw any sort of behavioral plausibility out of the windows. Characters that were protagonists with the intention of killing off 80% of the population are well respected and helpful, just a couple of minutes later, with no lasting cautiousness or mistrust against their character whatsoever, while others switch their character and behavioral pattern by the minute. The funniest thing though remains Big Jim, the archetype of a madman antagonist. Ever beginning with the first Season, Big Jim does the most hideous things to basically everybody that is still alive and every time he gets caught doing so, occasionally lands in prison for half a day, but always miraculously and completely effortless gets back the town people’s trust. This was already annoying in season one, but in season two, Big Jim is PN FIRE, which leads up to what can only be called “the most ridiculous season finale in TV history”.
The series has reached a level of bad, which lead to a counter cult, where many people watch the series, just to witness what silliness they are trying to sell the viewer in that particular week and ridicule the living hell out of it.
Now, Season 3 is coming close and I have no idea, what else they even CAN come up with? Mach warriors? Cartoon monsters? Maybe elves? I don’t know. All I know is, that it’s gonna be funny as hell, but for all the wrong reasons.