Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Stephen King's "Under The Dome": A Mid-Season Perspective

Stephen King has a way of peeling the veneer away from both civilization and the people that comprise it.  Most of his literary worlds are very dark, but they are always enlightening.

Under The Dome takes yet another look at what happens when people are given a chance to be themselves. Societal structures keep our collective evil in check; what happens when we are released from the obligation to conform to the moral expectations of those around us? Though the current series is not as good as the book (published in 2009), King's stories are good enough to translate onto the screen, and the series is crushing the summer competition.

"Wealth was the short beer of existence. Power was champagne."

When the mysterious dome descends, it does more than cover the town. It uncovers the true nature of the people trapped within its transparent and indestructible parameters. A love-struck boy kidnaps and imprisons his girlfriend;  a businessman publicly becomes the monster he was privately; a preacher's duplicitous life comes to life; a policewoman's nobility and courage shine.

"A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men."

As the crisis escalates, the trajectory of people's lives do as well. Those inclined to evil find it increasingly hard to maintain a semblance of normalcy; those inclined toward good find they need to fight more and harder battles. It's not always easy to tell for whom we should cheer, but we certainly know what we hope will happen.

As Episode 5 unfolds, the town plunges into chaos. When push comes to shove, most people tend to do exactly that to get their way. The townspeople need water, food and insulin, and they are willing to justify any means to achieve their desired ends. Those who aren't that brutally pragmatic are too few to make a difference. Flannery O'Conner was right: good people are hard to find, and in Stephen King's world they are more sparse than usual.

"A man without a sense of purpose, even one whose bank accounts are stuffed with money, is always a small man."

Episode 4 highlighted an interesting subplot. One of the characters is a girl raised by two lesbian mothers. Her biological mom told her that her father was simply a sperm donor, but that wasn't true at all. On Visitors Day, he shows up on the other side of the dome.

It's not a great way to find out you have a father; then again, would any day have been good? "I hate you," she tells her mother, who cannot offer an adequate defense for her duplicity. When a friend attempts to console her, she also expresses her hatred toward a father who barely deserved the title.

 It's a gutsy, emotional look at a PC topic. It's one thing to debate the issue of same-sex marriage and parenting; it's quite another to take an honest look at how the decision of adults effect their kids. In Episode 5, it's clear she cares deeply for her mother. I don't think this is meant to be a commentary on the morality of same-sex relationships, because this type of anger could apply in any situation where a child feels betrayed/and or abandoned by parents who fail to think through the consequences of their decisions.  The handling of the issue does, however, capture the tension between love and anger in a way that is much closer to how life really works then most TV shows and movies capture.

"Sometimes when people are on their own, they do things they regret later, usually when the investigations start."

It's getting ugly in Chester's Mill, and there might not be investigations - ever.  Once there is a breech in the dam of regrettable things, it's tough to avoid the flood. And since it's Stephen King, there will be a flood.

No comments:

Post a Comment