TV Review: ‘Under the Dome’s’ Underwhelming Finale

"Under the Dome" Season Finale TV

Don't halve a cow: Turns out a Dome's just the place for a show that hit a creative dead end

CBS was understandably giddy when “Under the Dome” opened to eye-opening ratings, and proceeded to hold on well. Not only had the network taken a big swing outside its wheelhouse, but it scored a rare summer hit, at a point where scripted network successes have appeared increasingly elusive. Small wonder the whole “limited series” idea pretty quickly went out the window, resulting in a second-season pickup and Monday night’s open-ended, cliffhanging season finale.

None of which should obscure how empty, silly and tedious “Dome” became after its intriguing premiere, going the way of many a past Stephen King miniseries adaptation — only in this case, in what amounted to slow motion. “Stephen King’s It” and “The Tommyknockers,” all is forgiven.

Why did a Dome descend over the little town of Chester’s Mill? Apparently, to create cover for a series of crazily violent exchanges, conveniently timed murders, stray characters and portentous dialogue, since a few teenagers are able to “speak” to the Dome — although we’re still not quite sure what the Dome is — by touching it and falling into a kind of trance.

Frankly, it would have been so much cooler if they had to say, “Wonder Twin powers, activate!”

It’s hard to fault CBS for wanting to continue to milk the show (with apologies to that poor cow), having averaged nearly 15 million viewers this summer if you throw in delayed DVR viewing, while also performing well internationally, including Australia, the U.K. and Germany. Besides, there’s something kind of nice about seeing “Breaking Bad’s” Dean Norris segue directly from that show into another series with legs, even if his character — the evil mayor — has been saddled with some of the program’s more ridiculous moments.

That said, let the “Dome” experience be a warning to anyone who really thinks any of these limited series will truly be limited and provide closure if they happen to work. As soon as the live-plus-three numbers look promising, network execs will be on the phone wondering how to extend these shows faster than you can say “American Horror Story” and slap a colon behind it.

On the plus side, CBS and the producers (a roster that includes Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television) have nearly a year to figure out how to keep this storyline going, hopefully in a manner that makes a bit more sense than the narrative mess that was season one.

Not that there’s an incentive to tamper with something that appears to be working, of course, especially when the obvious goal is to find a way to keep going around in circles. But the “Lost” experience is illustrative in cases such as this, inasmuch as that was a far superior series and still began to slide and struggle as it sought to sustain its mystery.

Because the bottom line is if “Under the Dome” can’t become a bit more transparent, sooner or later, it’s going to run straight into a dead end.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 273

Leave a Reply

273 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Chris S. says:

    Was hoping for a true “epiphany” in the the finale. It seems that the light came on, but nobody was home! What a disappointment. For once I thought that a network would not condescend into fishing for the almighty buck by leaving us with a ‘cliff-hanger’ ending hoping to resurrect the series next year.

  2. Sarah V says:

    Read the book. What a disappointing ending plus the level of violence didn’t add anything to the plot The Stand both book and mini-series still mt favorite. Thanks Maniac

  3. don says:

    This was a waste of 13 weeks time to have an ending with everyone looking up at a bright light and appearing to be happy, serene or senile, even poor Barbie with his neck in a noose standing on the gallows looked to the light. If I paid for it I would want my money back, but I didn’t so I’ll just stop watching CBS series programs.

  4. 44calibergnome says:

    Prediction: “Season Two” will consist of three nights during sweeps week.

  5. Suzieq says:

    I wish a mini series would be just that, give me a story and end it! Don’t think we will watch again, should have ended.

  6. Ed says:

    I will NEVER, EVER watch another program promoted as a “mini-series” on this network again!
    As a matter of fact…I may end up deleting CBS from my channel lineup!
    #%@&*?!

  7. lean2 says:

    I am a Stephen King fan and have read all of his books. I liked this mini series and looked forward to it every week. I think the characters were portrayed very well and I like the actors. I wish I didn’t have to wait so long for the next season but all tv series have end of season cliffhangers. I will be watching next year.

  8. Michele says:

    Fyi the Killing is going into Season 4! Love it! UTD lost me- Ill read the book & it will end when expected.

  9. bryan Ulveling says:

    What A Rip Off. I was only watching this show because I thought it was a mini series. I wont be watching next year. Suck Ass Ending…

  10. Kim murdock says:

    gave up after 3 episodes. I only watched because the NY times gave it a great review. Nonsensical plot!

  11. Teflon says:

    Hands down it is a good show overall…but the way it ended sucked ass……but I will be tuning in for the second season…..I still say they should have at least killed big Jim hahahahaha

  12. Mike B says:

    UTD was my new summer show, but when the end of the finale happened, I thought it was a bunch of bullshit. No question were answered, and big Jim still lives. Now have to wait a year for season 2. That sucks!

  13. James Blair says:

    What we are seeing with “Under the Dome” is a perverse incentive for CBS. If the show had had poor ratings, they would have ended it after the originally-planned 13 episodes (unless the ratings were so horrible that they cancelled it earlier). However, because of good ratings, they decided to stretch it out, resulting in rushed changes to writing and editing and continuity and who knows what else. So because more people watched the show, they made it worse. If less people had watched the show, then it would have been a better show.

    So next the viewing audience, especially after having experienced “Lost”, will have their own perverse incentive to NOT watch potentially interesting shows in order to prevent the networks from stretching them out at the expense of the plot. Instead people will wait until the show is done and they can then watch it on Netflix.

    In this day and age people hate cliffhangers. And an unexpected cliffhanger that will not be resolved for nine months is intolerable when there are so many other entertainment options available all the time. By the time season 2 gets rolling people will not even remember who was doing what “Under the Dome”.

  14. Diane Repressler says:

    This series, supposedly limited series, has been nothing less than an utter outrage! The writers have insulted the intelligence of viewers and left them feeling betrayed beyond all comprehension! Will all “limited” series’ become dried husks of a concept and milked for all their worth while other shows are cut short and cancelled? Zero Hour, that submarine show, 666 Park Avenue, and too many others to mention come to mind. I will now wait until a series has run its course and watch it at my leisure on Netflix! The networks care nothing for their viewers and the sense of betrayal they leave us with is beyond all endurance!

  15. Lisa says:

    This was going to be a great show. Than some idiot decided it was doing to well and it should be milk out for all it worth. Which now is nothing. I will not be watching next summer.

  16. Wade Pierce says:

    Wade says:

    If it says Stephen King, I watch it. He is a master. If he had control of this fiasco, the finale would be
    the finale. We all wanted to see Big Jim bite the dust and the Dome come down. All of the surviving characters would have shown the good and evil in all mankind…….and we would feel better about
    ourselves; “Yes Barbie had to kill…..he had no choice…..but he has many other redeeming qualities”.
    Streeetch!

    This is not Deadwood (note Leon Rippy doing his great stuff)…..this is just a goofy show making the
    teens heroes in order to lure the plugged in folks. Sorry SK………I hope you are donating all proceeds
    to Cancer research. You are an Icon. Please don’t let the network folks screw up your work again.

    Best

  17. Texas Tess says:

    I don’t know what everyone is complaining about. I thought this was the BEST COMEDY on TV!!
    The loony plot lines, the horrible acting, the ridiculous , well, EVERYTHING! Isn’t this another Christopher Guest mockumentary? I haven’t laughed this hard for a long time. Can’t wait for next year!

  18. Debbie says:

    I love Stephen King and was excited about the series. Great beginning, which descended into worse and worse episodes each week. I like dthe idea of a complete “mini-series” and be done. Not interested in watching next season because the shows have gotten more laughable each week. bummer.

  19. Emma Anderson says:

    I thought that this was only a summer series (which is why I watched so faithfully every week), and we’d have ALL the answers in the finale. I was highly disappointed to put it nicely! I think that the finale sucked! And Junior, the kid who was ready to shoot his dad in the head, is now one of Big Jim’s zombie followers? REALLY???

  20. Winchester says:

    I knew things were getting bad when I fell asleep watching last week’s pitiful offering. Last night clinched it for me. Not eagerly awaiting the return.

  21. clif says:

    I feel cheated and miss led . personality I don’t care if if it comes back or not. they killed off everyone they could with no closure. even with the harry potter stories each story led to the next but with enough good winning over the bad to keep you coming back.They failed to give the viewer little on no reason to hope for anything but more of the same. that really was getting quite old.

  22. s2pid80it says:

    I really wanted to find a way to like this — mostly because of the positive review that this website gave. I don’t know how many episodes I managed to watch (I gave up after big jim let that woman from the island drown), but I had to pull the plug.

    Thankfully, wikipedia has the whole stupid plot summarized so I could see how it ended without me feeling the urge to gouge my eyeballs out.

  23. JB says:

    The most terrible “cliffhanger”ending ever. Do not watch this show when it starts up again.

    • Karen Lee says:

      COULDN’T AGREE MORE with you;. They’ve lost my family and anybody else we know, who USED to a regular viewer. Like THE KILLING’s “Who killed Rosie Lawson” (prolonging the answer to THAT mystery) … they too lost most of their loyal audience.

      The Killing was cancelled after their first season disappointing finale. What COULD HAVE BEEN a novel long-running series like its European original series … AMC’s version was relegated to “SHOW-RUNNER’s FOLLIES” in TV’s vast wasteland.”

  24. Scott says:

    It reminds me of Star Wars with Big Jim, the evil emperor wanna be, his son is a Darth Vader following in daddy’s footsteps, Deputy Linda the Jar Jar Binks moron who helps Big Jim to take over thanks to her being an idiot and a patsy, while Barbie is the Obi-Wan-Knobi who dies and helps to stop Big Jim with his death and interaction with the whatever is resonsible for the dome in the first place supernatural beings.
    I also agree it was a limited series that clearly has been expanded to one “season too many” and should have been a one summer only program. If they needed a second season, (because of the high ratings), then the second summer should have had another location other than Chester’s Mill with a dome over it.

    • jim says:

      Deputy Linda the Jar Jar Binks moron ….
      hahahahah
      that’s just spot on !
      great comparison .
      deputy linda started out smart ….. and became more stupid / ignorant with every new episode .
      linda …. she hasn’t got a clue .
      she would know about the dome , even if it hit her in the face .
      .
      sure as hell hope it wil be a short summer for this show next year ,
      because it sucks big time .

  25. debaser says:

    Yeah, that’s why we can see the outside world is fine during exterior dome shots. Your theory falls apart right there.
    Still, the writing is so terrible that you may be right.

  26. TrudyBird says:

    I’ve never read anything by Stephen King, so I took for granted what I gathered to be a summer series that would be wrapped up at the end of the season. I would get impatient watching Big Jim glare out from under heavy brows, while his mouth breathing son, “Junior” would get his toll of closeups. It was my choice to give this a shot. It HAD to improve… It just had to! Last night was the biggest WTF moment in the history of my summer TV experience. If this show comes back, I will not watch it.

  27. When I watched Monday night’s “finale” it became apparent to me that all viewers, at least those with an IQ above room temperature, had finally escaped from “Under The Dome”. The reason for their escape was because they will not return to this garbage series ever again.

  28. niecy says:

    what the hell!? that’s it? what happened to Barbie? did he hang? did the dome come down? is the world destroyed outside the dome? What happened to the butterfly?

    • mustangmach says:

      Butterfly????? Do you hear yourself? They destroyed the original story, and this is all nonsense to pad out more episodes. Read the book, and you’ll laugh at the TV series.

  29. cathy says:

    Stephen King is my favorite. Read the book; it was good. Was excited about the series. Am so disappointed!!!! They changed so many things. Situations; character interactions. I’m surprised Stephen King let them do this to his story.

  30. p.Trapani says:

    Would someone please tell me how the book ends? I will waset no more time on Steven King.

  31. Kathy says:

    What a waste of viewing time! The reviewer was correct. This series became tedious, but at least I hoped to see all the questions answered in the finale. Nope. They’ll have a second season. However, the viewership will be gone. Don’t advertise something as a limited series when it’s not. We just have to limit it ourselves by never tuning in again.

  32. Anne says:

    Bill, You’re too kind to CBS!

  33. Bill C.K. says:

    I had taken on watching “Under the Dome” with the thought that it was a limited series and might be an enjoyable diversion during the empty summer months of TV reruns. Wrapping it all up at the end of summer would be preferable to the possibility of investing time in a show that leaves you wanting answers only to getting your feet cut out from under you when the show gets cancelled, i.e., Life, Awake, Invasion, etc.
    So please, wrap it up next season with a “limited” number of episodes (perhaps over a single week). Let it be an extravaganza of answers and resolutions with a real ending. Otherwise, I’ll just bide my time waiting for a “complete” series to show up on Netflix or Amazon to watch at my own pace.

  34. paraskevas says:

    The characters weren’t all that likable. Sometimes a problem with King’s books. His best work of late was the 11/22/63. At least is had a better ending. I enjoyed the book but again found myself turning back a few chapters to remember who everyone was.

    I miss Lost.

  35. kenmandu says:

    Sorry to say but I agree that many Stephen King stories are compelling page turners that often end with a less than resounding WTF conclusion.

    • mustangmach says:

      Yup, I agree that the book had another trademark Weak King Ending, but the TV show is completely Lost In Space. The changes are ridiculous.

    • pbrooks711@yahoo.com says:

      After watching the show all Summer and waiting for things to get more interesting the last episode was extremely disappointing!!

  36. Lynn says:

    All those who feel Under the Dome, didn’t live up to its expectations are way off base. I have been a Stephen King fan for 30 years and this was an excellent mini series….Must say can’t wait until the next one and I plan on getting the book. Always like to read the book after the movie because they cut and change so much that the movie is almost never as fantastic as the book, Salem’s Lot, Christine, The Stand…they are all must reads for those that like this stuff.

  37. Chris says:

    It looks like the dome might be protection and concealment from a world or universe that has been destroyed only those inside the dome can not see the destruction. They only see what they can from what the foreign beings show them. It seems very apparent that this being easily manipulates what the town can see and can’t not see. Vision seems to be more of a medium for the truth and communication rather than a form with literal and absolute value.

    If this is so, that explains why Big Jim and all those before him worked hard to get affairs in order. Perhaps they knew an end was coming and Chester’s Mill was a modern Ark; only instead of a large ship, there is a dome to protect from fire not water. Perhaps, when authorities bombed the dome, the world actually went by fire and these people aren’t even aware that outside the dome lies the remains of a detroyed place even though they see something different. Some how Big Jim must know this is the last civilization maybe because he saw someone else laboring before he got involved. I’m willing to believe they labored for different reasons like to keep the last humans comfortable so as not to turn into disgusting creatures that need to be destroyed completely. Big Jim just saw a missed opportunity and took advatage of the situation like a bad kid finding money on the ground; not knowing what it might have been for or why but certainly glad to have it and use for their own desires.

    The only thing I haven’t reasoned with is the monarch. A citizen of the town mentions Revelations in the bible. I remember revelations describing the world falling victim to a woman or a femine power of evil. I wonder if the monarch being a woman, “Julie” at the moment, is a hint of a future deception and path to devil destruction that slowly seduces the weak to follow her lead. I don’t know, there isn’t enough time to decipher even the most simple of riddles. At least I tried.

  38. Patrick says:

    Wow, Nobody is forcing anyone to watch this show. IT IS SUMMER TIME….. Every one of you who is complaining watched the show, did you have to?? You watched it because you made a choice to watch it, I would presume you had some 200 other channels to choose from, yet you chose to watch “Under the Dome”… It will not replace my favorite shows, but for summer entertainment, it fit the bill, and will do so again next year unless something better on channel 250 is better. You will be there too, I would bet!!

    • Anne says:

      That’s like saying, ” You made a choice to marry your wife. Just because she had an affair and ran off with your children is no reason to complain. After all, YOU DID MAKE THE CHOICE!” There is a problem when someone deceives and manipulates. Patrick, maybe no one made us watch the show, but we did it after being manipulated. Glad you enjoyed it, but I promise I won’t be back next summer.

      • MickyB says:

        I agree. I too understood this to be a limited miniseries, and that it would end with this last episode. But hit ratings must have made the CBS execs greedy, and they are extending this onward. Well, now, let this show crash and burn, like that airplane that crashed inside the Dome. The viewers who rightfully expected this to be over and expected the writers to tie up everything, should join the rest of us who will not reward executive greed with further support for “Dome”. I’m done.

  39. R.Murray says:

    What a waste of viewing time. If I wanted to be manipulated & taken I would have rather gone to VEGAS. If it’s renewed when they figure out what the hell that MERRYGOROUND was all about nobody is going to be around to watch. They have just managed to insult the viewing public that pays their way! What a joke Mr. King & Spielberg

  40. Neville Pollock says:

    Seems like commonsense to me

  41. Randy Scott says:

    A waste of a great plot, Man CBS really knows how to ruin a show. Just end Damit

  42. Anne says:

    Right on, John. What a disappointment! I’m done with “Under the Dome” – I feel totally manipulated. They told us in the beginning this was a 13 episode miniseries. I hate being lied to (and it wasn’t that great of a storyline even if I could follow it).

  43. Looked forward to watching it on Monday nights, but was VERY disappointed in the final show that left Barbie with a rope around his neck. And for everyone else don’t want him to stand there like that for another 9 months till they decide to put it on again. As for Big Jim–they just needed to get rid of him once and for all he is not an asset to the show. Don’t know if I will waste my time again watching it to see it go nowhere.

  44. Grant Pastuck says:

    I’m sorry I even started watching this show. The characters are shallow, the dialogue is insipid, and the plot is stupifying. I hope it doesn’t get renewed, because it does not deserve to. There is so much better programming than this. The last series this frustratingly bad was The Killing on AMC. A mini -series should be just that. Write tight and have a conclusion. This just drags on and on and on and ……….

  45. Maybe I missed something, but I thought that the series being designated as “limited” meant that it would ndeed conclude in the “finale” episode. I enjoyed watching it up to a point, but that point being that I wanted the usual pay-off at the end, where I would finally understand exactly what was going on. So, now, I can’t even begin to tell you tell you how disappointed I am that the series did not conclude as expected, with all it’s loose ends and mysteries at least reasonably explained. And I feel so jerked around by King’s leaving us all in suspense on this one, that I really don’t care anymore. I, for one, will not be viewing next season–that is just too long to wait for the conclusion of a series that really wasn’t all that special to begin with. Sorry, but I think King sold out his readers–and viewers–on this story, all so he could squeeze out every dollar possible from CBS.

  46. susanne says:

    It was a waste of 13 nights of watching. I won’t tune in if it comes back.

  47. Put me on the list of No longer will be watching… “Under the Dome” was just another disappointing ending— manipulation of the audience…… bye bye Dome…

  48. Elaina says:

    I can’t believe I wasted every Monday night this summer watching Under the Dome, thinking it was a mini series. I won’t tune in for season 2, 2014.

  49. JLSchaefer says:

    End of season and end of show for me. I won’t watch another episode yet alone another season. I’ve deleted “Under the Dome” from my DVR, so it won’t be recorded by accident.

  50. Bob G says:

    People on here are absolutely ridiculous in my opinion. Before this week the only comments on the show were praise and now this. As a coach in the media as of late said “you guys are a bunch of Fair-Weathered fans” (or something similar). Overall great show! I was a little disappointed with the finale, but in no way did it belittle the value of the show. Looking forward to next season.

    • K Sei says:

      The beauty of opinions is everyone has them. I stopped watching 3 episodes ago but my friend filled me in on whats happening. So glad I stopped. The writing is horrible. They don’t even try “in my opinion”. I glad you like it but i am done.

More TV News from Variety

Loading