A while back, I put together a list of my favorite—and least favorite—Stephen King film adaptations, both motion picture releases and miniseries. It wasn’t easy to do, but I was willing to do it because I was getting really excited about the upcoming adaptation of King’s blockbuster novel, Under the Dome. I enjoyed the book very much, despite a few thin spots, and I thought the visuals and dramatic character interactions would make for very exciting television.
My goodness, how I’ve been let down.
I know that there are a few things that do not translate well from the written medium, but why is it necessary for so very much of what I enjoyed to be abandoned in favor of— Okay, maybe I should take a deep breath and tell you exactly why I can’t continue to watch this show. I shouldn’t have to say this, but here it is: SPOILERS, sweetie. SPOILERS.
Characters: As I’ve said before, I am a total junkie for Stephen King’s characters. They aren’t all fit, lovely creatures with outstandingly gorgeous hearts. They’re flawed, which makes the eventual nobility some of them display under extreme circumstances so much more amazing. Which makes it baffling that some of the characters were rendered even less nuanced in the process of adapting them to the visual media. Why was it necessary for Junior to lose his crippling migraine issue and just be a much more pedestrian form of crazy? Where the hell did the two-dimensional Reverend character come from? And . . .are we to believe there’s a good reason that Barbie has gone from straight-up military hero to a mercenary bookie’s enforcer? Barbie was plenty interesting enough as written; this one is just a brooding, forced anti-hero. And don’t get me started on Angie. This was convoluted drama for its own sake. A hostage situation could have waited until season 2; having a freaky dome from nowhere cut the town off from the rest of the world was thick enough a plot.
Plot: The novel was amazing in the way it built drama in the microcosm of the dome; think of the slowly spiraling madness of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and you get some idea of what I’m talking about. The televised adaptation decided slow burn was not good enough, so a few dramatic elements seemed to be in order, i.e., the previously-mentioned refusal of Angie to die in the very first episode. Also, there were two very interesting religious figures in the novel that didn’t have to blend and merge into the mortician/Reverend character, who only grew less intelligent in the conversion process and propelled the plot into a banal mess of “Oops! I started a fire!” and “Oops! I misinterpreted military double-speak!” and “Oops! Maybe I shouldn’t wear a hearing aid and threaten the BMOC while standing so close to a proven electronics repellent!”
Pacing: Within each episode—and this became more apparent as each episode premiered—the individual storylines were shredded and scattered, threads woven tightly. I know this was meant to lend an ever-increasing sense of approaching chaos, but it sometimes resulted in scenes that lasted approximately five seconds so we could see someone cross a street and emote. As a result, I got the impression that everyone was shady, not just the Rennies. Further, teenager angst is not well-supported by such frantic pacing; I developed far too much resentment for Norrie to make her eventual switch back to misunderstood heroine believable.
I understand that television has a format, I do. I know that it’s possible people will lose interest in a show that plods and takes its time getting to the point. But what that’s done to a story that was all about pacing—about that steady burn from the civilized sanity at the heart of a small town to the chaotic madness of people stripped to their raw and primitive selves—is aggravating. Once again King’s hallmark characters have been sacrificed to the visual media fads of the day, and I just can’t watch anymore. Let me know if the show manages to pull it off at the end. I’m going back to my books.
Under the Dome has been renewed for a second season, with Stephen King writing the first episode, so Project Fandom may try to revisit the series next season. You never know, ProFans.