Under the Dome: Season 3 [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (28th January 2016).
The Show

With the Stephen King-y quaint town of Chester's Mill on the verge of social collapse three weeks after an invisible dome of indeterminate origin trapped sealed its inhabitants in and cut off their contact with the outside world, Iraq war vet Dale "Barbie" Barbara (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake's Mike Vogel) leads a mass exodus of most of the surviving town members down into a crater that has opened up beneath the town in search of a way out, leaving behind power-mad councilman/used car dealer "Big Jim" Rennie (Breaking Bad's Dean Norris) to rule the empty town. Beckoned by his sister Melanie (Grace Victoria Cox), killed by her initial contact with an alien artifact and resurrected by the dome, Barbie and the townspeople cross a chasm into an impenetrable fog and find themselves on the other side of the dome (which then shatters). Barbie returns to the town in search of his journalist love interest Julia (The Caller's Rachelle Lefevre) only to discover her body, along with those of "Big Jim" and his bullied son Junior ('s Alexander Koch). A year later, Barbie returns from a tour in Yemen with his military envoy girlfriend Eva (The Sitter's Kylie Bunbury) and Barbie's assistant/former hacker Hunter (High School Musical 3: Senior Year 's Max Ehrich) for the erection of a memorial for the lives lost under the dome. Dale finds that most of the town has moved on for the better under the guidance of FEMA disaster aftermath therapist Christine Price (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation's Marg Helgenberger). There are some exceptions, however: while ex-girlfriend and former misfit Norrie (The Hunger Games' Mackenzie Lintz) is in college and has just joined a sorority, Joe (We Bought a Zoo's Colin Ford) is unable to move on after his sister Angie's murder and has lost his ambition to become an engineer. Former EMT Sam (C.S.I.: NY's Eddie Cahill), believing he could bring down the dome by killing Angie, is in prison in a twelve-step program when Christine tells him that a loophole in his case could lead to an appeal. Joe's friend Ben (John Elvis), disturbed that he no longer needs his medications or even his asthma inhaler, has realized that something is not right with the town and tries to convince Barbie who does not believe him until Junior shows up, ostensibly having traveled the world and having supposedly crossed paths with Barbie, Eva, and Hunter while on tour of duty even though Barbie is certain that he saw Junior's name on the memorial wall (from which it has disappeared). Ben dies of a mysterious asthma attack before he is able to provide Barbie proof, and the revelation that Eva is pregnant distracts him from further investigation.

Junior is not the only one to have survived, however, as he and Julia are in the underground caves still looking for a way to cross the chasm while "Big Jim" is left alone with his gnawing regrets. When Junior disappears, Julia discovers a cavern full of alien pods housing Barbie and the others; but Melanie prevents her from cutting them open, claiming to have escaped one herself at the cost of Junior's capture. She convinces Julia that they need access to the alien artifact (a black egg that traveled to Earth in a meteor shower twenty years before) to release them from the pods. Dale and Melanie's father Don (Gridiron Gang's Brett Cullen), who works for the mysterious Akteon Energy that has been monitoring the dome from the outside, convinces the CEO (ER's Eriq La Salle) to allow him to bring the egg into the town from their hidden access point. Don discovers too late that Melanie is not who he thinks she is when she kills him and uses the egg to power the pods which are infusing the townspeople with the alien life force in order for them to survive and reproduce in Earth's atmosphere. "Big Jim" convinces Julia that he did not kill Don, and that Melanie is up to no good. Smashing the egg with the butt of his shotgun, "Big Jim" and Julia release the townspeople from the pods, and they are devastated to discover that they are still trapped in the dome, and that their year of healing never happened. They also discover the presence of strangers Eva and Christine who claim to have been on a hike in the local woods when the dome enveloped the town, although they are actually archaeologists who triggered the dome when they discovered and unearthed another one of the meteor's alien eggs. Christine convinces the town to try to live their illusory new lives and use their newfound sense of unity in order to contend with life under the dome while they seek another way to escape. Dale finds himself torn between Julia who he had mourned and pregnant Eva who he never really knew but to whom he feels close. Others re-experiencing their loss are similarly drawn to a new sense of kinship, including Sam who Christine convinces to use his experience in the twelve-step program to redeem himself and help others in crisis, and Junior who she (more sinisterly) convinces to follow through with his arson of his family home as a way of disowning his abusive father. Social pariah "Big Jim" is the first to sense that something is not right with Christine and many of the townspeople, but his claims fall on deaf ears; and it may be too late by the time others who become ostracized realize that the alien takeover is not over and that the eventual destruction of the dome will not be an escape but an invasion.

A hodgepodge of tired science-fiction ideas (drawing heavily from Invasion of the Body Snatchers in its various incarnations) along with the usual Stephen King-isms like a childhood shared secret involving a supernatural or alien occurrence season three of Under the Dome's disparate threads and subplots of its large cast of characters are held together by the central theme of the belonging and the individual, and how much the characters are willing to sacrifice of themselves for a life that is better than the one they had before (even if the new one had its beginnings in deception). Enemies Julia and Jim along with the tiresome teenage love triangle Joe, Norrie, and Hunter reluctantly work together and find some common ground in the face of an evil that threatens to consume their loved ones and possibly the rest of the world outside the dome. Although it has thirteen episodes to explore the storyline, the show tells more often than it shows, most notably in terms of Christine's motivations and her supplanting of Melanie as the alien "Queen"; so the show is more a series of odd occurrences bracketed by explanation. I am unsure how much of season three follows King's thousand-plus page novel (I tend to tune out of them if a supporting character's backstory goes on for more than five pages), but I actually found myself more interested in where a possible fourth season might go than in diving back into the first and second seasons to make sense of some of the third season subplots. Derivative and typically everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Stephen King plotting, but Under the Dome: Season Three is not without good performances and intriguing if prosaically-executed ideas.

Video

The film's twelve episodes have been spread over four discs, and the 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen encodes look predictable spectacular given Amblin Television's production values and Paramount's track record with Blu-rays of contemporary product (more so than their catalogue titles).

Audio

Audio options include a forceful and constantly active DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and a perfectly serviceable Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo downmix, along with optional English SDH subtitles.

Extras

Deleted and Extended Scenes for the episodes "Move On" (1:01), "Redux" (1:50), "The Kinship" (1:50), and "Legacy" (1:56) are presented as options on their respective discs beneath the play options for the episodes rather than as an option on the fourth disc. The scenes are all very brief and extraneous, justifying their deletion. "Return to the Dome: A Look at Season 3" (14:38) features commentary from the cast and show runner Neal Baer (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) as they look at the character arcs in this season and the introduction of Helgenberger's character. "Life Under the Dome: Behind the Scenes of Season 3" (29:56) is a multi-part documentary - probably made available online as separate episodes - examining the shooting of major sequences from the perspective of the cast members and the episode directors, including the memorial sequence (featuring speeches by Helgenberger, Vogel, and Ford), the construction of the cave and alien pods (with actors being wet down in slime for their emergences from them), the town hall meeting after the characters emerge from the pods and try to reorient themselves back "under the dome", as well as the "kinship" possession sequences among others. "The Season Finale" (6:19) has the cast reflecting on the events of the last episode (including the deaths of major characters), the visual effects, and the open ending for a possible fourth season. "The Device" (2:52) looks at Joe's plans to engineer a device to bring the dome down, while "Meet Indy the Dog" (3:16) is an amusing an informative piece about training animals for acting. The set closes out with a "Gag Reel" (4:49), most of which will only be funny for the people who worked on the show.

Packaging

The four discs are packaged in a relatively sturdy four-fold digitpack that is housed in a sturdy cardboard housing that splits at the middle.

Overall

Derivative and typically everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Stephen King plotting, but Under the Dome: Season Three is not without good performances and intriguing if prosaically-executed ideas.

The Show: C+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: A Overall: B+

 


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