Under the Dome

Under the Dome
In superstar comic author and Lost contributor Brian K. Vaughan's television adaptation of a Stephen King novel about a town sealed off from the rest of civilization by a gigantic semi-permeable mystery dome, he adds a few layers of metaphysical intrigue to what's otherwise another variation on the omnipresent societal collapse horror. It's a good thing he does, because without the tantalizing, slowly deepening (and sometimes maddeningly vague) mythology, Under the Dome simply re-treads themes that have played out on screens big and small innumerable times.

The show, located in the fictional town of Chester's Mill, Maine, does a decent job of balancing a large ensemble cast. It's a diverse group of residents and trapped transients: an ex-military man with a shady past dealing with the fallout of a job gone messy; a disgraced reporter looking for redemption; a crooked cop suffering a crisis of conscience; a manipulative, power-hungry local politician and his psychotic son; a suspicious priest; a local high school science nerd and his older sister; a lesbian couple and their witty teenage daughter. And that's just a few of the many residents that play a significant part in this dramatic and often horrific mystery series.

Undoubtedly, Dean Norris (Breaking Bad) has the juiciest role, relishing every venomous line and duplicitous interaction with his constituents as the lone surviving town council member, James "Big Jim" Rennie, in a performance that gives the show substantial fangs, though morally conflicted action hero Dale "Barbie" Barbara (Mike Vogel, Cloverfield) will always be the character audiences are rooting for. The rest of the cast commit solid efforts, but it's sometimes hard to tell whether the town of Chester's Mill is supposed to represent an uncommonly dim sampling of humanity. Aside from the two aforementioned characters — one's an outsider and the other's pretty much evil made flesh — these people make consistently stupid decisions. It's a topic never broached in the exhaustive array of bonus content included with the first season of this equally compelling and frustrating series.

What is discussed at length is the greatness of Stephen King. There's even a whole supplemental feature on the famous writer's brilliance in which the author himself explains the origin of the idea, making sure to mention that the seed came to him long before The Simpsons Movie and discussing what caused him to put off tackling the project for so long. "From Novel to Series" follows Vaughan and the rest of the Stephen King admiration society through the development of the television show, pointing out where they chose to diverge from the source material. "The World of Under the Dome" is a location-based feature full of behind the scenes footage detailing how and where they stitched together the Anytown, USA feel of Chester's Mill.

And still, there's plenty more. "The First Season" goes through the entire season episode by episode with the creative team, discussing story structure, casting, directing, special effects, makeup, wardrobe and essentially everything an interested viewer could possibly want to know about putting the show on the air. "Filming the Pilot" is an even more in-depth look at the technical trickery included in the grandiose pilot episode. Additionally, the Blu-Ray includes a few deleted scenes, a gag reel and a collection of 11 text and video journal entries from Colin Ford in character as Joe McAlister, titled "Joe's Blog." (Paramount)