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TV Review: 'Under the Dome,' Season Two

CBS pulled out all the stops to sex up the relaunch of "Under the Dome" -- including a second-season premiere written by Stephen King -- but at this point, attempts to keep the show interesting just bounce right off. Part of that has to do with a loose interpretation of the "limited series" description leading up to last season's underwhelming cliffhanger, as well as a sense that while the audience remains trapped without an answer, viewers (at least, those who can find something else to occupy them between now and Labor Day) don't have to be.

The first order of business, naturally, entails finding some plausible way not to kill off the dreamy enforcer Barbie (Mike Vogel), who finished up season one with a noose around his neck, having been sentenced to die for a murder he didn't commit.

Still, the series does eliminate one character pretty quickly -- although thanks to all the from-beyond-the-grave visitations, nobody really has to worry about staying dead, in no-residuals terms -- while introducing a couple of new players who, apparently, had nothing interesting to say in season one. (In terms of who checked out versus who's checking in, it feels like kind of a push.)

Ultimately, the premiere -- while moving along briskly enough -- doesn't add much of anything to the audience's understanding of the show's fundamental mystery: why this giant dome formed over the small town of Chester's Mill, and what its purpose might be, though the characters do increasingly talk about "the dome" like it's a sentient being.

As for plots, in the opener the dome becomes magnetized, pulling everything metal in its direction. Visually, this development is hell on furniture, but not terribly exciting to watch.

Viewers, of course, can still enjoy the show -- if only to admire Dean Norris' hiss-inducing and campy performance as the town's mayor, Big Jim - by adjusting their expectations. Mainly, that will apparently involve accepting that the producers are going to continue playing Lucy with the football for as long as possible -- tantalizingly offering insight, only to pull it away.

It might work, but "Under the Dome" still qualifies as a disappointment -- another Stephen King adaptation that started with considerable promise but, as packaged for TV, lacked the necessary cohesion to go the distance. And while the show can lose a fair number of viewers versus last season and still be a reasonable success, unless "the dome" can conjure some field that exerts a magnetic pull upon flesh and eyeballs, there's a good chance many who made the series a hit will recognize that "Dome" is running in circles, and gradually begin to disappear.

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