UNDER THE DOME - SEASON 1 - Episode Guide and Reviews
Episode 1 - Pilot
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Summary: The small town of Chester’s Mill finds itself mysteriously cut off from the world when an impenetrable dome suddenly appears to seal them in.
Dale “Barbie” Barbara buries a man in the woods of Chester’s Mill. Local car dealer and councilman “Big Jim” Rennie leaves $100 for his diner tab at the Sweetbriar Rose run by Rose Twitchell. Having dropped out of college, Big Jim’s son Junior Rennie professes his love for candy striper and waitress Angie McAlister, although she is uninterested in a serious relationship with him. When he tries to physically stop her from leaving his bedroom, Angie slaps Junior across his face. Mrs. Grinell provides a news tip to Julia Shumway, the new editor of The Independent newspaper, that the town is stockpiling propane. While Sheriff Howard “Duke” Perkins and Deputy Linda Esquivel are out on a call, Linda waves to her fireman husband Rusty as the fire trucks leave town for a parade in nearby Westlake. As he watches the passing cops in his rear view mirror, Barbie’s car spins out of control to avoid a herd of cattle. Shortly thereafter, the ground begins quaking and a massive invisible dome crashes down around the town. Barbie watches a cow get split in half by the impenetrable barrier. The wall shocks a person when it is touched, but Barbie realizes that it can be touched safely after the first contact.
Duke recovers from a chest pain seemingly caused by his pacemaker. Teenager Joe McAlister, Angie’s brother, comes to the field and examines the dome with Barbie. As birds fall from the sky, Joe and Barbie watch a prop plane crash into the dome from within and explode. They also realize that they cannot hear anything outside of the dome when fire trucks arrive on the other side. Phil Bushey is a DJ at local radio station WYBS 89.3 FM. Engineer Dodee Weaver informs Phil that theirs is the only radio station still on the air. Duke and Linda arrive at the site of the plane crash. Big Jim also arrives and gives Barbie a look as everyone assesses the situation and realizes that they are trapped.
Julia arrives at the plane crash scene and takes an interest in Barbie. She learns that Barbie is ex-military before they find a woman whose forearm was severed by the dome. Julia explains that her husband is a doctor and they rush the woman to the hospital. Big Jim forces his way into the radio station and makes an emergency broadcast telling everyone to pull over their vehicles and stop driving. Los Angeles attorney Carolyn Hill is passing through town with her diabetic wife Alice Calvert to take their daughter Norrie to a camp program. As they listen to Big Jim’s warning on their car radio, they witness a truck crashing head on into the dome on the other side of the road. Norrie collapses and goes into convulsions on the pavement while muttering, “pink stars are falling in lines.” At their home, Joe and his sister Angie realize that they are on their own since their parents are caught in Westlake. Linda watches as the military arrives outside the dome. At the Chester’s Mill Clinic, Julia learns that her husband Peter has not been working on Sundays like he had told her, and he is currently missing. Outside the clinic, Angie flirts with Barbie as Junior watches from afar while working a butterfly knife. Carolyn and Alice arrive at the clinic with Norrie. Angie helps them as Barbie leaves.
Duke and Big Jim confront each other at the Town Hall. Big Jim mentions assuming emergency power and increasing law enforcement personnel. The two men also speak cryptically about the propane reserves. Dodee picks up strange music and conversations over the radio. She and Phil hear a transmission referring to the barrier as a dome. Junior confronts Barbie at the plane crash site, but Julia interrupts. She invites Barbie to stay with her since the motels are fully booked. Joe searches the dome perimeter for a power source before collapsing while muttering, “pink stars are falling in lines.” After she returns home, Junior knocks out Angie and takes her hostage.
With many townspeople gathered at Sweetbriar Rose, Duke explains what is known about the situation. Angie awakens imprisoned in the Rennie’s underground fallout shelter. Junior claims that she is safe and that he is the only one who understands what is really going on. He asks for her patience and leaves her trapped inside while she screams frantically to be released. Big Jim sees Junior leaving the shelter and Junior pledges that he wants to help the town. At Julia’s house, Barbie sees a picture of her husband Peter and realizes that it is the same man he buried in the woods. Linda and Duke examine the edge of the dome. Duke starts to tell the deputy that he was approached a little over a year ago. Before he can complete his sentence, his pacemaker suddenly explodes.
For anyone living under his/her own dome and unfamiliar with the concept of the television show or original Stephen King novel, “Under the Dome” tells the tale of a sleepy New England town that is cut off from the rest of the world when a massive invisible dome appears out of nowhere and seals everyone inside. The who, what, and why of the dome’s origins are questions that burn as hot as how the panicked townspeople are going to adapt to a society overrun by fear, paranoia, and desperation.
Chester’s Mill is the type of small town that tends to populate the fiction of Stephen King. That is to say that nary a resident is a simple 9-to-5 Johnny Lunchpail with a humdrum home life and a menial labor job. No, even the service industry workforce here has brushstrokes of sinister secrets and the willingness for succumbing to nefarious motivations. Personalities as colorful as their plentiful nicknames plot kidnappings, bury bodies, cheat on their spouses, and shake hands clandestinely over shady propane sales. That transparent barrier either targeted these particular denizens for a reason, or it hit the jackpot when it came to enclosing a random mix of passers-through, villains, and duplicitous public servants.
Being that “Under the Dome” is merely one episode deep into a thirteen hour arc, there is no way to ascertain how many, or if any at all, of the conveniently timed story threads are eye-rolling plot contrivances, or if they play directly into the larger mystery of the dome. Well, aside from reading the novel beforehand. But the television adaptation has already made some departures from the source material that suggests it may try an alternative path or three.
It could be that the series has implausibly stacked its deck with an impossible assortment of backstory-rich personalities. Or everything could be a carefully planted seed primed for revelatory moments of supreme satisfaction as a reward for staying until the end. In the interest of entertainment, it is far preferable to assume the latter for the time being and enjoy the pilot episode for what it is without searching for possibly non-extant layers just yet. And what it is happens to be a tightly plotted introductory hour loaded with visual shocks and teasing mysteries, instead of crushing itself with laborious exposition or drawn out dramas.
“Under the Dome” dishes out the kind of chaos expected for a King fueled horror thriller by packing in a crashing plane, severed limbs, and a cow split in two before the second commercial break. The dome pushes character introductions out of the way only eight minutes into the episode and the rest of the hour rides that wave of aftershocks right through the final moment. “Under the Dome” never pauses too long to indulge in melodrama or to establish relationships, favoring a more even pace to speed the audience up to the premise and start rolling into the deeper arcs.
The cast is attractive on both sides of the gender aisle. More importantly, the performances are universally on point. Mike Vogel borrows liberally from Deputy Shelby of “Bates Motel” with a handsome exterior and a devious interior. Dean Norris cranks up the Everyman smile he wore so well on “Breaking Bad,” but adds an amplified amount of menace when those lips curl over his teeth. Alexander Koch is initially hard to buy as a contemporary greaser type dexterously wielding a butterfly knife, but the characterization settles in once his greater purpose bears fruit. It remains to be seen what Lenny Kravitz, er, Nicholas Strong and Jolene Purdy bring to the table with their roles. But judging by the well roundedness of the fictional roster and its real-world counterparts, concern is not warranted in the casting or acting categories.
If zombie epics have taught us anything about how society adapts under threatening pressure, it is that the survival instinct coupled with a struggle for power can turn any civilized culture into a bloodbath. Especially when choked by claustrophobia. The peculiar situation troubling Chester’s Mill certainly qualifies. “Under the Dome” might turn into a race to see which of these residents cracks first, and which of them snaps backwards in a manner that might have been unfathomable in a pre-dome environment.
“Pilot” lives up to its Plain Jane title in terms of what it is meant to accomplish as a first episode. (Or maybe writer Brian K. Vaughan played with the industry term and was winking at the unfortunate soul who met the dome wall with his prop plane?) There is no true self-contained narrative to be found in this hour. This is definitely the opening act of an intricate story that requires more than a 60-minute investment. “Under the Dome” is going to require a commitment from those seeking gratification with their mysteries. There are a lot of people in Chester’s Mill and each one of them has a micro-crisis on their hands in addition to the elephant in the room that is the dome. Yet is it only enough to keep even a casual viewer engaged without requiring a notebook to play along at home. Keep the intrigue ripe and the beats brisk, and those aforementioned questions regarding the dome may be forgotten. Everything going on inside of it has the potential to be far more interesting, and far more fun to watch, anyway.
Episode 2 - The Fire
Director: Jack Bender
Writer: Rick Cleveland
Summary: Seeds of panic are planted as a raging fire threatens to engulf the entire town.
In a dream/flashback, Barbie is seen punching Julia’s husband Peter and making a demand for the payment owed to Barbie’s boss. Peter pulls a gun. A fight ensues and Peter is shot dead. Barbie wakes and Julia checks on him. She notices that Barbie is looking for his missing dog tags, which he then remembers were pulled off him by Peter during their struggle. Officers Paul Randolph and Freddy Denton arrive at the scene where Linda is cradling Duke’s body. When Freddy’s windup watch does not explode, Linda deduces that proximity to the dome affected Duke’s pacemaker because it was battery powered. Joe’s friend Ben tells Joe that he mentioned “pink stars” during his seizure. While other residents dig, Joe decides to use trigonometry to discover the size of the dome. At the radio station, Phil and Dodee hear another radio transmission calling the barrier a dome. To avoid inciting panic, they decide not to disclose this information to their listeners. After fixing the Sweetbriar Rose’s generator, Big Jim is introduced to Carolyn and Alice. Linda interrupts to tell Big Jim about Duke’s death. Julia bounces a tennis ball against the dome to attract the attention of soldiers on the other side, but they refuse to acknowledge her. When she sees one of the soldiers talking on a radio, Julia decides to go to the radio station to see if she can hear what they are saying. Angie unsuccessfully attacks Junior when he delivers her food in the bomb shelter. Junior chains her to the bed. He believes the dome scrambled her brain and he is the one who will make her better. Junior also believes that Angie was sleeping with Barbie, but that she is still in love with Junior. Frustrated, Angie plays up the supposed sex with Barbie in order to infuriate Junior. Junior locks the door on her.
Big Jim learns that Duke was trying to tell Linda something before he died. At the mortuary, Big Jim shoves Reverend Lester Coggins for “using our stuff” and being “high as a kite.” Barbie finds Joe using mathematics to determine the dome’s dimensions. Linda discovers Jim going through Duke’s files at the Town Hall. Jim claims he was looking for Duke’s will, which shows that the sheriff left everything to Linda. Realizing that the propane records he was looking for are in Duke’s house, Jim tasks Lester with covering their tracks. Julia comes to the radio station and hears Phil and Dodee listening to a broadcast mentioning the word “dome.” Julia takes the microphone and announces the news across the air.
Officer Paul begins to panic at the news that the town is trapped under a dome. Linda has a heart to heart talk with Officer Freddy, who is the brother of her fireman husband Rusty. Jim stops a man from using a bulldozer to burrow through the dome, as contact with the barrier will fry the vehicle. Joe realizes that the dome is somewhat porous when soldiers on the other side spray the barrier with water. Barbie sees Norrie shoplift a candy bar when he purchases cigarettes for bartering. Barbie goes to the cabin where he fought with Peter and recovers his dog tag. He also recovers the gun and discovers that it is empty. Junior enters and starts a fight with Barbie over Angie. Barbie ends up punching Junior repeatedly and threatens Junior to stop following him. Reverend Coggins finds the propane records at Duke’s house, but he accidentally starts a fire when he burns the papers.
Joe and Ben find a dog named Truman. Paul frantically stops Linda and Freddy to arm them with weapons in preparation for a riot that he believes is inevitable. Linda receives a call about the fire. She recruits Barbie to help. Big Jim hears Reverend Coggins caught inside the blaze, but tells no one. Barbie scrambles the residents to put together garden hoses and assemble a bucket line to a nearby swimming pool. Linda rescues Lester before the house explodes in a fireball.
Despite the community’s efforts, the blaze is uncontrollable. Big Jim arrives in the bulldozer and knocks down the house, which in turn contains the fire. Junior tells Angie that he killed Barbie, but she does not believe he is capable of murder. He leaves her with photo booth pictures of them as a couple. Julia sees that Barbie found his dog tag. Big Jim admonishes Lester for causing the fire. Lester tells Linda that he was in the house to find a suit for Duke’s funeral. Jim passes off the fire as due to a severed gas line. Jim applauds the community for their efforts in stopping the fire. Paul loudly dissents that Chester’s Mill is doomed. He pulls a gun and fires wildly at the dome. A ricocheted bullet hits Freddy in the chest. Barbie wrestles the gun from Paul and holds him at gunpoint while Linda tries to resuscitate Freddy.
With the first act of the larger 13-episode arc still very much in its infancy, the second episode of “Under the Dome” is front loaded with heavy doses of largely necessary exposition. The back nine, meanwhile, delivers a “story of the week” mini-crisis in the form of a fire that threatens to light up more than just Duke Perkins’ house.
While the audience has become acquainted with the major players introduced thus far, the same is not so true for the characters within the show. “The Fire” brings Chester’s Mill to the same level of awareness as the viewer by introducing Big Jim to Carolyn and Alice, Julia to Phil and Dodee, and Barbie to Norrie and Joe’s friend Ben. There are also in-depth moments with the local reverend and a pair of soon-to-be-important uniformed police officers.
A trio of physical wrestling matches breaks up the dialogue pieces: one between Barbie and Julia’s husband in a dream, another between Junior and the captive Angie, and still another between Big Jim and Reverend Coggins. Barbie and Junior try for a fourth, but add an exchange of punches to give the stuntmen more to do besides roll on a floor.
Aside from those first three minor dustups, the first half of the episode is occupied mainly by talking heads as Julia hijacks the radio station, Joe uses trigonometry to measure the dome, and Big Jim and Linda deal with the aftermath of Duke’s death. “The Fire” dances around its moments of inaction by keeping the camera moving as a distraction. Tracking dolly shots and steadicam swings mobilize the frame to keep the wordy sequences flowing. “Under the Dome” earns a pass on this round for being chat heavy as it is still finding its footing while balancing so many simultaneous threads. Although the camera is like an antsy child waiting impatiently for the latter half’s punches and fireballs so it can bask in the action.
Like the town of Chester’s Mill, it is too early in the epic to panic just yet. But this episode puts forth a few signs that make the network TV contrivance meter beep a little too loudly. The serendipitous appearance of a bulldozer early in the episode is so convenient that a hand has to cover the mouth and stop the words “oh, c’mon” from being shouted once it makes a timely reappearance. Hopefully, the mention of the dome frying any device that uses batteries followed by a scene deliberately pointing to Reverend Coggins’ hearing aid is just a red herring, and not another too obvious bit of foreshadowing.
Anyone watching the show has either embraced or forgiven the premise. Either way, the far out concept regarding the sudden existence of a bizarre dome has been accepted. But there is a limit to how fantastical the creators can make it before it is too much. The bisected cow from the “Pilot” is now an iconic moment from the series. While convenient that the poor bovine happened to be standing on the exact center of the dividing line, the visual was memorable and striking enough to warrant a look in the other direction. The woman who lost an arm the same way started pushing it. And now the discovery during this episode of a man sliced at the waist raises the question, exactly how many living things in this “small” town were standing directly on the barrier’s border when it came down?
“Under the Dome” must also find a meaningful purpose for its primary roster before anyone risks a reclassification as dead weight. After Big Jim is introduced to Carolyn and Alice, the two ladies fade right back into the background. Julia storms into the radio station and hijacks the airwaves to deliver news to the townspeople, just as Big Jim did with his warning to stay off the roads in the previous episode. This leads to another question. Exactly what good are DJ Phil and engineer Dodee if other characters are going to be using their broadcast signal instead?
Some have lamented a perceived stiltedness in the subplot of Junior and his kidnapped ex-girlfriend. Under the light of being a microcosm for the larger theme of the town’s imprisonment, there are still promising opportunities in the storyline. Junior is warming to being such a frustratingly misguided creep that his interest level should not be overlooked in favor of the bigger story outside the bomb shelter.
If the fumbles of “The Fire” are necessary evils to move past the first act hump of defining character relationships and attracting a mainstream audience, then all is forgiven. If they are a portent of predictable formulas to come, then there might be cause for alarm that “Under the Dome” could slip away from unique and into typical TV. While that question can only be answered in time, there is still much to praise in the meanwhile. Seeing Chester’s Mill band together to combat the inferno establishes a community whose fate may now become more tragic once the seeds of panic are fully sown. “Under the Dome” maintains enough action to keep people awake and has enough to say about human behavior that its commentary is still relevant.
Episode 3 - Manhunt
Director: Paul Edwards
Writer: Adam Stein
Summary: Big Jim uses the search for an escaped fugitive as his chance to make another power play.
At a skate park against the dome, Joe and Ben watch footage on Joe’s cell phone of Officer Paul Randolph shooting Officer Denton with a ricocheted bullet. The other kids learn that Joe has a generator at home that allows him to charge electronic devices. Barbie and Julia drive to the police station, where Linda is escorting Paul to a cell while the townspeople curse at the cop killer. Big Jim pacifies the residents with a speech. Norrie asks Joe if she can charge her MP3 player at Joe’s place as well as stay over. Paul feigns a sickness to get the drop on Linda. He locks her in his cell and escapes with a rifle.
While being berated by his father, Junior tells Big Jim that the bruises on his face came from Barbie. Angie hides a radio from Junior. She also reminds her captor about the cement factory tunnels that might lead through the dome. Big Jim visits Lester in the hospital and reminds him that they are the only ones who know about their drug business now that the propane bills of sale have been destroyed. Julia notices that Barbie is being evasive. Big Jim frees Linda and questions her ability to be effective as the only law enforcement officer remaining in town. As Carolyn asks about her missing daughter at the Sweetbriar Rose, townspeople Roger and Ollie insult her sexual orientation. After making a broadcast with Phil, Julia sees Junior walking with a helmet and decides to follow him. Jim recruits Roger and Ollie to help search for Paul. Jim also introduces himself to Barbie and recruits him, as well.
Knowing that Paul has military training, Barbie finds a false trail and leads the search party to the real path that Paul took into the woods. Linda searches alone. As Joe and Norrie get to know each other, Ben arrives with two girls from school looking to take advantage of the generator. Joe learns that Ben told other people at school about the generator, too. The search party finds Joe, but not before he shoots Roger and escapes. Ollie takes Roger back to town while Jim and Barbie continue searching. Julia follows Junior through the tunnels. Junior discovers that the dome extends underground, as well. Julia stops him from frying himself when he tries to touch a dropped flashlight near the barrier.
Julia tells Junior about her fall from grace as a reporter in Chicago while they return to the tunnel entrance together. Julia uses a match flame to guide their way. Junior tells Julia that Barbie attacked him for no reason. School bully Carter comes to Joe’s house along with a number of other students. Carter starts charging other kids to use Joe’s electricity. Norrie stands up to Carter and Joe defends her. The electricity then shorts out and everyone leaves, although Carter threatens “Scarecrow” Joe first. Jim tells Barbie how he got the nickname “Big Jim” as the two men learn about each other. Paul sneaks up on Jim from behind, but Linda appears and shoots Paul dead.
Jim and Barbie take Paul’s body to Lester’s mortuary. Jim asks Lester if he is staying clean. Jim then apologizes to Linda for questioning her ability. Jim brings Barbie home for a glass of Scotch. When Julia arrives with Junior, Barbie suggests having a drink another time instead. Linda naps in a cell while wearing Duke’s hat. Jim gives his son another belittling lecture. Carolyn finds her daughter at Joe’s house. When Norrie touches Joe’s hand, the two teenagers collapse in tandem and begin muttering, “pink stars are falling in lines.” Junior brings Angie a first aid kit so that she can bandage the hands he hurt while beating the dome wall in the tunnel. Angie hides a pair of scissors from the kit. While Barbie takes a shower, Julia searches his bag and finds a marked map of Chester’s Mill.
“Under the Dome” recaps begin with a Julia Shumway narration that ends with the line, “now that we’re all trapped under the dome together, none of our secrets are safe.” That holds true for the dome itself, too. Episode three, “Manhunt,” lays bare the secret of the dome as a storytelling device. Which is that namely, since the premiere episode ended, the actual dome has faded away from being the story’s central focus. In truth, it is merely a catalyst for jumpstarting the mini-threads that were already in play when Chester’s Mill was still its version of “normal.”
A pair of teenagers prone to seizure-induced muttering notwithstanding, the dome has not really changed any of the arcs that the characters were on before the barrier segregated the town. That point is arguable for Officer Paul Randolph, but the primary characters are mostly unchanged. Big Jim has always been a power-mongering despot in the making. The dome has only accelerated his timetable for finally achieving the dream of being the big fish in a small pond. His son Junior was already on a similarly predetermined path, as well. His gift from the dome was an opportunity to let Angie finally see his psychotic capabilities firsthand. The dome also has nothing to do with the drug trade, the death of Julia’s husband at Barbie’s hands, or why characters such as Norrie and her moms are even there to begin with.
“Under the Dome” is a widely accessible primetime drama, which is a good thing. The fiction is appealing to mainstream audiences and not just to Stephen King devotees or sci-fi/horror fans because its heart is rooted in human relationships. The story being told is not about how the people of Chester’s Mill react to the unfolding situation, but about how they react to one another. The dome has only caused those lines to intersect in ways that are more interesting than if it were not present.
“Manhunt” shies away from the spectacle of bisected farm animals and clandestine government agents for more traditionally focused, character-based melodrama. Secrets have replaced currency in Chester’s Mill. Everyone either has one, knows someone who has one, is trying to expose one, or is trying to hide one. And being successful at those latter two objectives is going to be the best way to gain an advantage when things finally boil over.
The third hour features character pairs measuring one another in preparation for events coming somewhere down the road. Barbie’s evasive manner has certainly not gone unnoticed by Julia. Investigative reporter instincts have been tingling her Spidey Sense for some time about the secretive military vet. He already sticks out like a sore thumb in an average town like Chester’s Mill and Julia’s predisposition towards suspicion leaves her with one eye on Barbie at all times.
Angie bides her time in captivity wondering exactly what role is best to play when the moment comes to feed into Junior’s twisted fantasy. The ability to be a convincing actress may be a better tool to have than a pair of scissors. And if there is one thing that the Chester’s Mill residents possess in spades, it is the ability to pretend.
Big Jim could use a notebook to track the plates he has spinning. Linda is not entirely sure what the councilman is plotting with his push-pull seesaw of alternating compliments and derisions. Jim is also another person catching wind of Barbie’s surreptitious scent. Add that connection to the list of duos where one person knows something is not right about the other, although s/he is not quite sure what that is just yet.
The actual manhunt that justifies the episode title is only an action-oriented diversion from what is being put into motion with this hour. Perhaps the writers felt a few more bullets were warranted lest the viewers find themselves bored with a full hour of talking heads. Yet there is little doubt that the subtle stares and evil eyes thrown in every direction this episode are leading to greater developments between the major players.
The mystery of the dome’s origins and how to bring it down are nowhere near as important as learning who cannot be trusted and why. Knowledge is power, after all. And the dome is providing a proving ground to illustrate everything that the residents of Chester’s Mill were already capable of. Ironic that it takes an impenetrable exterior wall to break through the internal ones that they had erected themselves.
Episode 4 - Outbreak
Director: Kari Skogland
Writer: Peter Calloway
Summary: With medical resources depleted, a meningitis outbreak threatens the lives of Chester’s Mill residents.
Julia hides Barbie’s map in her purse. Barbie notices Julia feeling ill before they take a ride together. At the edge of the dome, Chester’s Mill residents throws eggs and spray paint the barrier with messages as the military packs up to leave on the other side. Feeling abandoned, the town appears on the edge of a riot. Big Jim calms everyone with another speech. Linda collapses. Jim and Barbie take her to the hospital. Junior brings Angie her dress from junior prom and she makes a move to stab him with the scissors. Junior stops her with minor injuries to his hand and then reinforces her chains. Julia follows Barbie’s map to a trailer park and finds her husband’s car. She learns that Peter sold his car to Phil. Phil collapses and Julia takes him to the hospital. Alice and Carolyn are at the hospital with Joe and Norrie following their seizures. Although she is a psychiatrist, Alice is recruited to assist the depleted medical staff in treating the sudden influx of patients. Being treated for the wounds on his hand, Junior tells Joe that he saw his sister Angie only a few minutes earlier. Angie accidentally breaks a pipe while shouting for help and begins flooding the bomb shelter.
Alice cannot find anything wrong with Joe or with Norrie. At the hospital, Julia tells Barbie that she knows he is connected to Phil and that she took his map. He avoids her questions as she suddenly falls ill. Linda is put in a room with her third grade teacher Miss Moore. As more patients come to the hospital, Alice diagnoses a meningitis outbreak. Jim and Barbie head to the drugstore to acquire more antibiotics. Before leaving, Jim gives Junior a shotgun and tells him to make sure that no one leaves the hospital because of contagion.
Julia talks to Phil at the hospital. In a hallucinatory state, Phil mumbles about a cabin. Jim and Barbie break the lock on the drugstore, but find that all of the drugs have been stolen. Carolyn asks Alice how much insulin she has remaining. With only one dose of antibiotics remaining, Miss Moore suggests that the staff treat Linda instead of her. Junior refuses to let Julia leave, but he tells her about the cabin where he found Barbie. Julia finds her husband’s keycard in his office and uses it to exit through a secured door at the other end of the hospital. Jim suspects that Lester stole the drugs. Jim and Barbie discover Lester burning the drugs as he believes it is God’s will for the afflicted to die. Jim and Barbie take back the drugs. Linda and Miss Moore have a heart-to-heart conversation before Miss Moore dies.
Junior prevents a potential riot in the hospital waiting room with a speech to the townspeople. Julia finds papers belonging to her husband in the cabin before she collapses. Norrie and Joe decide to induce another seizure by touching again. They record the seizure with a cell phone. Barbie and Jim return to the hospital with the antibiotics. Barbie asks Phil what he told Julia. It is revealed that Peter owed money and sold his car to Phil in desperation. Phil believes that Peter skipped town because of his debts. Norrie and Joe watch the footage of their seizure. After muttering, “pink stars are falling in lines,” Joe sits up, puts a finger to his lips, and whispers “shhh” at the camera.
Barbie learns that Junior told Julia about the cabin. He takes Junior’s truck and rescues her. Jim learns about his son’s heroic moment and suggests a career in law enforcement for Junior. From her hospital bed, Julia tells Barbie that she discovered papers indicating that her husband had emptied their accounts and that their house is in foreclosure. Barbie admits that he is a bookie’s enforcer, and that he was in town to collect from Peter. He suggests to Julia that her husband left town. She demands that Barbie leave her house. Joe convinces Norrie’s mothers to stay at his house. Alice catches Carolyn stealing insulin, but convinces her to put it back. Impressed with Junior, Linda gives him a badge. Lester is on Jim’s porch when Jim returns home. Lester returns a bag of money and washes his hands of the propane and drug business. Jim follows the noise being made by Angie and discovers her chained in the flooded bomb shelter.
“Outbreak” qualifies as a “stretch” episode. As in, most of what transpires over the course of the hour accomplishes little more than extending the overall runtime of the season. A small handful of threads see key developments, but the majority of pieces moved around the board end up in the same place where they started once the end credits roll. Casual viewers could skip this one and be brought up to speed easily with the next episode’s recap.
As the title implies, episode four’s central plotline involves a sudden meningitis epidemic. Meningitis is what killed Rachel Creed’s sister Zelda in “Pet Sematary.” Maybe this is a preferred go-to affliction in Stephen King-related fiction. With medical supplies and hospital staff severely depleted thanks to the invisible barrier outside, Chester’s Mill residents without a previous vaccination now find themselves at death’s door. Luckily, the day is saved with a timely delivery of deus ex machina in the form of drugstore antibiotics. Everyone receives a dose and it is as if the preceding forty minutes never happened.
The only life claimed by the outbreak is a schoolteacher introduced specifically for the purpose of being killed. There is a noticeable lack of fear that any real or lasting threat is coming into play for the recurring cast. With nothing significant at risk, emotional impact from the event is missing. Even the bedridden major players still find ways to contribute to their subplots in spite of hallucinatory fevers and states of unconsciousness, making their brief flirtations with crippling illness largely pointless. The only real advancement to come from the storyline is a scene that allows Junior Rennie to push forward as a figure of authority with a badge possibly pinned to his chest.
The rest of the episode packs in new stagings of scenes from the previous three hours. There is a redux of Big Jim delivering a calming speech to a crowd on the verge of rioting once again. “Under the Dome” has already established his ongoing political maneuvering. It is time for these reminders to turn into revelations and move things in a direction other than sideways. Linda has her confidence bolstered again, even though that seemed adequately covered in the previous episode. Norrie and Joe also share another seizure. There is a strong sense of déjà vu throughout the episode that makes the 60-minute investment feel unrewarding and unimportant.
On the plus side, DJ Phil is given something to do besides getting out of another character’s way, although that something is to deliver exposition from a hospital gurney. And Julia now knows enough about Barbie’s connection to her husband to kick the man out of her house, but nothing more beyond that. Undoubtedly the biggest plus is that detractors of the Angie in captivity storyline will need a new focus for their ire. That thread at last takes a turn that at least puts real consequences on the table for episode five.
With “Under the Dome” now one-third of the way through its arc, “Outbreak” comes off as a filler episode that does little to advance much more than the clock. The breadcrumb approach for bringing viewers closer to the finish line is starting to rumble stomachs. Episode five does not have to break out an entire slice, but it should deliver at least a crust. Stretching the material too thin and for too long risks a tumble into mediocrity that may be difficult for “Under the Dome” to recover from. And that would be unfortunate for the series, as well as for the viewers.
Episode 5 - Blue on Blue
Director: Jack Bender
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Summary: The town learns that the military plans to fire a missile at the dome, which may kill everyone inside.
While working on a theory that the two of them act as receivers for messages from the dome, Joe brings Norrie to a place where large numbers of Monarch butterflies have gathered along the barrier. Unsure of what to do about Angie, Big Jim leaves her locked in the bomb shelter. Reverend Coggins tells Jim that he has been receiving messages from God mentioning, “MOAB.” Barbie joins Joe and Angie at the wall where they discover that the military on the other side is busing in family members to visit with the trapped residents.
Over the WYBS broadcast, Julia announces that residents will be able to visit with family members through the dome. Before he can speak to his son about Angie’s imprisonment, Jim learns about the outside visitors from Junior. Jim authorizes his newly appointed deputy son to recruit more auxiliary officers. Phil and Julia pick up a radio transmission that says, “zone one is painted green for 1315.” Through the barrier, Norrie meets a man claiming to be her father, Michael, even though she believed that she came from an anonymous donor. The man shows Norrie a picture of him with her mother. Jim interrupts Lester preaching to the citizens about “MOAB.” Lester tells Jim that if he does not come clean publicly within one day about his involvement in the drug business, then Lester will do it for him.
Linda tells Julia that she was unable to tell her husband Rusty about his brother Freddy’s death. Norrie runs away when her mothers arrive at the barrier and confront the girl’s birth father on the other side. Julia’s sister-in-law Mary shows Julia a typed Dear John letter supposedly from Julia’s husband Peter. Using sign language, Dodee communicates to her mother through the barrier. Barbie pulls back a woman from getting too close to the wall. As a police officer, Junior tells Barbie to leave the woman be. Linda finally tells Rusty about Freddy’s death. Norrie and Joe learn from Ben that rumors say the United States government did not create the dome. Barbie recruits Dodee as a lip reader. Through the barrier, Barbie shows a soldier his token from a military unit known as The Lucky Thirteenth, also called the Jackrabbits. The soldier tells them that the military is evacuating the area without plans to ever return. Barbie interprets Lester’s raving about MOAB as actually being a reference to “Mother of All Bombs.” He then connects that the military plans to launch a thermobaric missile at the dome and kill everyone inside. Visitor’s Day was so that families could say goodbye.
Jim, Linda, Dodee, and Barbie plan to evacuate the residents into the tunnels of the old cement factory. Julia makes an emergency announcement to the town over the radio about taking shelter at Sanders Cement Works. Jim finally frees Angie. Barbie tells Julia that his unit was once involved in a friendly fire incident. Junior learns that his father let Angie go. Phil queues up music for the final broadcast. Angie looks for her family at home, but finds Junior waiting for her with a gun.
Barbie returns Phil’s grandfather’s antique watch to the DJ as a token of leaving his work as an enforcer. Angie embraces Junior after he makes an emotional plea. Julia and Barbie make amends over a bottle of wine in the shelter. Alice and Carolyn frantically search for Norrie and Joe. When no one is allowed to leave the shelter, Barbie follows Julia through another route that she found on her previous trip to the tunnels with Junior. The other residents wait underground for the missile to strike. Joe and Norrie kiss as the missile hits the dome, and they do not have a seizure. Chester’s Mill is unaffected by the missile. Julia and Barbie hold hands at the barrier and see that the area outside the dome is in ruins. Lester confronts Jim with another threat at the barrier wall. Jim pushes Lester’s head against the wall and lets the dome kill the reverend by exploding his hearing aid.
Forget about uncontrolled fires, meningitis outbreaks, and impending missile strikes. The greater threat facing Chester’s Mill is the cliff dive in story and characterization quality that has been ongoing since initially bolting out of the gate so fiercely. As with the previous episode, the meta storyline regarding the dome in episode five crawls forward barely an inch while the plot-of-the-week arcs in a complete circle that adds only minor significance to the overall mythology.
The inclusion of a music piece by master composer Beethoven is more fitting than the creators may realize. “Blue on Blue” is masterful in the way that it composes a textbook arrangement of contrived story beats and conveniently timed dramatic moments of ultimately little impact.
With the possible exception of “Big Jim” Rennie, “Under the Dome” is on a path of homogenizing each character ever closer to a grey line between black and white. That line may as well be beige to signify the increase in boring personalities that comes with an inability for anyone to fall on one side of good or evil.
As the first character introduced in the series, Barbie was once seen coolly burying bodies, brandishing weapons, and engaging in fistfights with all comers. His intentions since have been so sincerely rooted in efforts to assist the Chester’s Mill population that his selfish interests have been abandoned in favor of becoming a vanilla “good guy.” Julia was on pace to let her nosy journalistic instincts lead her into troublesome situations when she was not uncovering mysterious conspiracies. Yet she is so enraptured with being unable to see the truth about her husband, which is right in front of her face, that her character is becoming nearly as lifeless as her spouse.
Conflict is the root of drama. Julia and Barbie’s possibly burgeoning romance suffered its greatest setback when she booted him from her house. Barbie flashed his legbreaker background when he threatened Phil about cluing Julia into the gambling operation. With Angie and Junior, and also Junior and Big Jim, the bomb shelter imprisonment subplot had all the power to put irreparable chasms between more than one pair of characters. Except “Blue on Blue” undoes every one of these conflicts in one subterranean scene of the town waiting out a missile blast.
Julia and Barbie make amends over a paper cup of wine. Barbie relinquishes his past by returning the antique watch that Phil had once used as debt payment. And after escaping days of imprisonment at the hands of both Junior and his father, Angie flees to find Junior waiting to capture her yet again. Apparently though, it is time for bygones to be bygones. The story of her kidnap, chaining, and near drowning comes to a close as she comforts her captor in a gentle embrace while waiting for the world to end. Just like that, it is as if none of these previous storylines had ever occurred.
Only five episodes into a thirteen episode season, the idea that an incoming missile may kill everyone inside the dome is a silly notion to fuel suspense. Though contrived ideas are largely what fuels this entire hour. Since Julia has displaced the people who had actual job duties at the radio station, episode five remembers that actress Jolene Purdy is a top billed cast member and gives her character Dodee her first meaningful thing to do. Conveniently, Dodee is fluent in lip reading as well as sign language, allowing her to interpret a soldier’s verbal cues from the other side of the barrier. Norrie’s birth father makes a timely arrival to introduce a candidate for most uninteresting subplot thus far. And hitting the audience over the head with repeated reminders about the dome frying electronic devices and Reverend Coggin’s hearing aid being battery powered finally pays off in a scene that a blind man saw coming since episode two.
Whether panicking over an escaped cop killer or being unable to leave a quarantine, Chester’s Mill had previously been poised to start a riot at the drop of a pin. After all, how many times has Big Jim had to talk everyone down with a speech? Now the populace is totally pacified. With the promise of finally seeing friends and relatives after a week without contact from the outside world, there is no mad dash to cluster into the 30-foot wide street where the meetings take place. No one elbows for more room or shoves anyone out of turn. The residents are as orderly as can be. Ditto for moving everyone to shelter underground in the most calm manner possible for a town prepared to die within the next 15 minutes.
Episode five is more alarming than the threat of a thermobaric missile. “Under the Dome” once promised post-apocalyptic thrills and social commentary without the use of zombies. But the fervor that should be driving townspeople into “Lord of the Flies” territory has subsided into peaceful order and routine network television. Meanwhile, characters are gelling into responsible Average Joes instead of splintering into rival factions. Maybe it is refreshing to see people behaving like civilized humans in the face of extraordinary circumstances. Too bad it does not translate into exciting entertainment on the other side of the screen.
Episode 6 - The Endless Thirst
Director: Kari Skogland
Writer: Soo Hugh
Summary: Chester’s Mill is thrown into panic when the water tower goes down and the lake is discovered to be polluted.
Residents view the missile damage outside the dome and learn that Reverend Coggins has died. They begin to worry about depleted food supplies and electricity. Norrie reunites with her mothers. Linda realizes that she cannot obtain a radio frequency. She recruits Barbie as a deputy, although he refuses a badge. Angie clubs Junior with a snow globe and runs away. In town, Alice stumbles out of Carolyn’s car in a diabetes-induced daze. A truck swerves to miss her and crashes into the water tower.
After surveying the downed water tower, Linda and Barbie head to the water source at Lake East Point. Julia and Phil learn that something is jamming the radio broadcast. Dodee rigs a yagi antenna to find the source of the jam. Linda mentions to Barbie that she has noticed a spark between he and Julia. She and Barbie then discover that all of the fish at the lake are dead. Norrie, Joe, and Carolyn learn that Alice is out of insulin and that the clinic has exhausted its supply. Linda and Barbie report their findings to Big Jim. Jim suggests obtaining water from a well on Ollie Dinsmore’s farm. Shopkeeper Terry refuses cash as payment for water and supplies, insisting instead on batteries or propane. Barbie turns down Linda’s offer of a gun. They both worry that the town is on the verge of panic.
Jim and Ollie argue about the water in Ollie’s well. They make a tentative deal to exchange propane for water. Junior arrives at the store as looters begin to riot. Norrie takes Joe to find insulin using the medical files of Chester’s Mill’s 23 resident diabetics. Angie escapes to The Sweetbriar Rose and tells Rose about her captivity. Norrie and Joe break into Ray Garcia’s house, but he drives them away at gunpoint. The rioting and looting in town worsens. Brothers Clint and Waylon Dundee break into The Sweetbriar Rose looking for food. They kill Rose with a baseball bat and knock Angie unconscious.
Linda tries to clear the crowd with riot gear, but the tear gas is ineffective. Norrie and Joe enter an unlocked home and Norrie removes all of the insulin from the refrigerator. They are confronted by a little boy and realize that the insulin is for him. Norrie asks Joe to put the insulin back, but she keeps one bottle. The boy’s mother comes home and angrily dismisses the teens. Julia and Dodee follow the yagi antenna and realize that it leads to Joe and Norrie. Jim brings propane to Ollie, but Ollie demands a weekly delivery. The two men threaten each other. Clint watches the door as Waylon attempts to rape Angie while she is unconscious. Norrie and Joe tell Julia and Dodee about their seizures. Barbie finds Rose’s body and stops Waylon from raping Angie while Clint escapes. Linda prepares to quell the rioting with gunfire just as a rainstorm breaks.
Jim offers to take Angie to the clinic. Upset over Rose’s death, Jim tells Barbie and Linda to find the Dundee brothers. Norrie and Joe touch the dome together and the radio jamming stops. Julia tells Dodee that no one can learn about the teens’ connection to the dome out of fear for Joe and Norrie’s safety. The town collects rainwater in buckets and garbage cans. Alice begins recovering after the insulin dose. Barbie and Julia kiss. Angie regains consciousness in the Rennie household. Big Jim proposes a deal where he promises to keep her safe from Junior in exchange for her silence. Junior comes home to find the two of them in conversation.
Chester’s Mill proceeds in an orderly march to an underground bunker when a thermobaric missile promises to extinguish all life in their small town. Residents also band together in solidarity as a fire consumes one of their homes. They can even be talked down from strangling one another while trapped in a quarantined clinic as a meningitis outbreak runs rampant. But five minutes into learning that they may eventually run low on water at some point in the near future and the residents lose their collective marbles.
It is high time that the townspeople finally snap under the unimaginable stresses that must come with being sealed without explanation inside an impenetrable bubble. It could even be argued that they have held it together fairly well thus far, all things considered. But the 180 degree turn into panic, looting, rioting, and raping that takes place so abruptly in “The Endless Thirst” is one more chalk mark in the column of, “would people really react like that?” “Under the Dome” has gained some unfavorable notoriety amongst its critics for debatable character behavior, and this episode pours more gasoline onto that fire.
Having reached the halfway point in the season, the problem that “Under the Dome” continues to have is with sustaining interest in plots that begin and end in the same episode. End credits roll with the sense that little was accomplished in the five segments that just transpired. More careful reflection reveals that what takes place is often not entirely dependent upon the dome. A medical epidemic and subsequent quarantine can take place regardless of the physical barrier. Granted, the dome is somehow related to each episode’s new problem, but besides segregating Chester’s Mill from outside aid, it may not be having another effect.
Unless the dome is directly responsible for certain questionable actions, such as Alice’s timely stumble into the street that allows a truck to barrel into the water tower. Exactly where was an appliance truck headed in the middle of this crisis anyway? Did someone in Chester’s Mill order delivery of a brand new washer and dryer?
This episode’s B and C plots continue the wheel spinning that has become an unfortunate characteristic of the show’s storylines. Alice succumbs to a lack of insulin only to have the day rescued by the story’s end. Angie is such a constant magnet for trouble that it is logical to conclude she might be what attracted the dome in the first place. She has been beat up and knocked out more times than Mike Tyson. And Julia and Barbie’s “will they/won’t they” seesaw teeters into “will they” territory for the moment, rendering moot much of the drama that has come between them in previous hours. Once again, “Under the Dome” leaves things at a resting place nearly identical to its previous continuation point, while the main storyline adds only one grain of sand to its overall weight.
Consider that the title of the episode is “The Endless Thirst.” When Ollie’s well and a sudden rainfall provide two quick and convenient solutions to the problem, what about the prospective drought actually qualifies as “endless?”
Episode six airs on a day when word breaks that “Under the Dome” will have a second season. That may be welcome news for diehard fans of the series, but it arrives as a concern for those expecting a more concisely serialized story arc. With the finish line moving further into the distance, the writers now have an even greater challenge at hand. They must convince viewers that an endgame is somewhere in the line of sight, and that each successive episode will not just be a forgettable threat of the week that leaves without a trace after its 60 minutes have expired.
Episode 7 - Imperfect Circles
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Writer: Caitlin Parrish
Summary: The dome brings a new life into Chester's Mill, but takes another one away.
Norrie convinces Joe to go with her to the dome and figure out its connection to them. Julia and Barbie wake in bed together. Julia’s pregnant neighbor Harriet comes over to borrow yogurt and sees Barbie leave. Angie overhears Big Jim berating and slapping Junior before kicking him out of the house. Because he owns the Sweetbriar Rose, Jim gives Angie the key so that she can recover Rose’s body in the restaurant’s kitchen. On her way home from Julia’s, Harriet thinks that she sees her sailor husband Greg. Reaching out to him, Harriet actually touches the dome and her water breaks, despite it being six weeks early. Julia comes to her aid.
Barbie agrees to go on a deputy patrol while Linda and Junior search for the Dundee brothers. Julia drives Harriet to the clinic. Angie finds Joe’s friend Ben inside the Sweetbriar Rose. Together, they bury Rose and clean up the restaurant. Jim visits Ollie while the farmer gives out well water to townspeople. Ollie implies that he no longer needs Jim because he has taken over the councilman’s propane supply. Norrie and Joe make out while touching the dome, but nothing happens. They decide to look for the dome’s nucleus instead. Jim finds a man named Boomer guarding Jim’s propane with a gun on Ollie’s orders. Boomer beats Jim with his gun when Jim tries to retake control. Barbie follows suspicious activity at the gas station. Junior wants to kill the Dundee brothers for what they did to Rose and Angie, but Linda insists on a lawful arrest. Julia and Harriet are ambushed at a roadblock set by the Dundee boys to steal gas from passing vehicles.
Barbie arrives and disrupts the heist. The Dundees escape. Recalling that Alice is a doctor and is staying at the McAllisters, Julia and Barbie escort Harriet there on foot. Junior suspects that the Dundees are hiding at the salvage yard. Truman the dog acts strangely as Joe and Norrie approach the epicenter of the dome. Jim finds Angie and Ben at Rose’s restaurant before taking a bottle of alcohol. Alice and Carolyn share a private moment before Harriet arrives with her escorts. At the dome’s epicenter, Joe and Norrie discover a smaller dome that appears to have a black egg inside of it.
Ollie visits Jim to gloat about the shift in power. Linda and Junior come upon Clint and Waylon at gunpoint. Linda kills one of the brothers when he tries to escape. Junior hunts down and executes the other Dundee, even though he attempts to surrender peacefully. Joe and Norrie try communicating with the small dome. They have a vision of Norrie’s mother, which gives Norrie a premonition that something bad is going to happen to Alice. Alice becomes ill while delivering Harriet’s baby and Barbie takes over. Jim shoots Boomer’s truck while he loads propane and Boomer dies in the explosion. After a complication with the umbilical cord, Barbie delivers Harriet’s daughter. She names the girl Alice. The adult Alice’s illness then worsens.
Junior comes to the restaurant. He apologizes to Angie and then tells her that she no longer has to fear the Dundees. Norrie and Joe rush home. Alice has a heartfelt conversation with her daughter before she dies. Angie comes home and reunites with her brother. Unable to cope with her mother’s death, Norrie runs outside where she pleads with the dome to let her mother live. Glowing pink stars ascend from the bottom of the egg at the dome’s epicenter and converge at its top.
The dome giveth and the dome taketh away. The mysterious barrier that has permanently changed the lives of everyone in Chester’s Mill is truly the town’s new god as it is now making decisions about who lives, who dies, and when.
It should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the credits that Alice is the character now taking a dirt nap after the events of “Imperfect Circles.” Despite appearing more often and in more episodes than Jolene Purdy, who receives top billing as Dodee, Samantha Manthis’ name has lingered long at the forefront of the “Guest Starring” list. That distinction made it obvious that she would not be making Chester’s Mill her permanent residence. Neither did the obligatory scene of her tender moment with Aisha Hinds’ Carolyn. Finally devoting so much attention to their romance in an effort to tug at the heartstrings was a telltale sign that Alice’s time had finally come.
When Sheriff Perkins’ pacemaker burst unexpectedly at the conclusion of the pilot episode, there was a sense that no one was safe and that anything goes under the dome. Particularly since the creators smartly kept actor Jeff Fahey’s name in the main credits, thereby cloaking his untimely demise. “Under the Dome” should circle back to this little trick, lest the credits start tipping off the audience early about character fates.
Otherwise, the safe bet is that Samantha Mathis’ fellow guest star Leon Rippy might want his character of scheming farmer Ollie Dinsmore to accelerate the speed with which he is crossing items off his bucket list. Now that Ollie has purposefully put himself on the wrong side of Big Jim, his days are most assuredly numbered. In the meantime, Ollie has taken up the mantle laid down by Reverend Coggins as the perpetual thorn in the senior Rennie’s side. Lacking Lester’s bible thumping kookiness, Ollie makes for a better-matched adversary, even if the old man is currently in the dark that murder is the new trick up Big Jim’s sleeve when it comes to getting what he wants.
Which leads to a curious notion about Junior being a chip off the old block. Is Big Jim so quick to raise a hand to his son because he sees his own psychopathic DNA falling not far from the tree? Many viewers felt imprisoned alongside Angie by the Junior-as-tormenting-captor storyline, but the dark sides to the Rennie men are among the more compelling character facets of any Chester’s Mill residents. Or certainly the ones with the most storyline potential as the series grows down the line.
Particularly when characters like Barbie are trading in their executioner robes for a midwife’s apron. The Rennies at least indulge their demons and offer conflicted psyches and motivations for dramatic conflict. Other characters are content to slip down the slide into milquetoast by becoming human yawn makers. Watching Barbie deal with a problematic umbilical cord for sixty seconds in an already overextended birthing scene is not the level of entertainment that is going to transform “Under the Dome” into “must see” television. Maybe some enjoy seeing Barbie play the hero no matter what his good deed of the week is. But there are only so many times he can be in the right place at the right time before everyone finds his convenient arrivals passé.
And that is another question. What exactly is the size of Chester’s Mill that it is big enough to necessitate an organized manhunt, but small enough that Barbie finds a chance to be a guardian angel around every corner? Or is it that similar to the personality traits of its characters, facts such as geography are just one more detail that fluctuates according to the needs of the script? One wonders.
Episode 8 - Thicker Than Water
Director: Jack Bender
Writer: Adam Stein
Summary: The battle over Ollie’s well reaches a breaking point that impacts several key relationships.
Woken by a noise in the house, Big Jim draws a gun on an intruder who turns out to be his son. Jim compares Junior’s “out of his mind” behavior with that of the boy’s deceased mother. Jim reaffirms his dismissal of Junior as his son. Junior threatens his father to never disparage his mother again. A Monarch butterfly flutters in the sky while Barbie digs a grave for Alice. Angie avoids Joe’s question about where she has been. She and her brother go to the diner for food. Still grieving over her mother, Norrie snaps at Joe. At the diner, Angie tells Jim to maintain his end of the deal about keeping Junior away from her. Angie also asks the councilman for assistance with reopening Rose’s diner. Jim decides to make a deal with Ollie for food. Julia sees Joe drawing the egg from the woods. Meanwhile, the egg in the forest glows pink.
Ollie refuses to negotiate with Jim. Barbie agrees to be a freelance deputy. He and Linda find Junior taking a gun from a cabinet in the police station. Linda tells Junior that he is on probation and indefinitely suspended from carrying a weapon. Enacting the town’s bylaws on eminent domain, Jim recruits Linda and Barbie to help him seize Ollie’s farm for the good of the town. Norrie blames Joe for her mother’s death because it was his idea to visit the center of the dome. Along with Junior and Carter, Jim takes Linda and Barbie to Ollie’s farm. Farmers dependent upon Ollie’s well for irrigation take up arms against Jim’s gang. When Jim and the others refuse to leave, Ollie instructs a farmer named Wendell to shoot Carter’s kneecap. In the ensuing standoff, Junior turns his allegiance to Ollie. On Ollie’s command, Junior strips his father of his gun. Ollie then orders everyone to leave.
Joe accidentally tells Julia about the egg while she consoles him over Norrie’s alienating behavior. Julia insists that Joe take her to the egg. Jim decides to recruit a posse and take Ollie’s well by force. Barbie comes up with an alternative plan to destroy the well and divert the water supply to other reservoirs. Jim insists on taking the well with guns. Barbie decides to blow up the well himself. Ollie tells Junior that his mother’s car accident death was actually a suicide. Junior tells Ollie that he wants to be the one who kills his father. When Julia touches the mini-dome in the forest, she sees a doppelganger of Joe that says, “the monarch will be crowned.”
Julia learns that Joe and Norrie saw Alice when they touched the mini-dome. Barbie sneaks onto Ollie’s farm and begins preparing the explosives. Angie and Norrie share a bonding moment. The two girls release their stress by shattering Angie’s snow globe collection against the dome. Norrie has an emotional breakdown when she picks up a Los Angeles snow globe. Jim’s posse raids Ollie’s farm and a firefight begins. Phil is wounded by a bullet. After fighting one of Ollie’s men, Barbie succeeds in blowing up the well. Both posses retreat, but Junior captures his father.
The other farmers abandon Ollie as he can no longer supply them with water. In Ollie’s house, Junior confronts Big Jim at gunpoint about his mother’s death. Jim reveals that he never told Junior about the suicide because he did not want him to know that his mother chose to abandon them through her death. When Ollie makes a move to execute Jim, Junior kills Ollie. Norrie apologizes to Joe and announces that she is ready to bury her mother. Barbie pays Jim a visit about how they both handled the well. Both men make veiled threats at each other. Linda learns that Junior is homeless. Julia repeats the monarch line to Barbie. A butterfly tattoo is shown on Angie’s left shoulder.
At some point during a writer’s room retreat, the creators of “Under the Dome” mutually agreed that tension on their show would mainly come from having one character point a weapon at another character. The townspeople of Chester’s Mill may be the only group of people on planet Earth rivaling the NRA for having an unnatural love affair with guns. Of the eight episodes aired thus far, there have been no fewer than thirty instances of residents leveling rifles, pistols, and shotguns at each other. It happens so often that it makes one wonder what the writers would do to create drama if no one in Chester’s Mill had a gun.
With any luck, someone on the production team will realize this pattern and there will finally be a story involving a peril of a different kind. If for no other reason than the scriptwriters are going to wear out the keyboard letters needed to type, “points a gun.”
For the record, the pilot has been the only episode to date that has not featured someone drawing a weapon. That makes seven consecutive hours where the threat of fired bullets has been the series’ crutch for artificial suspense.
Until “Thicker Than Water,” most of those triggers were never pulled. While the domed denizens have previously engaged in more standoffs than in all of Mexican history, episode eight ups the ante with a firefight that sees those weapons put to a more lethal use than making another not-so-veiled threat.
As has become par for the course with dangers of the week on “Under the Dome,” the blazing battle of flashing muzzles and popping echoes is mostly for naught in a resolution that makes the gunplay a mere smokescreen of action. As Jim and Ollie’s respective posses play a real-life version of Cowboys and Indians, Barbie sneaks onto the farm and mixes perfect amounts of fertilizer and ammonium nitrate to create the dynamite that destroys Ollie’s well completely.
Is there anything that this man cannot do? For someone capable of delivering a baby, tracking fugitives in a forest, and generally always knowing how to be in the right place at the right time, it seems that his immense talents were wasted on a career as a bookie’s legbreaker. If Barbie were suddenly called upon to perform a demonic exorcism, solve the second Zodiac cipher, or operate the Large Hadron Collider, no one should be surprised. Though tasks requiring too much brainpower might be outside of his wheelhouse. His real knack appears to be in anything involving ammunition or demolition.
Because one of the few things that Chester’s Mill’s populace does as well as reaching for a holster is thinking like a hammer when it comes to solving a problem. Big Jim bulldozing a home on fire. Reverend Coggins burning the drugstore supplies. Big Jim firing at a truck stealing propane. Forget about being creative. It is always much faster and far easier to simply tear something down or blow something up. Could destructive urges be tainting Ollie Dinsmore’s well water? Then again, even the government’s solution for eradicating the dome involved a thermobaric missile, so perhaps the fault for seeing everything as a nail lies with the show’s creators rather than its characters.
Although it is certainly no secret that these people do possess a tendency to act strangely. Making a list of all the bizarre behavior in Chester’s Mill could be a full time job for anyone foolish enough to make the attempt. Among the eyebrow raising questions anyone could ask is why the actors in the main credits have the only characters that ever do anything. What is everyone up to all day that teenager Joe McAllister is the sole person who has thought to investigate what lies at the center of the dome?
Speaking of full time jobs, one might also think that everyone would want to put their heads together on a committee to extricate themselves from their predicament. Unless they are content to loot one another dry and wait for Julia to broadcast a crumb of news over the airwaves. Come to think of it, that may be asking too much. It could very well be that people are just too comfortable staring down the barrel of a loaded gun to concern themselves with doing anything else. Or at least the writers seem to think so.
Episode 9 - The Fourth Hand
Director: Roxann Dawson
Writer: Daniel Truly
Summary: The egg disappears from the forest and a mystery woman with ties to Big Jim suddenly makes her presence known.
Julia takes Barbie to the egg in the forest, but discovers that it is missing. Linda calls Barbie over the walkie-talkie for his assistance with a shooting incident. Joe and Norrie ponder the monarch riddle. Big Jim tells Angie that he has struck a deal for food with the local farmers. Angie tells Jim that she wants the deed to become the official owner of Rose’s diner. Linda and Barbie learn that Ted Utley shot Mr. Feldman accidentally because Ted was firing randomly at a “freak” ranting about messages from the dome after invading Ted’s home. Linda realizes that Ted’s intruder is a tweaker named Larry. Larry tells her and Barbie about a drug called “rapture” that Reverend Coggins sold out of his funeral home. Junior comes to the diner to see Angie when she suddenly has a seizure and mutters, “the pink stars are falling in lines.” Big Jim comes home to an open front door. With his gun drawn, Jim learns that his intruder is a woman who is familiar to him.
Angie panics when she awakens in the back of Junior’s police car, but he drops her off at her home after telling her about the seizure. Julia tells Joe and Norrie that the egg is missing and that they need to find it. Angie comes in and tells them about her seizure. She then learns that Norrie and her brother have had the same seizure. Norrie sees the butterfly tattoo on Angie’s shoulder, but Joe points out that it is not a Monarch. Norrie thinks Dodee’s yagi antenna can help them find the egg. Julia agrees to ask Dodee about it. The mystery woman at Jim’s house is revealed to be Maxine. She came to town to check on her drug operation, but has remained out of sight since the dome came down. Linda and Barbie find drug-making equipment in a coffin at Coggins’ funeral home. Liquid propane is revealed as a vital ingredient in the rapture drug. Dodee tells Julia that the yagi has been broken since Norrie and Joe touched the dome. Dodee is still wary about the two teens. Jim learns about the incident at Ted Utley’s. Jim proposes a program for residents to voluntarily trade their guns for food and propane.
Jim announces the firearm turn-in program on the radio. Barbie sticks close to Jim. Maxine hides a handgun in her glove compartment. Julia tells Joe and Norrie that the yagi is supposedly broken, if Dodee is to be believed. Norrie suggests using Truman’s dog nose to look for the egg. Linda investigates the propane warehouse while Junior tells Angie that he has something to show her. During the gun collection at the diner, Jim learns that Ted Utley has vowed not to turn in his weapons. Barbie accompanies Jim on a visit to Ted’s place. Truman is unable to track a scent in the forest. At the propane warehouse, neighbor Mrs. Grinnell tells Linda that Duke Perkins was in on whatever is going on with the propane stockpile. Ted Utley fires at Jim’s car as it pulls up to his house.
Junior takes Angie to his mother’s studio and shows her a painting that his mother once made of him looking at a sky filled with pink stars. While Jim talks to Ted inside the house, Barbie talks up a sniping position outside. Jim learns that Ted has been suicidal over the loss of his family. Jim stops Ted from blowing them both up with a grenade. Linda examines security camera footage from the warehouse and sees Duke meeting with Maxine. Junior believes that his mother’s painting and Angie’s seizure connects the two of them. Maxine comes by the diner while Jim and Barbie stock Utley’s weapons. Maxine kisses Barbie and Jim learns that Barbie has been working for her. Truman leads Norrie and Joe to the McAlister barn where they find the egg.
Maxine blackmails Jim and Barbie for her illicit operations and continued drug running in Chester’s Mill under the threat of revealing their secrets. Maxine also threatens to tell Julia that Barbie killed her husband. Angie tells Joe that he brought the egg to the barn while under a trance the previous night. Barbie is distracted during a conversation with Julia. Junior discovers his father stockpiling weapons in the bunker, including Ted’s grenade. Joe, Norrie, and Angie touch the mini-dome simultaneously. A spot for a fourth hand appears on one side and the trio realizes that a fourth person will help them unlock the egg.
The dome itself is still completely intact, but there happens to be at least one gaping hole in the creative tools at the disposal of “Under the Dome.” That hole is the fact that without a literal or figurative doorway to let people in or out of the bubble, the cast of characters should be set in stone until/unless the wall comes down. This problematic side effect of the show’s premise becomes glaringly obvious in episode nine with the ridiculously sudden appearance of actress Natalie Zea as Maxine.
How is it that Maxine has remained a previously unknown victim of the dome until now? It seems that while the rest of the town contracted meningitis, rioted over a food and water shortage, and collectively sheltered underground in preparation for a deadly missile strike, Maxine was safely out of sight in a house that she presumed to be abandoned. Apparently she has been perfectly content to be the only person uninterested in investigating the edge of the dome, the constant gunfire, the daily explosions, and the birth of the apocalypse in general.
It is doubtful that the show has answers for how Maxine acquired food, water, and power while being a phantom, so there is probably no point in even asking the questions. Just as there is likely no point in asking why she was immune to the outbreak, why she was unconcerned about bunkering for the doomsday missile blast, or how she manages to keep her hair, makeup, and wardrobe so perfectly styled.
After eight days in hiding under the dome, Maxine pops up her head with a claim that she was only in the area to see Big Jim and to check on her drug running operation. Big Jim is the easiest man to find in Chester’s Mill, so why she has waited until- Oh, right. Ask a stupid question…
Almost as convenient as her surprising entrance are her secretive ties to both Big Jim Rennie and to Barbie. Maxine comes with the accessory of a powerful amount of sway over the two men. And the buck does not stop there. For someone who crept from the shadows, she already has her fingers in an awful lot of pies. Maxine also appears on the propane warehouse’s security camera footage with the late sheriff Duke Perkins, and he has been dead since the first episode. What unfortunate luck for Maxine that Linda stumbles across this recorded evidence on the very day that the mystery woman decides to reveal herself.
Despite being relegated to a position entrenched underground, Maxine has nonetheless been able to stay current on the town’s affairs, even the ones that take place behind closed doors. Somehow, she is completely up to speed on Barbie’s fling with Julia Shumway, giving Maxine one more card for her back pocket.
Someone might think that since only two people know about her existence thus far, and since those are the same two people that she is in a position to blackmail, they can solve their mutual problem quite easily by making Maxine “disappear.” Not so fast. Maxine is crafty and she has thought ahead. She has an “insurance policy” that guarantees Big Jim and Barbie will still have their secrets spilled publicly if Maxine ends up murdered. Seeing as how no one outside the dome could possibly confirm that she was dead unless the barrier came down, the only way that Maxine could actually enact such a plan is if someone else inside the dome knew about everything she had going on with the two men. But since she has not yet- Oh, yeah. There it is with the questions again. I suppose it is best to not wander off too far ahead of the overall plotline. Especially since it seems that the story has yet to think it all the way through, too.
I can sympathize with the writers being backed into a corner where adding to the core character set is virtually impossible given the very concept of the dome. But if they plan on introducing any new actors in major roles as characters that have not yet appeared, they had better create a more rational explanation by the time of the next unexpected arrival. A dome falling out of the sky from nowhere is one thing. A person falling out of the woodwork from nowhere is something else.
Episode 10 - Let the Games Begin
Director: Sergio Mimica-Gezzan
Writer: Andres Fisher-Centeno, Peter Calloway
Summary: The identity of the fourth hand is revealed while Maxine recruits Barbie as a fighter for her underground arena.
Joe, Norrie, and Angie awaken in the barn after spending the night there. They see a caterpillar inside the mini-dome and Joe notices that it will become a Monarch butterfly. Dodee, who has been spying on the trio, waits for them to leave before searching the barn. Barbie and Big Jim plot to uncover the “insurance policy” that Maxine claims will reveal their secrets if she dies. At the town clerk’s office, the men discover real estate records for a house that Maxine owns on Bird Island near the town. Maxine enters and gives Jim a list of luxury supplies that she wants him to find for her. She also forces Barbie to come with her for another task. Dodee touches the mini-dome and it burns her hand while shocking her into an unconscious state. Hearing the loud sound of the electric pulse, Joe, Norrie, and Angie return to the barn and find Dodee lying unresponsive.
The three teens take Dodee to the clinic. Unable to recall what happened to her, Dodee thinks that she shocked herself on the generator outside the radio station. The three teens play along with her assumption. Angie asks Nurse Adams if any other residents have had seizures. The nurse responds, “not since your tenth grade dance,” which upsets Angie. Linda and Julia discuss the claims of Andrea Grinnell and start investigating Duke’s connection to the mysterious woman and the drug supply. On a hunch, Linda finds a safe deposit box key inside Duke’s old hat. Junior chases down a man acting suspicious. Junior finds that the man shoplifted salt, which he cryptically says he needs to be allowed into the cement factory. Maxine takes Barbie to the factory and he discovers that she has created an arena where residents wager supplies on underground fights.
Big Jim takes a boat across the lake to the house from the real estate records. He meets the home’s caretaker, Agatha, and asks if the property belongs to Maxine Seagrave. Agatha claims that the house belongs to a man named Oliver Luckland. Angie reveals to Joe and Norrie that Junior had a seizure at her tenth grade dance, indicating that he must be the fourth hand. She also tells them about her captivity, which angers Joe. The doorman punches Junior when he tries to enter the cement factory. Maxine blackmails Barbie into a fight with Victor Rawlins as the main event. While Big Jim searches the island house, he finds a picture of Agatha with a young woman. Agatha enters holding a rifle and admits to Jim that she is actually Maxine’s mother.
Holding Jim at gunpoint, Agatha reveals that she was a girl named Claire who went to high school with Big Jim. She dropped out when she became pregnant with Maxine and has never forgiven Chester’s Mill for making her a pariah. Big Jim tricks her into revealing that Barbie killed Julia’s husband. Jim eventually takes the gun from Agatha and turns it on her. Angie takes Joe and Norrie to Junior’s mother’s studio and shows them the painting of Junior and the pink stars. Junior enters. After a struggle with Joe, Angie tells Junior how the four of them are connected. Barbie throws the fight with Rawlins. Maxine reveals that she bet against Barbie because she knew he would not want her to win. In Duke’s safe deposit box, Linda finds a souvenir sheriff’s badge that she gave to Duke after his heart surgery. Julia reads a letter from Duke in which he confesses that he allowed Jim Rennie to stockpile propane for Maxine’s drug operation provided that the drugs were never distributed in Chester’s Mill. Duke made the deal to honor his son who died from a drug addiction. Rev. Coggins is identified as the money launderer. Julia opens her own safe deposit box and finds a life insurance policy for her husband. With Agatha’s hands tied, Big Jim takes her by boat back to Chester’s Mill. When she falls overboard accidentally, Jim leaves her there to drown.
Maxine again threatens to reveal Barbie as Peter Shumway’s killer if he does not continue doing what she says. Barbie ignores her. Linda confronts Big Jim at his house. He asks her for the courtesy of allowing him another night at home and agrees to meet her at the police station the next morning. Barbie confesses his role in Peter’s death to Julia. Julia shows Barbie that she found Peter’s gun was missing but all of the bullets were still in the house. She realizes that Peter wanted Barbie to kill him so that Julia could receive the insurance payout. Julia forgives Barbie as an unknowing participant in Peter’s death and indicates that she wants their romance to move forward. Back at the McAlister barn, the caterpillar has entered a chrysalis. Joe, Norrie, Angie, and Junior touch their hands to the mini-dome. The egg sparks up and projects pink stars forming constellations all around them, but they do not know what it means.
If and when the dome around Chester’s Mill comes down, and assuming that she lasts that long, Maxine really should consider a career change to professional espionage or clandestine black ops. Not only has she remained an undetected ghost for the past nine days while still sniffing out hidden personal details on the residents, but she has also managed to somehow turn the cement factory into a bloodsport arena in record time considering it substituted for a fallout shelter during the recent missile strike. If she is good enough to create an underground coliseum without anyone noticing during the several previous instances of tunnel exploration, then she is good enough to carry out government wetwork.
Although the moment that betrays her deviously scheming intellect is when Big Jim Rennie balks at being her personal shopper when she gives him a grocery list for luxury items like espresso and dark chocolate. As an incentive to comply, Maxine pulls out a mention of her “insurance policy” that threatens to ruin Jim and Barbie by exposing their dirty laundry. Acquiring silk-infused conditioner seems like a petty reason to play that wild card so early. Maybe that should have stayed up her sleeve for a more lucrative opportunity, no? Then again, for no discernible reason, she did happen to know that Big Jim and Barbie were going to be at the town clerk’s office, so her omnipotent powers should probably not be questioned.
Maxine’s time at the top of the Chester’s Mill power pyramid may be coming to a quick end anyway. Tired of being tugged around by the secret hanging over his head, Barbie comes clean with Julia about being the triggerman in her husband’s death. For a woman whose husband has only been out of the picture for a week and a half, she takes the news that she has been bedding his murderer quite well. As if Barbie had just apologized for forgetting to send a card on her birthday, all appears forgiven and their romance is free to sally forth unencumbered.
Elsewhere, the cast of primary characters that are not Julia, Jim, and Barbie continues shuffling to and from the shelf on an as needed basis. Unseen since her wife Alice’s death, Carolyn remains locked away in mourning. Presumably she will stay there until the writers think of something relevant for her to do. They did finally come up with a new use for Dodee, however. Dodee’s encounter with the mini-dome has, at least temporarily, conveniently erased her as a threat to Joe and Norrie. Perhaps she can spend her recovery time keeping Carolyn company somewhere out of sight and out of mind. Phil should still be there, too.
Meanwhile, that “insurance policy” of Maxine’s now appears to be floating face down in the lake. Maxine has not been the only one hiding out in secret in a boat accessed lake house on an island that no one has previously mentioned. Maxine’s mother has been twirling a figurative mustache behind the scenes ever since she dropped out of the same high school class as Big Jim. She barely registers in his memory, but that is beside the point. Her greater purpose is to inadvertently reveal Barbie as Peter Shumway’s killer. Although now that Julia already knows the truth, it is unclear what good that little tidbit does Big Jim. He has enough hot water to worry about himself from Linda. Which also means that Maxine will need to post a help wanted sign for a new whipping boy now that Jim and Barbie both have their secrets in the open.
And to think that Big Jim lives right on the water’s edge and neither he nor anyone else has ever seen Maxine boating to and from the mainland in all this time. Is there anything the woman cannot do? Well, asides from being a believable character, of course.
Episode 11 - Speak of the Devil
Director: David Barrett
Writer: Scott Gold
Summary: The four teens receive a new message from the dome as Barbie and Big Jim plot to take down Maxine.
Joe, Norrie, Angie, and Junior stare at blots they painted in the barn to mirror the constellation patterns projected by the mini-dome. Joe theorizes that four lone stars in a line near the ground symbolize the four of them. They also discuss the possibility that the monarch may be a person. Joe decides to tell Julia. Big Jim admits his involvement in the propane and drug trade to Linda, but justifies his actions as being what is keeping the town powered while under the dome. Instead, Big Jim turns Linda’s suspicions towards Barbie. Julia asks Barbie to take her to her husband’s grave. While Barbie changes his clothes, Maxine arrives at the front door and shoots Julia.
Barbie finds Julia bleeding out from the gunshot. He calls Linda over the radio to ask for help. Junior proclaims his love for Angie while they are alone. Angie tells Junior that she will leave him forever once the dome comes down. Junior says that he will not be a part of the foursome if he cannot have her. As he leaves the barn, a storm begins forming at the top of the dome. When her police car runs out of gas, Linda recruits Phil to drive her to the Shumway residence. Joe arrives at Julia’s house. Barbie has Joe drive them to the clinic. Big Jim tells Maxine that he knows she shot Julia. Maxine threatens to hurt Junior if Big Jim steps out of line. With the storm worsening, Joe wonders if the dome is angry.
Because the clinic’s supplies have been raided, Joe helps Barbie perform field surgery on Julia. Big Jim shows his son the weapon supply in their shelter. He also tells Junior that Maxine needs to be taken down since she is a threat to their family as well as the town. Dodee picks up a military transmission that identifies Barbie as someone they are looking for. Angie comes to the Rennie home and tells Junior that she thinks the dome is angry because he left their group. After Junior saves Angie from whirlwind debris, the gathering storm dissipates. Barbie manages to save Julia after she flatlines. Since Barbie also saved Joe’s life previously, Joe believes that Barbie is the monarch sent to save everyone.
Maxine finds her mother’s dead body washed ashore with her hands bound. Barbie tells Big Jim that they are going to take down Maxine by his rules. The four teens reunite at the barn. They debate whether the storm stopped because Barbie saved Julia or because Junior returned to the group. They decide to touch the big dome together for answers. Linda and Phil examine the crime scene at Julia’s house. Phil tells Linda about Barbie’s role as a collection agent and the murder of Peter Shumway. They theorize that Barbie shot Julia when she found out what he did. Outside the cement factory, Barbie prepares a timer on the power box. He and Big Jim enter the building and are taken at gunpoint by Maxine and her business associate Otto.
Maxine reveals that Big Jim killed her mother. While aiming her gun at Barbie, Maxine tells him that they are going to be together as a couple. The power goes out when Barbie’s timer expires. Barbie and Big Jim turn the tables on their captors and escort Maxine and Otto outside at gunpoint. On Phil’s intel, Linda drives to the cement factory. Barbie prepares to turn over Maxine and Otto, but Big Jim shoots them both dead. Big Jim readies to shoot Barbie as well, but Barbie takes the weapon from him. As Barbie points the gun at Big Jim, Linda arrives and forces Barbie to surrender. Barbie hits Linda and flees. She fires at him, but Barbie escapes into the woods. Over the radio, Big Jim pins the murders of Maxine and Otto on Barbie and announces a manhunt for him. The four teens touch the dome and share a vision of Big Jim bleeding from several chest wounds. A bloody knife then appears in each teen’s hand. Junior runs to find his dad while the other three theorize that the dome wants them to kill Big Jim Rennie.
It all comes down to timing. “Speak of the Devil” overflows with serendipitous scenes that are indicative either of the dome’s well-orchestrated manipulations or of the show’s reliance on creating drama through conveniently timed coincidences. Like a Monarch butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil and creating a tornado under the dome, many moments in episode 11 come from a ripple that would play out differently if the waves were just ten seconds earlier or ten seconds later.
It starts when Barbie decides to put on his pants. The curtains were drawn, but perhaps Maxine somehow knew that Barbie was not in the room. Happy accident or careful planning, had Barbie already been clad in his dungarees, Maxine would have had a harder time finding the perfect opportunity to fire her gun at point blank range and miss Julia’s heart completely. And then like an Adam West Batman villain leaving the hero to die at the hands of some Rube Goldberg contraption, Maxine saunters away without even seeing the deed all the way through.
Good thing Joe happened to be on his way to visit Julia at that same critical moment when Barbie needed a second pair of hands to drive them to the clinic. Though if Joe had not been there, Linda would have been next in line. Roughly five seconds after discovering that her police cruiser had been siphoned clean of all its gasoline, a motorist drives by. That motorist turns out to be DJ Phil. Not only is he available to offer Linda a lift, but he also possesses the nitty gritty details of Barbie’s criminal history, which plays perfectly into the seeds of suspicion recently planted in Linda’s head by Big Jim Rennie. The town certainly is small when it needs to be.
Curse Maxine’s poor luck. Botching Julia’s murder is not the most tragic incident to befall her on this day. Out of all the stretches of sand and hours of the day for a stroll on the beach, she picks the exact time and place for her dead mother’s body to wash ashore. What are the odds of that? Better or worse than Dodee twisting radio dials at random and fortuitously picking up a military transmission at the precise instant when they mention Barbie’s name as a search target?
Yet no one learns better than Barbie that today is not a day to rely on good fortune from happenstance. Using a Windows phone to carefully time a power shutoff was tactically sound. Too bad that stroke of luck did not carry over to his pistol-packing confrontation with Big Jim. With his gun sights trained on Barbie’s heart, hopefully with better aim than Maxine could muster, Big Jim is all set to pull the trigger. But the show’s top billed star refuses to go out that easily. Barbie quickly turns the tables on Big Jim. Except that exactly nine seconds after turning his gun in Jim’s direction, Linda silently arrives on scene with her own weapon in hand. If only she had been just ten seconds earlier, she would have seen who the real enemy was. An additional ten seconds and she could have witnessed Big Jim’s execution of Maxine. Of course, then episode 12 would need a new plotline, since Barbie would not have to play Dr. Richard Kimball on the run to clear his own name.
Meanwhile, having yet another unsolicited advance met by a concrete wall that pushes back, Junior decides that if he cannot have Angie, then their dome-touching foursome can go suck an egg. Around the same time, the vengeful dome becomes angry and clouds begin swirling into a funnel. Is the storm related to Julia being shot or to Junior shunning his role as the fourth hand? That answer may have to wait for a different hour. Just as the storm’s origin coincided with the beginnings of both subplots, the three situations are resolved in a similarly simultaneous moment, as well. If just one more minute separated the events, there would be one less mystery under the dome. Although the real question left at this point is, who really pulls the strings in Chester’s Mill? The dome or the writers?
Episode 12 - Exigent Circumstances
Director: Peter Leto
Writer: Caitlin Parrish, Adam Stein
Summary: Big Jim conducts intensive searches throughout town for both Barbie and the mini-dome egg.
The egg glows inside the barn while Julia continues to lie in her coma. Gunmen search the woods for Barbie. At the Sweetbriar Rose, Big Jim rallies the townspeople behind him in his manhunt for Barbie. Carolyn voices dissent over plans to search homes illegally, but Big Jim sways the residents through an appeal to town pride. Dodee hears more military radio transmissions about Barbie as well as references to the egg. This prompts her to remember a cell phone photo she took of the egg in the McAlister’s barn. Carolyn discovers Norrie, Joe, and Angie in the barn with the mini-dome. She pledges her support to her daughter and tells the teens of Big Jim’s impending sweep of local houses. Angie suggests hiding the mini-dome at Ben’s house. Phil joins Linda in the manhunt for Barbie. Junior tells his father that Big Jim’s life is in danger. Big Jim assigns Junior to guard Julia at the clinic and to notify him immediately if she regains consciousness. Dodee tells Big Jim about the radio messages. Barbie recruits Angie to help him break Julia out of the clinic.
Junior takes up his post over Julia’s bed. Barbie lights Angie’s cigarette while they form a plan from the nearby bushes. At the radio station, Dodee shows Big Jim her photo of the egg. While Big Jim sits at the radio, Dodee overhears a transmission from military surveillance about Big Jim murdering Reverend Coggins. Big Jim tries justifying his actions to Dodee. Dodee tells him that she believes the egg is what can turn off the dome. Big Jim tells Dodee that the dome cannot come down. He ultimately shoots her and the radio before setting fire to the entire station. Angie uses her candy striper keycard to sneak her and Barbie through the clinic’s back door.
Big Jim reports the fire to Linda. Phil suspects that Barbie is responsible as he and Linda race to the scene and find Dodee’s body. Joe and Norrie hide the mini-dome under blankets in Ben’s bedroom and warn him not to touch it. Angie pretends to rekindle a romantic interest as a means of distracting Junior while Barbie absconds with Julia. Junior realizes he has been tricked when he tastes cigarettes on Angie’s lips. Carolyn is restrained when she tries to stop Big Jim from searching the barn. Big Jim’s henchmen take Joe and Norrie into custody after he does not find the egg. Outside the clinic, Barbie subdues Junior so that Angie can drive off with Julia in an ambulance. Linda and Phil arrive at the scene. After Linda cuffs Barbie, Phil kicks him in the face. Linda radios Big Jim to tell him that Barbie is in custody, but that Angie escaped with Julia.
Big Jim visits Joe and Norrie in their jail cells and tries pressuring them into revealing what they know about the egg. Norrie swipes at Big Jim with a knife, but he stops her from hurting him. As Linda locks Barbie in another cell, he attempts to swing her suspicions onto Big Jim. She refuses to listen to Barbie because of his involvement in Peter Shumway’s death. The mini-dome begins emitting shrill sounds inside Ben’s bedroom. Barbie agrees to plead guilty to all accusations against him if Big Jim agrees to release the teenagers and to not harm Julia.
Big Jim releases Joe and Norrie to Carolyn. He also tells Linda to put a tail on them. Junior confronts his father about doubts that Angie put into his head about Big Jim’s true intentions. Julia recovers in the closet at the clinic where Angie is hiding her. Junior goes to the dome in search of another vision. Carolyn, Joe, and Norrie find the egg glowing orange and making strange noises inside Ben’s room. Linda walks in on them. Expecting a public confession, Big Jim brings Barbie out on the steps of Town Hall in front of the townspeople, but Barbie announces that he is “not guilty.”
Anakin “Big Jim” Skywalker completes his transformation into Darth Rennie in “Exigent Circumstances” by embracing his dark side with a vice-like bear hug. Before anyone can scoff at the comparison of Chester’s Mill’s marquee villain to a Dark Lord of the Sith, first consider how effortlessly Big Jim can stem any tide in his favor with Obi-Wan’s patented Jedi Mind Trick.
Barbie has served Linda well as a freelance deputy for the better part of two weeks. She personally recruited the ex-military man as a firefighter when Duke Perkins’ home went up in flames. Linda then operated side-by-side with Barbie when the time came to usurp control of Ollie’s vital water supply after they disagreed with Big Jim’s gun dependent plan. She even bore witness to Barbie’s assistance in the dangerous manhunt for renegade police officer Paul Randolph and his rescue of Angie McAlister from the sinister hands of the Dundee brothers.
Linda has also witnessed a district attorney’s treasure trove of incriminating evidence directly linking Big Jim to a drug trade involving four major players, three of whom are now suspiciously dead. Yet when the time comes to choose a faction in the Rennie/Barbara war, she takes Big Jim’s side while taking Barbie into custody. In her eyes, Barbie’s involvement in Peter Shumway’s death negates all of the characteristically good behavior he has exhibited since the dome came down. And Big Jim is to be believed in spite of all the silvertongued rationalizations he throws her way each time she suspects he is up to no good.
Deputy Linda has never exhibited particularly dense behavior except for when Big Jim says jump and she immediately asks how high. Look no further than her eagerness to issue an All Points Bulletin for Julia’s whereabouts per Big Jim’s request. Part of the mind muddling from the wave of Rennie’s hand is Linda forgetting the fact that she is the only law enforcement left in Chester’s Mill. Who else is there to receive and act on an APB?
Poor Dodee is just as susceptible to Big Jim’s head games. After Dodee overhears a military radio communiqué identifying Jim as Reverend Coggins’ murderer, the councilman openly cops to his red hand. Mouth agape and tears welling in her eyes, Chester’s Mill’s latest bullet cushion somehow forgets about the droids she is looking for and gives her back to Big Jim. What is her reward for instantaneous amnesia of the man’s cold-blooded nature? A charred corpse at the end of a flat character arc.
The Jedi mind wiping extends past the fourth wall too, as episode 12’s script is not immune to an unhealthy bout of Alzheimer’s disease. “Exigent Circumstances” fills out the rest of its hour with a greatest hits compilation of scenes already covered in previous episodes. The teens puzzle over the dome’s riddles without coming closer to any concrete answers. Big Jim rallies the townspeople to take up their pitchforks for another human hunting session. And Junior and Barbie engage in one more Royal Rumble matchup as they tussle outside the clinic after Angie pulls the young deputy’s strings again.
If Jim needs a padawan apprentice for feats of Jedi mysticism, he can start with his son’s ex-girlfriend. Either her powers of seduction are incredibly strong, Junior’s resistance is incredibly weak, or some combination of both. During the past week under the dome, Angie has pretended to be in love with Junior so that she could stab him with scissors, and pretended to be in love with him so that she could dome him with a snow globe. Even though she just recently concluded a speech about how there can never be too much space between the two of them, Junior still cannot wait to fall victim to her feminine wiles once again. At least this time he only ends up tackled on the concrete for his stupidity.
When it comes to the power of persuasion in Chester’s Mill, you are either predator or you are prey. Now if only that memory wipe could be applied to the previous dozen episodes to make room for more plausible storylines, then the ability could really be put to productive use.
Episode 13 - Curtains
Director: Jack Bender
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan, Scott Gold
Summary: The monarch is crowned when the origin of the dome is finally revealed.
Under the mini-dome in Ben Drake’s bedroom, Ben, Carolyn, Joe, Norrie, and Linda watch the butterfly hatch. Junior pleads with the main dome for another vision. Julia recovers and enlists Angie to help her exonerate Barbie. As the butterfly floats around the enclosed space, each section of the mini-dome that it touches grows darker. Big Jim has another confrontation with Barbie while locking him in a jail cell. The main dome begins growing darker until it completely blots out the sun.
Linda seizes the mini-dome as police property. She then radios Junior and Big Jim to come to Ben’s house. Linda is knocked unconscious when she insists on touching the dome herself to make its shrill noises stop. Junior arrives and agrees to help everyone hide the mini-dome from Big Jim until it can give them some answers. Angie and Julia free Barbie from his cell. Big Jim finds Linda at Ben’s house and they begin a search for the egg. Junior mentions that Angie stole a police radio when Joe and Norrie wonder aloud about how to contact her. So that Linda and Big Jim do not know where to find them, Joe tells Angie to meet them in the place where they hid after breaking their mother’s mirror. Barbie knocks out Phil and another man when they try to stop him from escaping. Julia recovers Barbie’s dog tags when he drops them during the fight.
Angie, Barbie, and Julia meet Joe, Norrie, and Junior at the cement factory. Junior pulls his weapon on Barbie, refusing to believe that his father’s friend Maxine was really Julia’s shooter. Everyone is distracted when the darkened mini-dome glows with red handprints. The four teens touch it and the black mini-dome shatters. The butterfly then floats around Barbie. Joe takes it as proof that Barbie is the monarch. Big Jim delivers an inspiring speech to the townspeople when he discovers them preparing for the end times at the church. The egg glows white. The cement factory starts to shake as the glowing egg vibrates. When everyone starts to flee, Julia grabs the egg. The tremors subside and the egg returns to black. The butterfly lands on the egg in Julia’s hands and everyone then realizes that she is actually the monarch.
Big Jim has Phil assemble a crew to construct a hangman’s gallows for Barbie. Linda searches the McAlister barn and finds the words “the pink stars are falling in lines” painted on the wall. When she tells Big Jim about her discovery, he recognizes the words and tells Linda to meet him at his house. Junior pulls his gun again and demands that Julia give him the egg so that he can turn it over to his father. Julia tosses the egg to Angie and tells everyone to run. Barbie tackles Junior so that Julia can escape too, but Junior is able to capture Barbie. In his wife’s studio, Big Jim shows Linda a painting that Colleen Rennie painted of pink stars falling around a black egg. Big Jim takes it as a sign that his family is important to the dome. Angie, Joe, Norrie, and Julia take the egg to the forest. Norrie holds the egg and asks it what they should do. Norrie’s dead mother Alice appears. The apparition asks for forgiveness for not knowing a better way to communicate with them. It tells the foursome that the dome was sent to protect them from something that they will see in time. It also tells them to protect the egg. Failure to do so would mean the end.
Junior returns Barbie to his cell. Barbie watches construction of the gallows. He and Big Jim have another confrontation. Over the police radio, Big Jim issues a message to Julia to turn over the egg or Barbie will pay the ultimate price. Big Jim tells his son that their family has a destiny with the dome. Julia tells the others that the decision about the egg is hers to make. With Junior at the trap door lever, Big Jim fits the noose around Barbie in front of the townspeople. Julia takes a boat onto the lake. Clutching Barbie’s dog tags to her chest, Julia tosses the egg into the water. Pink stars come from beneath and illuminate the entire dome. The dome begins emitting a bright white light while Big Jim frantically insists that Junior pull the lever.
The riddle of the dome has finally been solved. And the answer, as Douglas Adams predicted, is 42. Not only is 42 the Answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, but it also happens to be the approximate number of times that someone in Chester’s Mill pointed a gun in someone’s face during the course of season one.
As expected for a season finale, “Curtains” is chock full of jaw-dropping scenes and “I can’t believe it” moments certain to leave viewers wide-eyed in astonishment. Unfortunately, they are of the forehead slapping variety courtesy of some questionable writing from co-scripter Scott Gold and the usually reliable Brian K. Vaughan.
No longer afforded the benefit of the doubt for being spellbound under Big Jim’s charismatic sway, Linda has officially solidified her status as Chester’s Mill’s dimmest wit. Confronted with the sight of the mini-dome, the egg, and the hatching butterfly, Linda decides it is best to shoo away the three teenagers who have the most familiarity with the items in favor of bull headed authoritativeness. When she should be barraging everyone with questions, starting with how the group moved the mini-dome through the small doorway into Ben’s bedroom, Linda falls back on police procedure.
In order to shut up the mini-dome when it starts making its shrill racket, Joe and Norrie move to touch the orb. Having been in the presence of the mini-dome for all of a few minutes, Linda quickly interjects, “if anyone is going to touch it, it’s going to be me.” Really, Linda? Is putting your hands on the strange object with unknown origins a sound first instinct for handling this particular situation?
Linda later finds a way to top her own foolishness after finding the words, “the pink stars are falling in lines” painted on the wall of the McAlister’s barn. Big Jim tells the deputy that in the final months of his late wife’s dementia, she continually repeated one thing over and over. Mrs. Rennie’s mantra was “pink stars are falling.” Linda’s response to this revelation? “Maybe it’s a coincidence.” No, Linda. Meeting a friend for lunch and both people arriving in identical t-shirts is a coincidence. “Pink stars are falling in lines” written on a barn wall where the mini-dome was kept and Colleen Rennie painting a picture of pink stars falling around a black egg is a wee bit more significant.
Neither Linda nor Big Jim guess that the cement factory is where the teens choose to stash the mini-dome once they go on the run. In the fourteen or so days since the dome came down, the factory has been used for a bomb shelter, a fight club, Maxine and Otto’s staging area, the site of Julia and Junior’s heart-to-heart, and pretty much everything else besides making cement. Someone ought to wise up and make that the first stop to investigate whenever anyone needs a rendezvous point.
The third season of AMC’s “The Killing” overlapped part of its schedule with the first season of “Under the Dome.” In “The Killing,” Peter Sarsgaard’s death row inmate character had a hangman’s gallows built for him over the course of multiple days across multiple episodes. Granted, Chester’s Mill is operating under an accelerated timetable for their execution, but the correctional officers in “The Killing” could take a few notes on how to build a gallows in a fraction of the time. Big Jim only needs to give Phil an illustration from a book. Then with an eight-man crew, “Under the Dome” has its very own killing machine from start to finish before 4:00pm in the afternoon, complete with stairs, lever, and working trapdoor. Solid results for having a radio DJ as a construction foreman.
With the first arc of “Under the Dome” having come to a close, the opportunity is ripe to reflect on exactly how the sudden arrival of a perplexing and impenetrable bubble has forever changed the residents of Chester’s Mill. The major difference in the town pre-dome and post-dome is in its population statistic. Aside from a few teenagers now prone to seizures, the dome deals mainly in death, and little else. Season one has seen the murders and the violent demises of Rose Twitchell, Duke Perkins, Dodee Weaver, Alice Calvert, Paul Randolph, Freddy Denton, Lester Coggins, Ollie Dinsmore, Miss Moore, Boomer, Clint Dundee, Wayne Dundee, Otto Aguilar, Maxine Seagrave, and her mother Agatha. Not to mention Peter Shumway, the pilot who crashed his prop plane, the picnicking sunbather halved by the dome wall, other unnamed characters, and the now iconic cow seen weekly in the opening sequence. That may be a heftier body count than “The Following” and “Hannibal” combined, and those shows involve serial killers.
The premise is clear that there is no way in and no way out. The character roster can only dwindle so far before killing them off is no longer an option for creating drama. Without a creative solution for fluxing the cast list, “Under the Dome” just might be forced to invent new ways of telling a story that do not involve a gun barrel or a last gasp of air. Here is to hoping that Stephen King’s pen can kick off season two in a more interesting direction, and kickstart some life into Chester’s Mill that involves a plotline other than death.