Under the Dome – “Exigent Circumstances”
Chester’s Mill is a place like any other. But the Dome, the Dome is place where logic is lax, and where real life actively feels like an action-drama. Even still, not even Big Jim, the most capable of the Domers at dealing in deception, should be able to function with this many balls in the air. This is Under the Dome at its worst, its most convoluted, where the plot mechanics are plainly visible, and groan from clicking along at such a breakneck speed.
The episode opens by taking stock of our major threads: the Egg is lit up and filling the barn with generic sci-fi noises, Julia is still unconscious (in the first of many awkward shots of Julia being unconscious), Barbie’s on the run, and Big Jim is convincing the people of Domeland to basically turn it into a police state. Linda even calls Big Jim out on this, but he shoves aside her concern, because “it’s the people,” and the people of Domeland are extremely gullible and susceptible to groupthink. It seems the only dissenter is Carol, Norrie’s mom who didn’t die but did disappear for a few weeks. She’s back and ready to shake her head in disgust at what Big Jim’s selling, but we all know that a single, queer woman of color will never be able to take down the White Guy. Sorry Carol, despite what that random guy says, this is still America, and you’ve still got to play by American TV rules.
At the radio station, Dodee continues to mess around with her technobabble doodads, and when she hears the military mention the Egg, she’s suddenly cured of Convenient Amnesia, which, okay. I’ll buy that Dodee is cured of Convenient Amnesia, but I’m not sold on the military’s intel just yet. After essentially disappearing since the MOAB, I can’t even begin to imagine how the military would know anything about the Egg or the Mini-Dome, or be able to connect those to Barbie. If they’ve been watching the Egg and/or Barbie, they know that the two haven’t come into contact yet. Like, at all. And yet it must be true, because under the Dome, all it takes for something to be true is for a White Guy to declare it as so.
Back in the barn, the kids are wondering why the Egg is more active than ever, and Angie’s convinced that it’s angry Big Jim is still alive. They argue about who the Monarch is, and about what to do next, but this is all very stupid, and thankfully Carol walks in to act, well, very nonchalant about the whole thing. She takes charge of the situation, telling the kids to move the Mini-Dome (to Skater Dude’s house!!!) and to be wary of Big Jim’s oncoming illegal searches. When Angie steps outside, Barbie himself grabs her (in very Junior-like fashion) and ropes her into a Julia rescue mission involving multiple uncomfortable uses of the term “candystriper.”
Junior, meanwhile, goes to the diner to tell Big Jim that he’s in danger, which doesn’t really phase Big Jim. He’s much more interested in using his son to be creepy in the general vicinity of Julia while she’s unconscious, which, to be fair, is really right in Junior’s wheelhouse. As soon as Big Jim gets Junior out of his hair, Dodee appears next, and Big Jim has even less patience or use for her. She reveals that the military is looking not only for Barbie, but for “something else,” which is apparently all it takes to rope Big Jim into your dumb. At the radio station, Big Jim actually makes the same point I have about the military’s lack of a presence, but all it takes is a picture of the Egg to shut him up. Remember how I said a couple of paragraphs ago that I wasn’t sold on the military intel? Well, as Big Jim listens to the military transmission, he realizes that they must not have been under the Time Warner Cable CBS blackout and have just been watching Under the Dome this whole time, because they know essentially everything the audience does about what’s going on in Domeland. This is bad news for Big Jim, because it means they also know about his murderous tendencies, and unfortunately for Dodee, now she does, too. Big Jim shoots her in the chest (but not before she fills in him on her Egg knowledge), and burns the radio station the ground. This seems like a terrible move, since the last fire in town caused an entire episode’s worth of drama, but screw the rules, he’s Big Jim.
Big Jim calls Linda and Phil, BFFs, and they get to be the lucky ones to deal with Dodee’s death. Phil is devastated, and of course they immediately blame Barbie, because no one in Domeland ever thinks about anything before they say it. Meanwhile, the kids bring Mini-Dome and the Egg to Skater Dude’s house, where he is about as entranced as you can expect a TV stoner to be with a giant glowing egg. Things go great until the Dome starts making hella noise, so Skater Dude throws a few blankets on and hopes for the best.
Angie and Barbie plan their attack/rescue on the Clinic, and Angie smokes history’s most ominous cigarette. They get in, but find Junior standing watch over Julia. Angie takes it a step further, becoming a Sexy Candystriper, and confronts Junior, playing off his ripe insecurities about Big Jim before getting desperate and playing off his belief that the Dome makes her crazy. (More like boy crazy, amirite?!) This works like a charm, and Junior, ever the Casanova, plants a big wet one on Angie. But, alas, what’s that he tastes on her supple lips? Betrayal? Confusion? Well, sort of. It’s cigarettes, which tips Junior off to Angie and Barbie’s collusion. Barbie gets Julia to an ambulance, but Junior calls in backup, and Barbie covers for Angie so that she can drive Julia to safety. As Angie and Julia escape, Linda shows up and throws cuffs on Barbie, being decent at her job for only the second time this series, yet still being the character most wrong about everything they think they know.
At the barn, Carol has taken a stand against Big Jim, because she was a lawyer, and foolishly believes the law still applies in Domeland. Big Jim gets in the barn, but the Egg is gone (as we, the audience, are fully aware of by this point, yet the show still plays as a massive reveal. Whatever.), so he takes Carol, Norrie, and Joe into custody, or something. Once in cells, Norrie and Joe trade some pretty dumb lines about what the Dome wants and Nazis and the Monarch before Big Jim comes to demand the whereabouts of the Egg. Norrie attacks Big Jim, which goes about as well as you’d expect, but he still releases them. Barbie is brought in, and Big Jim demands that he confess to all the crimes, or else Big Jim will take down the kids and Julia, because Big Jim is a crazy person and thinks the things he’s saying make actual logical sense. Linda is sent to tail the kids, and Junior is sent to find Angie and Julia.
Skater Dude hasn’t been faring too well with the Egg (or as he calls it, “Freaky Sphere”), which has continued shrieking and has also turned from pink to yellow, as the chrysalis inside wiggles with its imminent hatching. Angie hides Julia back in the Clinic, and when Julia wakes up, Angie fills her in on the haps in Domeland. Outside of Town Hall, Big Jim brings Barbie up in front of the entire town (a group, as you can see above, that looks to be about 50 people this week) and spews some more of his Big Bullshit™, which of course everyone buys. And the episode ends with the series biggest cliffhanger to date: when asked how he pleads by Big Jim, Barbie looks him the eye, violins swelling, and answers: “Not guilty.”
Okay, okay, it’s a super-lame cliffhanger to a super-lame episode. Every single incident in this episode is so terribly contrived, so obviously the product not only of bad writing, but bad writing pushing the season to its endgame. There’s only one episode left of Under the Dome‘s first season, and I can’t imagine a world where the show suddenly pulls out a show-stopper finale. The best I’m hoping for is some dumb fun, where the plot mechanics aren’t so noisy and visible, and if we can finally get rid of a useless character or two, that’d just be an added perk.
- Junior’s interaction with the nurse at the Clinic is the both the funniest thing in the episode and the closest thing to actual human speech that’s ever occurred on this show, which is really unfortunate all around.
- Norrie’s sarcastic apathy throughout most of this episode very accurately reflects my own demeanor while watching this show.
- Linda’s complete obedience to all of Big Jim’s demands is proof of just how little this show thinks of its female characters.
- So the chrysalis is Under the Dome‘s hatch, but I don’t even want to imagine what kind of disappointing thing is going to happen once it hatches.
- Seriously, can we pleeeeeeeeeeease kill off Phil next week? He’s like Linda, except not a cop and somehow worse.
- RIP Dodee. Your technobabble doodads and creepy curiosity will be sorely missed. All of Domeland pours one out for you.
- Barbie says that Julia is Big Jim’s only loose end, but I’m counting like, five at this point. Juggling this many variables is just like juggling, well, pretty much anything else. Seriously Big Jim, if you want to be taken seriously as a villain, get your shit together.