The Night the Lights Went Out in Domeland

Under the Dome – “Curtains”

Chester’s Mill is a place like any other. But the Dome, the Dome is a lawless land, full of lies and a massive power vacuum. And while Big Jim thinks he’s in charge, we all know it’s really the Egg that holds all the power. And when everything’s being run by a licorice jellybean, well, things are going to get a little crazy.

We open back in the home of Sk8r Dude, with the kids, Norrie’s mom, non-dead version, and Linda all staring down the Mini-Dome. Linda tries to ask what’s going on, but like everything she does, it’s useless, and the butterfly finally hatches, which is where things get interesting. The butterfly rams into the Mini-Dome, causing dark blotches that spread across the surface. As most things related to Mini-Dome and the Egg, it’s actually pretty cool, but I digress. As the blotches spread across the Mini-Dome, the same thing happens to the Dome, causing the sky to go dark. The kids try to figure out what to do, but Linda makes a giant mess of things, calling for backup to Sk8r Dude’s house, then touches Mini-Dome, which of course PK Blasts her into the wall.

At the town hall/jail/courthouse combo (think a KFC/Pizza Hut/Long John Silver’s), Big Jim’s not too happy that Barbie pleaded not guilty to all the false charges Big Jim made against him. Barbie insists that Julia’s continued existence can invalidate pretty much everything Big Jim is saying (which is true), but Big Jim is a stubborn man. Barbie and Big Jim pontificate toward each other for a bit, but Big Jim tires of this quickly when he sees the darkness falling outside.

Julia wakes up in The Clinic, where Angie is still watching over her. Despite the fact that she got shot and has been unconscious for like, three days, Julia immediately gets up and insists that they have to save Barbie. Angie reluctantly goes along, and they go to the town hall/jail/courthouse and set Barbie free. Phil shows up to be totally worthless and a complete pain in the ass, but Barbie disposes of him quickly.

Junior’s hanging out at the edge of the Dome, being angsty and yelling to the Dome for answers, but the darkness falls before he can get any. He hears Linda’s backup call, and heads for Sk8r Dude’s house. Once there, Norrie and Joe insist that they need Angie to figure out what’s going on, and the three of them take the Dome to hide it away. They send out a secret message to Angie, telling her to head to The Cement Factory, home of Dome Fight Club. Angie, Julia, and Barbie meet up with the kids, and they all put their hands on the blackened Mini-Dome, causing it to glow bright, then crumble into ash. Norrie finds the butterfly, which is dead, but pulls a Green Mile and brings it back to life. It flies around some, in an oddly wonderful sequence, and circles Barbie, leading Joe to totally gush over his mancrush for being the Monarch.

Big Jim, who picked up Linda from Sk8r Dude’s house, heads to the local church, where everyone’s gathering to make right with the Lord before the apocalypse. Of course, this is a perfect opportunity for Big Jim to take control of his city, because using religion as a vehicle to spread evil is a time-honored cliche, and Big Jim is nothing if not a walking time-honored cliche. He snatches up Phil, and orders him to start building a gallows, because JESUS CHRIST BIG JIM. Phil, being the useless piece of crap he is, agrees, because “For Dodee.” Yeah, whatever Phil, I still hate you.

Back in The Cement Factory, Junior’s not happy about Barbie being the Monarch, but their argument is cut short when the Egg begins shaking, causing The Cement Factory to also shake around them. Everyone is rightly freaked the hell out, but Julia reaches out and grabs the Egg, which calms the shaking, and apparently means that now she’s the Monarch, because that whole scene of Barbie being the Monarch didn’t mean anything, I guess. At this point, Junior pretty much immediately switches back to Creepy Samberg and starts acting like a sociopath again. He holds Julia at gunpoint and demands the Egg, but Barbie takes him out and she and the kids escape. Barbie and Junior tussle, but Junior overtakes him, bringing him back to the town hall/jail/courthouse.

Linda’s out looking for the kids, and heads into the barn, where she finds the star map the kids drew on the wall. She also sees “The pink stars are falling into lines” written on the wall, and when she tells Big Jim about all this, his face falls. He hasn’t heard those words in a long time, apparently, and tells Linda to meet him at his house. Now, I knew immediately where this was going, and groaned at the thought of having to see that awful painting again, but, surprise! This time it’s a whole new horrible painting, and Big Jim reveals that his crazy wife used to say the thing about the pink stars. Linda, being terrible, tells Big Jim that this means he’s special, because the first thing you should tell a megalomaniacal sociopath in an extreme crisis is that they’re special.

The kids and Julia run out into the woods, where they eventually decide to just ask the Egg what the hell it really wants. For some reason, Norrie has to do this, instead of, you know, THE MONARCH, which leads to yet another crazy Egg-related vision of Norrie’s mom, dead version. But this isn’t just some hallucination, no, it’s someone/thing who/that sent the Dome in the first place, just taking the form of Norrie’s mom. They explain that the Dome isn’t punishment, it’s protection (from what? Sorry, you’re gonna have to wait till next year for that!), and that they have to earn light back by protecting the Egg. Norrie’s mom, dead version, disappears, and Julia grabs the Egg. They head to the diner to plan, and Big Jim comes over the police radio and offers a trade: the Egg for Barbie, and if she doesn’t agree in the hour, Barbie dies. Julia decides it’s up to her to fix this and splits up with the kids, heading into the dark on her own.

At the town hall/jail/courthouse, Big Jim and Barbie resume their boring back-and-forth for a bit, before Big Jim takes his proselytizing to Junior, appealing to his love of bad paintings and talking about destiny, which brings Junior around to being Big Jim’s Number 2. As Julia’s allotted hour draws to the close, they haul Barbie out to the gallows to hang for his crimes.

Julia takes the Egg out to the lake (I totally forgot existed), and decides that protecting the Egg, and Chester’s Mill, must come at the price of Barbie, the man who murdered her husband and lied about it, and throws the Egg into the lake. This does, well, something. The lake glows pink, and the pink stars themselves rise out of the lake and toward the top of the Dome for all to see. As they converge, a blinding white light takes their place, a light that spreads down over the Dome. Zoom out on a bright white Dome, and cut to black.

And so we reach the end of Under the Dome‘s first season. Not surprisingly, the finale offers up barely any answers, opting instead to give vague teasers of answers to come and move pieces around the board. Hell, no one even dies in this episode, as Barbie’s hanging is interrupted by the light washing over the Dome. It makes me wonder what Under the Dome would be like had it been confined to a single run of 13 episodes, as was originally intended. It also makes me wonder what they can possibly have in store for us next summer, when I’ll semi-reluctantly follow this hot mess once again.

All that said, I applaud the series for buying into the crazy more and more as the season progressed. 13 weeks ago, I was offered a promising pilot, but the series never lived back up to that potential, instead sputtering along, only half-committed to anything taking place onscreen. But in the last third, Under the Dome took the things that worked (pretty much anything Egg-related) and moved them more into focus, which helped ice over some of the more egregious failings of the series. I won’t say the show ever achieved the trashy goodness it could have, but hey, we’re getting at least another year of this, so there’s always hope.

Stray Observations

  • So much bad dialogue in this episode. My personal favorite: Linda screaming “What does that mean?!” when the kids tell her that the Dome told them that the Monarch will be crowned.

  • Guys, I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really hate Phil. And yet he lives to see another day. Don’t worry Phil, come next summer, I’ll spend every week praying to a licorice jellybean for your death.

  • And I guess that about does it. Thanks to the, like, three of you who actually read these crazy things. It was kinda fun, kinda dumb, and never really interesting, but it was an experience, and I’m glad I got to have it.

Shot through the heart, and Jim’s to blame

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.

Stray Observations

  • 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.

You the Deadest B—- in This Dome

Don't get your hopes up.

Under the Dome – “Speak of the Devil”

Chester’s Mill is a place like any other. But the Dome, the Dome has a mind of its own, and that mind has developed about as much as a whiny 14 year-old’s. In tonight’s episode, the Dome kicks up a bitchin’ storm and calls on the Smoke Monster from Lost to teach those darn kids a lesson. It’s an episode solidly in the “bonkers” camp, with flying lawn furniture, questionable medical procedures, and lots of Linda being really terrible at her job. Sounds like fun!

We begin the morning after the kids unlocked the Egg’s secret planetarium star map. Somehow, despite the fact that all four of them must have their hands on the dome at all times for the map to be open (I guess?), the kids have painted the star map all over the walls and roof of the barn, drawing in the constellations. They all assume the Dome is trying to send them a message, with Joe assuming that four random stars on the wall must represent them, since they’re not part of any constellation. This is obviously very stupid, since constellations are a man-made construct, but whatever, this is Joe, the only person allowed to curse in the Dome, so he gets a pass. The chrysalis inside the Mini-Dome has become clear, drawing out the most boring reveal in the show yet another episode, and there’s lots of dumb talk about being galactic guardians and keeping the Mini-Dome a secret. Apparently the Dome “trusts” Julia, so they decide to send Joe to find her. I’m not totally sure why it’s Joe, maybe they hope his billowing shirt and one use of “What the hell?!” an episode will convince her to help out.

And if you were worried that Junior’s days as Creepy Andy Samberg were over, fear no more! While Angie and Junior have the barn to themselves, Junior gets to lay on more of his crap about fate and soulmates and the Dome bringing Angie and him together. Angie tells him that no, she don’t want no scrub, a scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from her, and Junior leaves, right as that bitchin’ storm mentioned above starts a-brewin’

At the police station, Big Jim has kept his word and come to hash things out with Linda. He does his best Walter White impression, trying to convince Linda that his evils are all for the greater good and that Barbie is the real danger in town. (I gave serious consideration to working an “I am the Dome-ger!” pun into this recap. Very seriously.) Now, this sounds preposterous. We know Barbie is an anti-hero, and the audience does know a bit more about Big Jim’s crimes than Linda, but c’mon. This is a guy who just confessed to enabling some sort of drug empire to crop up in Chester’s Mill and already almost started an unnecessary war over water the town didn’t need. At best, every word of his should be taken with an entire salt lick. But Big Jim throws around some circumstantial evidence linking Barbie to Peter Shumway’s death (the fact that it’s true is irrelevant), says he’s “an open book,” and Linda is completely convinced.

At the Shumway residence, Barbie’s in the doghouse (killing your lover’s husband can do that), but things are still pretty cool between him and Julia. She wants to see Peter’s grave, but that’s really just a roadblock stopping the two of them from bumpin’ uglies again. But before they go, Max shows up to make a mess of things. Natalie Zea delivers a sick burn (Julia: “Can I help you?” Max: “Right now, you can’t even help yourself.”) and shoots Julia in the chest. Barbie calls Linda for help, but she’s already up to her eyes in Big Jim’s Big Bullshit. Things just aren’t great for Barbie right now. Fortunately, Joe arrives, and though he only has his learner’s permit (what?), agrees to drive Julia to the Clinic.

As Linda drives very casually to the home of a person she seemed to become close friends with last week who has just been shot, she realizes that, whoops, she’s out of gas. Turns out, when you’re trapped under a giant Dome, it really hammers home the whole point about fossil fuels being a non-renewable resource. Lucky for her, Phil (you know, that radio station guy that disappeared for a few weeks) is right behind her. He’s also very nonplussed about Julia’s shooting, but agrees to give Linda a ride to Julia’s house anyway. They arrive to an empty house, and Linda and Phil immediately assume Barbie killed Julia and dragged her away. This is a really illogical decision, but I’m convinced that being around Phil makes everyone exponentially dumber, and Linda didn’t have much to spare in the first place.

At the Clinic, Barbie and Joe take notice of the bitchin’ storm and hide from Ole Smokey inside. The Clinic has been picked clean, and with no available nurses, Barbie must help Julia himself. What follows is a lot of vaguely questionable medical procedure, involving Barbie stabbing an empty pen into Julia’s side and manually sucking out the extra air himself. But wait! Before he can even begin, the Dome sends a tree branch through the window, using plants to attack the humans, just like the Whomping Willow at Hogwarts or that pot plant from Scary Movie 2.

“BEWARE ME HU-MAAAANS!” -The Dome

Barbie saves Julia, which means it’s time for Joe to go. Remember how last week Barbie was Knight of the Dome? Well, now Joe is convinced he’s Savior of the Dome, the Monarch the Dome keeps telling them about, and he plans to spread the good word. Barbie leaves too, running into Big Jim on the way. They trade unpleasantries, Barbie outlining how different they are, Big Jim posturing that he’s the town’s natural leader, but the two agree to set aside their differences for the time being to take out Max at the Cement Factory, home of Dome Fight Club.

Before he left, Big Jim showed Junior his bunker full of guns and ammo, handed him a rifle, and demanded he stay indoors. Of course Angie shows up immediately, leading to a hilarious zoom-in on Junior indoors with the rifle as Angie screams. (I watched this scene approximately seven times. Always funny.) She’s there to talk business. Obviously this bitchin’ storm is only happening because the Dome is upset, and Angie knows the only way to stop the Dome’s tantrum is for Junior to rejoin Alien 4-H Club. Junior agrees, but only after he makes Angie beg for his return and promise they’ll be together (the kid is basically Robin Thicke), and as they leave the house to return to the barn, the Dome and Ole Smokey throw a porch swing through the air, right at Angie. Junior shoves her out of the way, and the bitchin’ storm begins to subside.

Back at the barn, the kids meet up, and Joe tells the rest that Barbie is the Monarch. Junior’s convinced that he’s the monarch, though, but Angie tells them both to shut the hell up and they go out to the Dome, together for the first time, in search of answers.

At the Cement Factory, Max and one of her cronies are already waiting for Barbie and Big Jim. She found her mom’s body in the shallow water at the beach, and somehow realized it was Big Jim that did her in. At this point, Max switches from Mustache Twirler to Generic Crazy Woman, and the three take turns insulting each other. But Barbie thought ahead, setting up an alarm to turn off the lights after 10 minutes, and he and Big Jim use the dark to overtake Max and her thug. Barbie tells her it’s over, but as he walks away, Big Jim shoots both Max and her thug in the head. Big Jim is in the business of tying up loose ends, and takes aim at Barbie next. Barbie pulls out some krav maga and gets the gun, turning it on Big Jim instead.

Now wouldn’t you know it, Linda has also made it to the Cement Factory, and though she’s close enough to pull her gun on Barbie immediately after he takes Big Jim’s, she apparently missed all action proceeding that exact moment, and is convinced that Barbie killed Max and her thug. With Linda holding a gun on him, and Big Jim accusing Barbie of the crimes he himself committed, Barbie takes to the woods. Because if Max taught us anything in her short time in Domeland, it’s that you can totally hide out in a contained space with limited resources for almost two weeks without being found.

Dodee, who suffered Convenient Amnesia last week, shows up to work her technobabble magic, because the lightning somehow makes it easier for her to pick up the radio waves outside. What she hears is that the military outside have seen Barbie, know him by name, and have been looking for him. Wait, there’s still military outside the Dome? Haven’t they all been gone since they MOAB’d the Dome? No matter, their message about Barbie is just ominous enough cause Dodee to gasp in disbelief. After the Cement Factory shootout, Big Jim visits her for some reason, where she shares this info, giving him the impetus to make a PSA warning the town of Barbie, the Dome’s most dangerous man.

At the edge of the Dome, the four kids all touch the Dome together, and are treated to sights that wouldn’t be out of place in a much spookier show (American Horror Story and Carnivàle both come to mind). They see Big Jim, and as he stands before them, blood seeps out of chest, forming several distinct wounds, and blood pours from his nose. (Dean Norris wiping that blood away was a genuinely very creepy moment.) They each look into their hands, where they’re holding butterfly knives with bloody tips, ostensibly from stabbing this vision of Big Jim. The image proves too much for Junior, who bails, but Angie and Norrie are convinced that it’s a message from the Dome: the kids have to kill Big Jim before the Dome comes down.

So it seems the Dome is recruiting a murder cult to take out Big Jim, Barbie’s on the run from a town convinced he’s a killer, Max is dead, and some stuff about the military? Sounds about right. At this point, I really have no freakin’ idea where this is all going, but if the rest of the season keeps the level of insanity this high, Under the Dome might make it out as the secret trashy hit of the summer.

Stray Observations:

  • Lots of weird parallels to Breaking Bad in this episode. Aside from Big Jim’s Walter White-esque monologue early in the episode, he also refers to Max as “the Devil,” and the yellow shirt the Big Jim Vision was wearing is highly reminiscent of one you’d see on Walter recently. This is all already weird, made much weirder by the fact that all of these involve Dean Norris.
  • In a show full of characters who change personalities and motivations at any given moment depending on what the plot needs, it seems Junior will be our biggest offender. Which is fine, really, because Junior is already a worthless character, so any excuse to shove off any more of the show’s bad qualities onto him is a blessing.
  • I don’t know much about the physics of water and how waves work, but I find it hard to believe that the tiny portion of the lake under the Dome would have waves. Maybe they’re there because of the storm? Sure, we’ll say that.
  • Same goes for Barbie’s bizarre treatment for Julia. I’ve seen emergency trachs before, but never something like this, and while it may have been medically accurate (this is a huuuuuuuuuge maybe), it was still very weird.
  • Poor Natalie Zea, once again being completely useless on a show then dying a highly undignified, pretty hilariously dumb death. But good for Natalie Zea for not having to appear in this thing anymore.

I Am Dome’s Smirking Revenge

Seriously, it's never going to get better than this.

Under the Dome – “Let the Games Begin”

Chester’s Mill is a town just like any other. But the Dome, the Dome is a world of contradictions. A world where logic is largely absent and where coincidences no longer exist. And as a show, Under the Dome has morphed from largely boring domestic drama into the crazy, pointless kind of sci-fi mystery that can only exist in our post-Lost world. After nine weeks of mostly middling around, the show has gone off the rails, but I’m not convinced it’ll ever quite make it to the stars.

 There were four major plot lines this episode, with very little side-action happening, so it seems easiest to recount it all via countdown from the least crazy to the most. Aaaaaaaaand coming in at number four…

4. Linda and Julia go buddy-cop, uncover secrets, explore hats

 Linda has been an inert force in the world of Chester’s Mill. She’s clearly one of the show’s moral centers (along with her episode buddy), but because of her sheriff title, is locked into a certain mode of action. Unlike Julia, who can bend the rules around for the greater good thanks to being a journalist (it seems Under the Dome‘s idea of journalism is roughly equivalent to journalism in the DC and Marvel universes), Linda must stick to the letter of the law, lest she be seen as too villainous. Granted, in a show where villains act so outrageous and obvious, you’d think even the most pious, law-abiding citizen could get away a little gray-area thinking, but Linda is steadfast to a fault, making her one of the show’s least interesting characters with nothing to do.

 This episode, Linda gets to team up with Julia and actually get shit done. Sure, this only happens because Julia is looking for Barbie, Knight of the Dome, but that doesn’t stop Linda from all but deputizing Julia right there on the spot. Apparently, Julia once talked to some random townsperson about all that mystery propane, but dropped it because they “seemed kinda loopy.” (Isn’t Julia supposed to be some kind of massively talented reporter? Bah!) Linda spills the beans on what she knows, but can’t imagine where to find any clues. Deducing that Duke always wore his hat, she checks the brim, because remember, under the Dome, there are no coincidences, and surprise surprise, there’s a key. And sonofabitch, Julia has a key just like it. They’re both keys to safe deposit boxes, so a trip to the bank is in order. After weirdly breaking into the bank–obviously money has no real value under the Dome, but didn’t it take them like five weeks to realize that? How have none of the town’s millions of mindless drug zombies not already invaded this place Walking Dead style and cleaned it out of cash? Whatever.– they both decide to open up their boxes.

 In Linda’s box, we find a genuinely touching moment with a sheriff’s star and a letter from Duke that explains everything. Now, the confessional letter/videotape is an old trope, but it’s deployed fairly well here, filling in some of the blanks about why Duke would be complicit in the shady going-ons and implicating Reverend Whosit and Big Jim in Max’s schemes. In Julia’s, we find a life insurance policy taken out by her husband, leading Julia to claim, “I have to talk to Barbie.” I don’t entirely understand the logic that got her there (and even their conversation at the end of the episode does little to rectify this), but hey, at least this plot is finally going somewhere!

 3. The kids play with the Egg, Joe gets to curse, Dodee suffers Convenient Amnesia

 Because the mysteries of the almighty Egg are so mysterious, Joe, Angie, and Norrie have decided to sleep in the barn with it. And in a move that’s way more brilliant than should be allowed on this show, Norrie has tied her and Joe’s wrists together, to prevent him from sleepwalking and stealing more mysterious things. Upon waking up, they discover that a caterpillar (apparently exactly the kind of caterpillar that grows into a monarch butterfly, because, remember, no coincidences!) is now living inside the Mini-Dome. For no discernible reason other than to show off the (admittedly kinda cool) handprint special effects on the Mini-Dome again, the kids all get into their positions around the Egg, and decide to find out who else has been having seizures.

 As the kids run off, we see that Dodee has been lurking around the barn, because… well, I’m not entirely sure. We know Dodee doesn’t trust the kids because they broke her technobabble doodad a few episodes ago, but I guess now she’s full-on stalkerish creepo, and must know what those darn kids are up to! She finds the Egg and Mini-Dome, and because only good things have come from touching the Dome, she touches the Mini-Dome, and is PK Blasted away by the Mini-Dome and the Egg’s awesome mysteries. Good thing the kids didn’t actually go anywhere though, so they’re able to run back into the barn and take Dodee to The Clinic. Of course, the PK Blast also caused Dodee to suffer from Convenient Amnesia, completely neutralizing a threat that didn’t exist before this episode’s cold open. The kids also learn that the only other person who’s ever had a seizure in Chester’s Mill’s history was at Angie’s 10th grade dance. Angie’s face of terror can mean only one thing (that’s been painfully obvious since those damn handprints showed up the first time): It’s Junior time.

 But before the kids can recruit Junior for Alien 4H Club, Angie must reveal the dark secret about Junior keeping her against her will. Obviously, Joe and Norrie now want nothing to do with Junior, but Angie must convince them, and does it the only way she knows how: that terrible, terrible painting Junior’s mother made. And as they view the world’s worst painting by a 4th grader and wonder where to find Junior, who should appear but… Junior himself! Joe flies into a billowy-shirted rage and is easily taken down by Junior. Luckily, Angie saves the day by appealing to Junior’s infallible love of Dome-related mysteries, and the four take off for the barn.

 2. Big Jim discovers India, learns a lot of nonsense, shoves an old woman off a boat

 If Julia’s search for Barbie left you wondering just where that scoundrel got off to, no fear! He’s just hanging out with his buddy Big Jim. As they ponder over how to deal with Max, Barbie realizes what we all did two episodes ago: there’s literally no way Max has just been hiding out in an abandoned house under the Dome for almost two weeks. He and Big Jim hoof it down to the town clerk’s office to find out which houses in Chester’s Mill were bought by Max’s real estate company (wait… what?), and it’s there that we learn of Chester’s Mill’s greatest secret: an island that literally has not been mentioned or alluded to in any way whatsoever so far in this show. An island with at least one house on it. Why hasn’t this island been brought up before? Does no one care that the people on the island might need medical help or be unable to leave their homes? If there’s part of a lake between the mainland and the island, why was there such a huge crisis over water? Of course, this is all irrelevant, and after Max swoops in to whisk Barbie away, Big Jim takes it upon himself to visit the mysterious island, because if history has taught us anything, it’s that white guys going to mysterious islands has never ended badly for anyone. Ever.

 On the island, Big Jim walks up to the first house he sees, and finds a woman named Agatha. Their exchange raises all the same island-related questions we already had, plus a few more about the actual size of Chester’s Mill and how Big Jim, the man who has literally known every single person to appear on screen in this series so far, has no idea who Agatha is. Big Jim makes a grave mistake and follows her to a second location, going inside for “a nice cup of tea.” Now, obviously Agatha is up to no good, and as Big Jim snoops around and finds a picture of Max, Agatha returns with a gun, ready to tango.

 Or so we thought. Instead, she slogs through a ton of exposition about Max’s life, almost none of it relevant to the story or any other characters or anything we, the viewers, care about. Luckily, as all terrible villains must, Agatha slips and reveals that she’s Max’s “insurance policy,” and a short tussle later, Big Jim has regained the upper hand. As he transports Agatha back to the mainland, she attempts to rustle his feathers, spouting off tired rhetoric about the man behind the curtain, and as she rises to make her ultimate point, tumbles overboard into the lake in what will probably never be topped as this series’ greatest scene. (I know, in the section title I said Big Jim shoved her. I lied.) As Agatha flails about in the water, Big Jim casually stares on, embracing his role as Big Bad. (Whether or not he grabs her hands and menacingly sneers out a “long live the king!” before letting her die is up to your imagination.) And once again, a threat has been neutralized mere moments after being introduced.

 1. Max creates Dome Fight Club, Barbie is Knight of the Dome, Natalie Zea sounds unconvincing making threats

 I guess now it’s time to learn what exactly it is Max is up to. After stealing Barbie from the town clerk’s office, she brings him to The Cement Factory. Apparently Max’s business consists of setting up “booze, cards, and brothels” (Natalie Zea’s insistence that she never deals in prostitution is just the first of many unconvincing line readings she’ll give in this episode), and since the Dome came down and ruined everyone’s fun, she’s taken it upon herself to establish–drumroll please!–DOME FIGHT CLUUUUUUUUUB! Dome Fight Club is a magical place where ne’er-do-wells can fight to win prizes. And while the concept seems simple enough, Max muddies up the whole thing with a bizarre explanation about “trading up” batteries to eggs or some such nonsense. Clearly she’s just charging admission and then giving away a prize to whoever wins. Wouldn’t that be a much easier sell to the weak-willed of Chester’s Mill’s population? But, I digress.

After waiting patiently for Max to deliver more drivel about what purpose Dome Fight Club serves, Barbie finally asks what exactly he’s doing there. Max reveals that everyone thinks Barbie is the biggest badass in all the Dome, and they want to see him fight. Barbie resists, but Max blackmails him into the ring, where he almost immediately decides to throw the fight. But, alas! It turns out Max planned for that all along, and was literally the only person to bet on Barbie’s opponent, making her the big victor. Barbie points out how it’s really impossible for this whole plan to work, since they’re, you know, trapped under the Dome, with a massively limited (and dwindling) amount of supplies to collect, so Max insists that she’ll “burn the place down,” setting off the most unintentionally unconvincing series of threats in television history. Barbie storms out, and Max is left to stew in her own rage and silk-infused conditioner. (If it seems like I have little to say about this, the craziest plot, it’s because most of it just doesn’t make a damn bit of sense.)

 As the episode ends, Julia and Linda have gone their separate ways in order to confront their respective problem-men. Big Jim finds Linda on his porch, where she hints at her newly-acquired knowledge, but gives Big Jim until the morning to come to the station. Over at the Shumway residence, Barbie begins his confession even before Julia confronts him, and we learn that Julia’s husband’s gun wasn’t loaded the day Barbie killed him, in what turned out to be essentially a “suicide by cop” move. Julia is surprisingly okay with all of this, and promises a future with Barbie, as long as there aren’t any more secrets between them.

 Meanwhile, back in the barn, the kids show Junior the Egg, where they notice that the caterpillar has formed a chrysalis on the inside of the Mini-Dome. They place their hands on the Mini-Dome, and convince Junior to do the same. After thirty seconds of stock sci-fi noises and forced expressions of awe, the Egg erupts with light, projecting pink stars into the air around them. “What does it all mean?” Junior mumbles, and the strings swell from nowhere as we cut to black.

 “Let the Games Begin” is the first episode in the third act of Under the Dome‘s first season, and while the show still isn’t very good, it’s at least traded in soul-crushing boredom for not-quite-campy craziness. There might not ever be another moment on this show as glorious as Agatha falling off the boat, but here’s hoping they’ll find some new kind of dumb sci-fi tomfoolery to throw at us next.

Stray Observations

  • Junior does get a little bit of boring side-action before meeting up with the kids, though all it adds is more confusion about the the mechanics of Dome Fight Club.
  • Seriously, Natalie Zea, what is going on? Sure, you don’t have the best track record, but we’ve all seen you do decent work in Justified. Now, granted, you’re not a mustache-twirling villain there, but you got to make threats that were at least a little bit menacing. Here, it’s just a mess.
  • The dialogue in this show continues to be reminiscent of a very, very bad high school drama production, though I guess that is the shipped gold standard on CBS.
  • Can I emphasize enough how ugly that painting is? Every time it’s on screen, I can barely suppress my chuckles. I know Junior’s mom was supposed to be “crazy” but c’mon.
  • Is the Convenient Amnesia a sign that Dodee’s usefulness on the show has come to an end? If so, who will be the Dome’s new source of technobabble? Who will build a new Mr. Miyagi or whatever that thing was called? Who will be there to not trust the kids and be a total creep?!