One hackneyed storyline comes to a close in this episode, only to precipitate another. And the dome mystery, although fairly slight because it doesn’t get enough attention, continues to be the drawcard.
Angie, Junior, Joe, and Norrie are lying on the barn floor looking up at the markings they’ve made mapping the projected constellations from last episode (seeing them so at ease with Junior is off-putting). Joe mentions four marks near the base of the projected dome, and speculates they represent the four of them. Puzzled by what it all means, they decide to tell Julia because the mini-dome seems to like her (unlike Dodee, who it zapped last week for being nosy). The caterpillar they found inside the mini-dome is now cocooned and shaping up to become a monarch butterfly, a seemingly useless reminder from the dome of its monarch prophecy. Joe heads over to Julia’s.
The teaser ends with one of Under the Dome‘s most surprising moments so far: Max shows up at Julia’s doorstep and shoots her. Sure, her aim is implausibly bad at point blank range so she only shoots her shoulder, and in the best bad TV fashion she doesn’t shoot her again to make sure she’s dead, but it’s still a fairly shocking moment. This is Max’s response to Barbie walking away from their alliance in the last episode. Barbie runs downstairs and calls for Linda’s help on the radio. Joe arrives and drives them to the hospital before Linda can get there. Due to limited resources and his own ingenuity, Barbie saves Julia even though she flatlines for a minute. This all plays out how you’d expect so no need for us to discuss it further.
The upshot for the ongoing story is that Joe is awed by Barbie saving Julia’s life with only field medical experience. First he saved Joe and other townspeople, and now Julia. Joe is now convinced, without much basis, that his hero-crush is the monarch who will be crowned. There’s no solid indication the monarch is meant to be a selfless leader who saves people, but that doesn’t bother Joe. Barbie is the lead character, however, so he’s probably right, but Joe doesn’t know he’s in a TV show so he doesn’t have that excuse.
While this is happening, Angie warmly offers to cook Junior some eggs, which you’ll understand made me want to scream at the TV. He then makes a move on her, and she screams that they’ll never be together. If she still hates him so much, why cook him eggs? (This all happens in the space of a few seconds.) When she insists that he’ll never see her again once the dome comes down, he stops helping them with the mini-dome. He’d rather die in there with her. “It’s love”, you see.
Jim meets with Linda as promised, and doesn’t deny her accusations about the drug ring but reminds her that his propane is powering the town. As always, Linda accepts this too readily, and is swayed by Jim’s suggestion that Barbie is not what he seems. He voices his ‘suspicions’ that Barbie killed Peter Shumway, although not how he found out, of course. We can see where this is going.
Meanwhile, it’s getting windy in Chester’s Mill. A massive tornado vortex is hovering above the town, although this doesn’t seem to worry anyone much. When Max meets Big Jim at the town hall, they comment on the weather but Jim would rather talk about Julia than the gaping maw of death forming right above them. I wonder if the effects team made the storm way scarier than it should have been and they didn’t have time to fix it, because the sky looks like the ending of Ghostbusters.
Max explains that what happened to Julia will happen to someone Jim cares about too if he steps out of line, and Junior helpfully shows up to reveal his existence to Max. Jim realises that they have to take care of Max, and there’s no reason for him to keep her alive now her insurance policy (ie. her mum) has seemingly been eliminated.
Once Julia is out of the woods, Barbie and Jim plan on how to deal with Max. Barbie insists she be taken in alive, but that’s not enough for Jim. Cue a posturing scene where Barbie tells Jim he’s an aspiring king who wants power and nothing else. Jim retorts that he loves this town and does what’s best for it. You can write the rest in your head. The delivery is flat and the scene feels hollow. These two are not remotely convincing as antagonists and Vogel and Norris have no chemistry.
They go to the cement factory to confront Max, and Barbie somehow sets up a timer with his iPhone to shut off the power. I’m not that technically minded, but I truly doubt this is easy to accomplish. Max and her goon arrive; she’s found her mother’s body washed up on the lake shore, so she’s extra mad. The power goes off, Barbie and Jim overpower them, and they lead them outside. Barbie is ready to take them to the sheriff’s station, but Jim kills them on the spot.
He nearly shoots Barbie, but Special Forces soldier Barbara punches him in the throat like a pro and takes the gun. He’s pointing it at Jim just as Linda arrives. Linda just found Julia’s house empty, and DJ Phil (who’s had his own bookie-related dealings with Barbie) suggests that he probably killed Peter Shumway. Phil seems to have had these facts for ages and concludes this as if he’s always thought so. If you’re going to tell a police officer now, why not before when this supposedly dangerous man could have been stopped?
Anyway, with all these assumptions being thrown her way from possibly unreliable sources, Linda takes her usual tack and ignores other possibilities, proceeding as if Barbie is guilty. With similar stupidity that nonetheless keeps the plot moving, Barbie resists arrest and flees. Jim announces to the town that Barbie basically killed everybody who’s died so far and puts the town into a state of emergency. So, as was inevitable from the moment we discovered Barbie had a shady past, the town turns against him.
The propane/drugs storyline has been dispensed with surprisingly quickly, and the final scene also suggests we might be heading towards a proper conclusion. At this point in production, the writers may have been giving themselves that safety net in case the show wasn’t renewed. Now a second season is guaranteed, how naturally will this ending flow into the next set of stories?
That final scene is one of the most Stephen Kingian things in the show so far, and being quite effective, obviously pertains to the dome. After Angie deduces that the storm is a response to Junior leaving the group, he sees reason and returns, dispelling the vortex. Joe surmises that the four markings at the base of the projected dome correspond to a point on the real dome that the constellations are meant to guide them to, so the four-hands gang heads there to touch the barrier together. It turns out to again be in a street the dome barrier inexplicably fell in the middle of: this is clearly not a logical blunder the writers want to pretend didn’t happen.
They touch the dome and see a vision of Big Jim walking towards them with a knowing smile on his face. Wounds suddenly start opening and bleeding beneath his shirt. The four kids now have bloody knives in their hands. Junior freaks out and goes to look for his dad, and Angie wonders whether Big Jim might be the reason the dome is there. The dome may be telling them they need to kill Big Jim in order to raise the dome.
Not too bad. We have some momentum. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes. Big Jim’s a corrupting influence on Chester’s Mill despite his attempted altruism, and removing him from the community would probably cleanse it to some extente. But I hope that’s not the reason the dome arrived. What a crazy, over-the-top response to one small-town powermonger. I wouldn’t normally believe it’s the smoking gun because it’s too trivial an explanation, but we’ve nearly reached what could still at this point have been meant to serve as a series finale. Could saving Chester’s Mill’s soul have been the entire point of this story, and one man is implausibly positioned as the sole bad influence in town, a single threat who can easily be dispensed with to yield a happy ending? Quite possibly. It would be a disappointingly reductive explanation for the appealingly cosmic nature of the dome.
More likely, however, is that Jim’s death – or the attempt on his life – precipitates the next dome-related occurrence. I certainly wouldn’t mind Jim getting killed off though, so Dean Norris can be freed to work on something more worthy of his talents. I can only imagine he’s reached this point in production and, while grateful for the CBS paycheque, is wondering what the hell he was thinking signing up for this bilge. So yes, death to Big Jim!