With the countryside outside them a wasteland, the residents of Chester’s Mill finally realize that they’re trapped, and society begins to break down. Water is scarce, food is scarce, medicine is scarce, characterization is scarce… can’t the townies catch a break? Diabetic lesbian mom Alice (Samantha Mathis) is in dire need of insulin, prompting Goth Girl daughter Norrie (Mackenzie Lintz) and kid genius Joe (Colin Ford) to go on a robbery spree to find more. Angie (Britt Robertson) plays roadrunner to the coyote that is new-Deputy Junior (Alex Koch), only to bring an impending doom to friendly diner owner Rose (Beth Broderick). Trying to bring the town water, Big Jim Rennie (Dean Norris) makes a deal with apparent arch-enemy Ollie (Leon Rippy), while radio technician Dodee (Jolene Purdy) and clueless journalist Julia (Rachelle Lefevre) search for a mobile source of signals within the dome. Meanwhile, Sheriff Linda (Natalie Martinez) tries to maintain peace as looting begins, aided by hot guy Barbie (Mike Vogel).
After two reasonably cool episodes Under The Dome slides backwards again, even as the storyline lurches forward in fits and starts. The “threat of the week” syndrome this time out is “Ohmygod a truck hit the water tower seen in the opening credits and now we’re running out of water!” and as with previous episodes, the threat is essentially eliminated by the closing credits. The town’s twenty-or-so extras mill about in the looting scenes with minor urgency, though after a good ass-kicking by Barbie and a last-minute revelation about the dome’s micro-climate eco-system, that threat is also mostly quelled.
Why is so little time spent considering the implications of the fact that America bombed its own town in the previous episode? Why has it taken everyone so long to think about stockpiling food and groceries? Why does a town this size have only one pharmacy, only one diner, only one grocery store, and only one farmer?
The one interesting element of this episode was that it showcased almost all of the characters losing it a bit and backsliding into bad traits; even Barbie loses his shit on some looters. Norrie is given some ethical dilemmas when she tries to steal insulin, though a bit with a lisping child was more eye-rolling than heart-tugging. One almost wishes that she just gave in to her baser impulses. It’s increasingly apparent that Angie is a trouble-magnet (call her “Kim” from 24) as she’s finally escaped one set of problems only to bring a far-too-swift death on another supporting character. Only saintly Rose is apparently immune to the self-centred panic shown by almost everyone else, which, of course, means she’s on her way out.
By now, the lack of forward characterization for most of the Under The Dome cast is almost a given, but this time out, its painfully obvious in several spots. Big Jim supposedly has feelings for Rose, but we’ve only seen a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hint of it previously. Ollie and Big Jim supposedly have a near-deadly rivalry that goes back decades, but it’s not been hinted at in their interactions prior to the infodump that precedes their pissing contest in this episode. Ollie seems to be the new “obvious bad guy”; after Crazy Gun-Toting Deputy and Crazy Drug-Abusing Reverend, the Snaggletoothed Greedy Homophobe Farmer couldn’t be more telegraphed in his eeeeeevilness.
Kudos for the show’s tiny in-joke: the truck that hits the town’s water tower is from “King’s Appliance,” referencing Stephen King. But why was an appliance truck making deliveries ten days into the dome crisis?
Burning Questions of the episode: Why can’t super-genius Joe create more insulin? He’s seemingly smarter than everyone in town combined. Maybe he can team up with secondary super-genius Dodee, who can seemingly MacGyver a working spaceship out of some tinfoil and a few popsicle sticks. And why is the phone video of Norrie and Joe’s seizure different when shown to Julia — it’s missing the creepy “shhhhhhhh” moment — and yet neither teen seems to notice?
VERDICT: Another week, another immediate threat, and Under The Dome jettisons all tension by episode’s end with another easy solution. Norrie and Joe get the best scenes in the show, but neither character is weighty enough yet to sustain interest. Big Jim and Angie form an unusually tense political alliance, while Julia and Barbie continue on their obvious “hot couple” course. Tune in next week for another threat! 5/10