The residents of Chester’s Mill experience death and birth in one day, without once breaking out into the song “Circle of Life” (This is, after all, a CBS show, not a Disney-owned ABC show). Big Jim Rennie (Dean Norris) gets tired of Junior’s (Alex Koch) simpering and kicks him out, so it’s a good thing that Sheriff Linda (Natalie Martinez) tells Deputy Junior that the Dundee brothers almost raped his ex-girlfriend Angie (Britt Robertson) last episode before handing him a giant gun, huh? Pregnant neighbour Harriett (Megan Ketch) hallucinates her sailor husband and then touches the dome, pushing her into early labour with only diabetic lesbian mom Alice (Samantha Mathis) and her spouse, Carolyn (Aisha Hinds), to help deliver the first dome baby… or is it? Because off in the woods, kid genius Joe (Colin Ford) and no-longer-Goth Girl daughter Norrie (Mackenzie Lintz) have found a mini-dome and a mysterious egg inside of it! Plus, hot guy Barbie (Mike Vogel) and hot clueless journalist Julia (Rachelle Lefevre) sleep together, snaggletooth redneck Ollie (Leon Rippy) makes threats towards Big Jim, and a red shirt gets blown up real good at the hands of a major character!
Swinging in an almost completely different direction than any preceding episode, this Under The Dome features conflicts and problems mostly created by “Dome Reality” instead of TV reality; that is, none of the problems would exist without the dome being there doing mysterious things. This could be because whomever/whatever has created the dome is manipulating events – after all, storylines that parallel and counterpoint each other every single episode/day can’t be random forces of nature can they? – but unfortunately, it feels more like writer manipulation and contrivances than anything else. But at least the dome means something in this episode instead of being mostly ignored.
This episode’s “threat of the week” is heavily weighted toward the impending birth of Harriett’s baby, and we might care more about her and her progeny if we had actually seen the character before. The other main story threads are actually continuing from previous episodes (continuity finally finds a welcome mat set out for it) and are alternately welcome and groan-inducing. We knew the Dundee Brothers would have to face come-uppance for their near-rape of Angie, but the way Junior found out about it, and the plot contortions bringing him into direct conflict with them were so simplistic they could have come from an old Scooby-Doo episode (“Here’s a big gun, psycho boy cop, now let’s go talk some sense into those girlfriend-rapists and not shoot them!”). And while the welcome (and rare) interracial lesbian kiss between Alice and Carolyn was sweet, the editors might as well have flashed a subtitle reading “one of them is about to die” as it happened. And when one of them does die, it’s not nearly as effective as it could be because we barely know them; it’s more like an opening death on a Law & Order episode than it is a character death on The Walking Dead… we just don’t know enough yet to really care, which has been a problem with almost every Dome death to date.
Emerging as the show’s anti-hero more so than Barbie, Big Jim’s struggle to maintain authority is interesting, but made cloying by his battles against Ollie, whose leering gaze and hissing line-readings make old Batman villains look restrained. Even with that though, Big Jim’s actions towards the end of the episode continue him down a path we expect and dread, yet welcome anyhow. And mad props to Big Jim for bitch-slapping Junior, even if we know it’ll mean “bad things” down the road.
Burning Questions of the episode: Why is everyone so freaked out about running out of water when just last episode (i.e. last night in show time) it rained inside the dome, and they know it will again? What is the purpose of Stoner Ben other than to awkwardly consume screen time? How does Joe make these impossible scientific leaps in logic? And waitasecond… the bomb-scorched land outside the dome is leafy and green two days later?
Kudos for one great line from future slut Norrie (italics mine), promising her future sluthood: “Joe, I’m not having sex with you for the first time against the dome!”
The mysteries of the mini-dome and egg do bring with them some new questions, but they come off too much like finding the hatch in Lost. Why does the mini-dome cause hallucinations of people in the woods? Is it portending death? Why is no one other than a few teens actually trying to figure out the dome rather than just living within it? Time will tell, but given that questions about the nature of the larger dome have yet to be answered and now we have a mini-dome, some things need to link up because we’re already past the halfway point.
Verdict: Big Jim gets his gun on, lesbians kiss, and a baby is born, and the cinematography is nice in a few spots, but still this Under The Dome feels groggy. Had some of its actual mysteries been teased in earlier shows, the payoffs might have been far richer, but we don’t care much about the baby, and the sudden appearance of the mini-dome isn’t as much of a thrill. Perhaps the producers could have shown a bisected worm on the edges of the mini-dome to goose ratings and excitement just a little? 5/10
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