It’s the Hatfields vs the McCoys redux for the residents of Chester’s Mill when Big Jim Rennie (Dean Norris) sets his sights on settling the score with snaggletooth redneck farmer Ollie (Leon Rippy), supposedly over the town’s water rights, but really over a long-simmering feud. Caught in the middle is poor psycho boy cop Deputy Junior (Alex Koch), who learns some secrets about his dead mother. Nearing-normal no-longer-Goth Girl Norrie (Mackenzie Lintz) rockets through each stage of grief following the death of her bio-mother, irrationally blames kid genius Joe (Colin Ford), and bonds with Joe’s trouble magnet sister Angie (Britt Robertson). Joe takes hot clueless journalist Julia (Rachelle Lefevre) to the mysterious mini-dome and egg and she sees a hallucination of Joe, who tells her “The monarch will be crowned.” Sheriff Linda (Natalie Martinez) continues to show her ineptitude in the job scene by getting one of her poorly-trained deputies shot (that’s three so far), and hot guy Barbie (Mike Vogel) comes up with a cowboy plan to save the town’s water supply by blowing up the only working well. Oh, and five more people get killed and two wounded.
The metaphors hit far harder than the dome ever could in the worst instalment of Under The Dome to date. Last week the producers managed to avoid a “circle of life” cliché reference, but it’s shoehorned in before the first commercial break by Julia, in addition to a heavy-handed reference to losing her husband… while Barbie is digging a grave, which she compliments him on. One can almost hear the organ keys creaking as the Phantom of the Opera plays, but that scene is trumped far more explicitly when Norrie and Angie discuss Angie’s convenient snowglobe collection and how the dome is like being in one and then smash the collection against the dome. Ugh.
Having built Big Jim up as a conflicted anti-hero quasi-villain for seven episodes, the show now spins him around into full-tilt villain as he leads a pointless charge against Ollie and his gun-toting farmer minions that anyone can see won’t lead to any good end. The “shocking” revelations about Junior’s mother’s death are anything but shocking, robbing the tearful confessional scene between father and son of any emotion except exasperation, and making one wish Junior would just shoot the show’s cameraman instead of whichever person his intended target is about to be. Or perhaps Big Jim, Ollie, and Junior could have turned to camera and given their overused “seething glare” all at once, signifying they were now “Children of the Domed.”
The whole water subplot — now in its third episode in a row — is tedious, given that it was resolved at the end of episode 6, but Barbie’s solution still strains incredulity. How does blowing up a surface-level well immediately redirect a decades-old underground aquifer waterway into dozens of other wells? Wouldn’t it take a while, possibly months, to divert and reflow correctly, and might that probably-contaminated water not be a bit unusable for a while?
Snowglobe target practice aside, the dome gets no love in this episode, though the mini-dome and egg get some play. We’re left with a clue as to what the “monarch” might mean when we glimpse a previously-unseen butterfly tattoo on Angie’s shoulder. Could she somehow be the “monarch”? But why is it that pink stars are rising in the egg when everyone’s been saying “pink stars are falling”? Will we next find out that the egg is upside-down?
To give the show one good pat, the scene where Junior pulled an “That was my plan all along and I meant to do that” after making his father cry and pee himself, and shooting an old man was… absolutely in character, and a perfect moment.
Burning Questions of the episode: Once again, the land outside the dome, which was scorched by a missile two days ago, is shown to be leafy and green. Is the dome healing the land outside? Why has the military not come back since the missile was fired? And inside, it’s only been a week in show time and yet everyone’s cupboards are completely barren of food? Does nobody shop in advance? And what does Ollie’s threat “They’re gonna drum you out faster than a knife fight in a phone booth” actually mean?
Verdict: I really want to like Under The Dome, but this episode could try the patience of Job even if he were a lover of bad television. The script is plodding and obvious with far too many exposition-heavy recaps of “what has gone before,” the tension is nonsensical, and when Phil the hipster DJ is the only likable character onscreen, you know you’re in trouble. 3/10
PREVIOUS EPISODE REVIEWS