Although I’m still intrigued about the explanation that’s going to be given for the Dome (which is meant to be different from Stephen King’s version in the book), these episodes really do feel as if they’re treading water. Both the major plotlines, such as they are, in this episode derive from the introduction of Max last week, rather than from the situation within the dome.
The fight club is getting incredibly hackneyed as a television trope: as has been pointed out recently, some series use fights almost as punctuation, or, worse, as padding. That’s definitely the case here: it’s supposed to be illustrating a power play between Max and Barbie, in which, surprise surprise, Max doesn’t play fair. In fact, it’s just padding. We’re also meant to believe that in such a (literally) confined community as Chester’s Mill, this has been going on and no one has noticed it!
The other plotline, as Big Jim tries to get to the bottom of Max’s secrets, is designed to reinforce our original thoughts about the used car salesman/town leader… or for those of us familiar with the book, start to get him back on track with the character King created. The minute a scene opens with his victim sitting with her hands tied in the front of a boat, you know that she’s going to fall in, and Jim is going to let her drown. Dean Norris does the best with the predictable material, but again, you could leave the room for five minutes and not miss anything key.
As for the revelation about the final quartet member, it’s clear that the Dome supplies selective memory loss, as key portions of the characters’ pasts suddenly are recalled at the most convenient point. (There’s some soap opera bits about Julia and Barbie, and Linda finding a document from her old boss, as well.)
Verdict: Compare this with either Haven or The Dead Zone at the equivalent parts of their runs, and Under the Dome comes off badly. Let’s hope it picks up for the closing instalments and justifies its renewal. 5/10