To this episode of Under The Dome, I would like to welcome the show’s writers. Have a seat, folks. Better late than never. This episode, the first of the season that I thought was out-and-out good television, was directed by Kari Skogland, who a. is a lady, which is nearly always good news, and b. directed the episode of The L Word where Jenny’s college roommate shows up and pretends to be her girlfriend. Everything really does come back around to that show. Lesbian associations aside, there are some beautiful shots this week, and good use of the handheld camera as conditions in the town begin to deteriorate.
We return to town minutes after the anticlimactic bomb blast, as the inhabitants of Chester’s Mill flock to the Dome, which is, of course, still standing. It’s kind of cute how they think they can just blow on it like an old Nintendo cartridge and it will just go away, but then again, they don’t know that they just got picked up for another season. But even without knowing their Nielsen ratings, everyone realizes that if good old American firepower can’t bring the thing down, then they really are stuck here. Immediately, scarcity of resources becomes the dominant issue. Firstly, propane is running low. Big Jim, of course, is sitting on a massive stockpile, but decides to hold on to that bit of information until he can swoop in and save the day at the last minute. As folks get restless, Sheriff Laura recruits Barbie to be part of the Good Manners Enforcement Squad.
Meanwhile, Angie and Junior are experiencing a level of awkwardness so high that it can only compare to my first French kiss. It was summer camp and I thought I was just getting in some good, consequence-free kissing practice until I discovered, to my horror, that the guy and I would be attending the same high school in the fall.
This is basically like that, except that instead of parting after the summer, these two thought they would be dying in a fiery blaze. So Junior is like, “soooo…wanna come get back in the bunker?” and Angie is like “Thunk! Patter!,” which is the sound of her breaking a snow globe over his head and running away.
When Junior tells his dad of her escape, Big Jim orders him to find her before she can blab to anybody about how they are both psychopaths.
Oh and remember how Alice has diabetes and Carol was going to steal her some insulin but decided not to? Well those chickens are coming home to roost. Alice, in her insulin-deprived state, wanders into the road, where she is nearly hit by a semi truck, which instead swerves into the town water tower.
And as an accident-prone lesbian, I really feel for her in this moment, and am inclined to blame the truck driver. As the whole of the town’s water supply dumps onto the appliance truck (really? to whom are you delivering appliances in this energy-starved town?) yet another vital resource is now in short supply. Barbie and Sheriff Esquivel go to the local lake, only to find that the Dome unearthed a methane pocket, rendering that water undrinkable. They take the problem to Big Jim, who of course knows the location of every puddle in Chester’s Mill, including an artesian well owned by local yokel, Toothless McGee.
Julia and self-described “radio head” Dodee go in search of the mysterious disturbance in the force that is scrambling the town’s radio waves. They figure that whatever it is, it might be the key to dismantling the Dome. The first place Dodee’s Dome Detector takes them is the hospital, where we learn that there is no more insulin on account of America’s obesity epidemic. Mama Alice is fading fast without her medicine and Norrie decides to go steal some from a less-deserving townsperson.
Speaking of townspeople, the first layer of civilization to be peeled off is adherence to worthless scraps of paper as money. From here on out, it’s the barter system. Sheriff Laura manages to quell the first murmurs of dissent with her law enforcement philosophy: “always believe in the goodness of people you serve.” And I wish we could paint that on every cop car in America, but that level of optimism doesn’t stand a chance against mob mentality. It starts with shoplifting, which turns to looting, which snowballs into a riot.
Elsewhere in town, Norrie is putting her juvenile delinquent skills to good use, breaking into the houses of other diabetics in search of their insulin. And just like that, Under The Dome asks its first really tough question. When we watch nameless, faceless townspeople looting, it’s easy to condemn and cringe as our beloved sense of stability comes crashing down. But when it’s one of our own, a character we’ve come to care about (who is quietly, but not incidentally, a lesbian) everything changes. We want Norrie to steal some insulin, because we want her to save Alice. But everyone in that town has an Alice.
Outside town, Big Jim uses some of his propane to trade for Toothless McGee’s water. But ol’ Toothless is drunk on power, and it seems certain that the two of them will come to blows in the next few episodes. Or they could make this town into a perfect anarcho-socialist utopia, but somehow I don’t see that happening.
While the glass of Main Street shatters and lifelong neighbors come to blows over a jar of JIF, Angie finally makes her barefoot way back to town. She goes to the diner, where Rose comforts her. It’s an excellent scene because it raises the awful specter of victim-blaming, as Rose at first refuses to believe that the Rennies could be such monsters. She comes around, but then so do two redneck rioters. In a scene so masterfully edited that it truly is harrowing, one of the rednecks beats Rose to death with a softball bat. Angie tries to avenge her, but she’s only a ninety pound ball of righteousness and is quickly knocked unconscious. She lies on the ground, looking more like a child than ever, and you hope that the show only hints at the possibility of rape. But y’all, Under The Dome is done playing nice. I think (I pray) that Barbie arrives on the scene before the bastards actually rape her, but the stakes on this show have been permanently raised. The shitheads escape and Barbie hands Angie to Big Jim.
Poor Sheri Esquivel. She started out this episode so hopeful. But as the riot intensifies, she raises her pistol, and is moments away from destroying her innocence, when suddenly it begins to rain. Actually, “when suddenly it began to rain” is a phrase my dad got me super into as a kid, when he was teaching me about stories. How adding an element of surprise, an outside force like the weather, can change everything. It made such an impact that now it’s the banner on my tumblr. And this rain does such a good job of being that magical rain. It dispels the riot as the tear gas failed to do, and suddenly all the town’s energy is turned towards something positive, as everyone gathers buckets. The mob mentality is suddenly a sense of community. And it really is magical rain, because it’s filtering all the methane out of the water! Sure, fine, whatever, you’ve earned it this week, show.
Elsewhere, Dodee and Julia discover that Joe and Norrie are somehow the keys to the Dome. Dodee thinks they should tell Big Jim, but Julia rightly tells her no. The townsfolk would rip those kids limb from limb if it meant they could have the Internet again. At the hospital, Norrie delivers the one lousy bottle of insulin she managed to steal from a child. Alice is safe for the present, but unless the Dome knows how to make her drink her juice, I don’t know how she’ll hold out.
Also in the magical rain, it comes as a surprise to no one when Julia and Barbie put their faces together. What is surprising, is that it’s a remarkably sweet moment. Julia says “we’re gonna be okay,” and what it really is, is a question. She’s asking if they can be a “we,” a little microclimate of their own. And the answer, at least for now, is yes.
Finally and most intriguingly, Big Jim and Angie “come to an arrangement,” wherein they agree that Junior is a psycho, but Angie will keep quiet about in exchange for food and propane and guns and whatever else she wants. The episode ends with Junior walking in on them like it’s his intervention.
So, for me at least, this episode was as surprising and welcome as rain inside the Dome. What did you think?