Last summer's silly sensation Under the Dome returns for a second season on Monday. The show, a Stephen King adaptation that is, upon closer inspection, about a town that finds itself placed under a mysterious dome, was at turns junk and addictive and infuriating, and somehow all of us here at The Wire missed out on it.
In the interests of catching up in time for the season two premiere, we've decided to employ a lighting-quick catchup method. Rather than marathonning all 13 episodes, the three of us are going to play a bit of TV Telephone. The game of Telephone, as is classically understood, involves whispering something to a friend, who then whispers it to the person on the other side of them, who then does the same, so on and so forth, until the story gets back to you with hilarious embellishments. (As with most concepts, this one was best illustrated by The Simpsons.)
So that's what we're doing with Under the Dome season one. One of us will watch the first episode and tell the other two about it; then we'll pass it off to the next person for the second episode; and so forth. We won't be watching the episodes we're not writing about, so we'll be dependent on each other's reports to fill in the blanks in between. Hopefully by the end, we'll have a better understanding of just what is happening under that dome, and we'll have had a little fun at the expense of Chetser's Mill, Maine in the process.
Previously: Episodes 1-4
Episode 5, "Blue on Blue"
Watched by: Ben Cosman
David and Joe:
Great news from the dome. We’ve finally reached the biblical allusions, because our good friend Rev. Lester thinks he’s talking to God. He’s really just high on meth and picking up military signals with his hearing aid, because I guess that’s how technology works now, but it’s fine. Oh, and there’s a bunch of butterflies getting all up on the dome (something to do with magnets?), so of course there are plenty of cocoon metaphors, too. I’m just glad this show is as subtle as it is.
So, the military has bussed in the Chester Mill residents’ loved ones for a catch-up session through the dome. Really this is just a prime opportunity for everyone to deal with their emotional baggage. Linda tells her fiancé that his brother’s dead. Norrie meets her biological dad and gets all moody teen about it. Julia gets a letter from her dead husband by way of her sister-in-law explaining that Pete was going to leave her even before Barbie buried him in the woods – I can only assume this is the show’s way of making it okay when she and Barbs finally hook up. Oh, speaking of our drifter, apparently he was in the army and killed a bunch of American soldiers in a friendly fire mishap. But that’s convenient, because he gets it out of one of the military guys that they’re planning on blowing up the dome, taking Chester’s Mill with it.
Apparently that “Moab” that Lester was hearing from God wasn’t a sly reference to the biblical city full of sinners, but actually a military acronym for Mother Of All Bombs. So everyone goes running into the tunnels, but no one thinks that’s going to work, as “we’re all gonna die” is uttered by at least three different people. Big Jim, after some hemming and hawing, frees Angie from the bomb shelter, but he fails to impart the whole thing about the town being on the verge of mass destruction, so she runs off unwittingly straight back into the clutches of sociopath James Jr. But she seems to forget that he’s kept her chained up for days, because she ends the episode cradling his head in her lap. Joe and Norrie start macking it just as the missile hits the dome (because of course), but guess what! The dome is indestructible. We end “Blue on Blue” with Lester threatening to out Big Jim, because everybody’s got to repent, so Jim does what anyone would do and kills the Reverend using the dome’s magic electrical powers. Can’t wait for the next episode filled with rebirth and second chances and whatever else!
Episode 6, "The Endless Thirst"
Watched by: Joe Reid
David and Ben:
First of all, A+ hilarious episode title on this one, though I suppose the alternate title could've been "Chester's Mill Goes to Hell in a Handcart." Rather than being happy that the bomb didn't kill them all, everybody seems to be glass-half-emptying about how the dome has been proved indestructible and thus they're never getting out. So this episode becomes about the scarcity of resources.
Resource #1: Water. Lotta problems here. A road accident at the water tower spills hundreds of gallons of precious agua onto the ground. Then Mike Vogel and Sheriff Linda discover that the lake is all full of methane, because oh sorry, you thought the Dome would be good for the ecosystem? Big Jim knows there's a well underneath the town, but he's gotta horse-trade with ornery Ollie for it. Good thing Big Jim's been stockpiling propane for some weird reason! Propane is the air-rights-in-Burlesque of Under the Dome. Anyway, this all gets solved at the end when the Dome makes it rain. (Julia, for one, thinks the Dome actually did make it rain, with intention and agency. Anthropomorphized Dome, all right!)
Resource #2: Food and Groceries. Big mistake by the Chester's Mill brass not closing up all the markets and bodegas and federalizing all consumer goods for rationing and distribution based on need until the crisis is averted. They didn't do that, so now the police have to patrol the aisles of corner stores in order to combat looting, and poor Rose plays the ultimate price when the oafish Dundee brothers try to rob her of her freezer meat and end up killing Rose (R.I.P. Beth Broderick, a.k.a. Aunt Zelda from Sabrina the Teenage Witch) and knocking Angie out.
Resource #3: Insulin. With Alice in the throes of Insulin Sickness and wandering into streets and causing accidents that rob the town of their water supply, Norrie (and Joe, by extension) set out to find her some insulin. And since apparently Chester's Mill has been living hand-to-mouth on insulin, they don't have any more in supply, so Norrie is going to go steal some from other diabetics, because Society Has Collapsed and There Are No Rules But Our Own Anymore. Norrie finally gets shamed out of stealing a small child's insulin supply ... so she only steals one vial. Move over Sopranos, there's a new morally-compromised sheriff in town.
Resource #4: Silence. Angie finally learns not to telegraph her attacks and brains Junior with a snow globe and escapes ... only to get caught up in the Dundee brothers' attack. She's knocked out and wakes up on Big Jim's couch, like, this girl can't catch a break. Big Jim isn't interested in excusing his son's behavior. He just doesn't want Angie telling anyone about it. And he's willing to pay her off ... in propane, because this is Under the Dome, and the answer to "What's Under the Dome?" is "a disproportionate supply of propane."
Resource #5: Dome Power. So Julia and Dodee the Radio Girl are tracking a strange signal that appears to be jamming all other signals, and of course the signal is coming from Norrie and Joe, the Magic Dome Teenz. Joe decides that have to tell someone about their pink-star seizures, so they do. And then they both touch the Dome at the same time, and that restores the radio signals. And Julia's like, "Let's not tell this town full of rapidly de-socializing looters that these two kids are the key to unlocking the Dome, huh?"
Episode 7, "Imperfect Circles"
Watched by: Ben Cosman
Joe and David:
Let’s be clear. The dome is in charge.
We’ve reached the point of dome-life when everyone starts hooking up, apparently, because Barbie/Julia start “Imperfect Circles” in bed, and our favorite magic dome teens are frenching and talking about having crazy magic dome sex. It’s those post-looting pheromones, I guess.
Joe and Norrie (which stands for Eleanor, we find out) go on the hunt to figure out just what’s up with this dome – which no one else seems to care about for some reason? Why are the seizure-prone teenagers the only ones curious about this? Anyway, they hike to the middle of the woods and find this
hatch smaller dome in the exact center of the big dome, which is housing a tiny black egg-shaped thing. They try talking to it but get zilch back, until they both touch it at the same time and Norrie’s mom Alice shows up in the middle of the woods. She disappears when they let go of the tiny dome, though, and Norrie takes this as a sign that something is wrong, running back to town.
And it is! We have our first dome pregnancy! Julia’s super-pregnant neighbor Harriet interrupts her tryst with Barbie to borrow some yogurt, and then she touches the dome, which of course makes her water break a month early. No one’s at the hospital (because people have just stopped doing their jobs), so Harriet, Julia, and Barbie head to Alice’s house for a home birth. They get held up by the Dundee bros again, but resourceful drifter that he is, Barbie fends them off. Here’s my issue: The Dundees were after gasoline, so they siphon it out of Julia’s SUV. After they’re chased away, Julia/Barbie/Harriet abandon the SUV because “no gas.” But the Dundees left the gas where it was when they fled, so… I don’t know. Whatever, they end up hoofing it to Alice’s house on foot.
The delivery is not without its complications, umbilical cord around the neck and all, but again, Barbie is an experienced drifter and births are well within his realm of expertise. The baby ends up being christened Alice, which is a good thing, because adult Alice isn’t doing so hot. Long story short: she has a heart attack. The dome giveth, the dome taketh away.
Meanwhile, Linda and James Jr. hunt down those pesky Dundees and, in the heat of the fight, put bullets in both of them. Big Jim is also losing control of his town, where Ollie has set himself a sweet monopoly of water, crops, and propane. But Jim’s not going to take that lying down, so he kills yet another Chester’s Mill resident to take back his propane. Because that’s the only thing with any value anymore.
The episode ends with that black egg thing pulsating with pink stars (!). You know things are about to get real Lost season two up in here.
Episode 8, "Thicker Than Water"
Watched by: David Sims
Joe and Ben:
So Jim has kicked Junior out of the house? He seems to know all his secrets. "You sound just like your mother did in the end!" He yells. Which upsets Junior, but whatever, that kid sucks right? Barbie, meanwhile, is gravedigging and is really good at it. Who died? The Dundees? Oh no! Poor Alice! I just put it all together.
Big Jim goes to see, uh, who is this guy? I guess he must be Ollie? He offers propane for food. But Ollie wants to starve the town out so that Jim gets knocked off as Councilman. He's looking to replace him. Jim's counter is to try and seize the land through eminent domain, with the help of the cops.
Norrie's blaming her mom's heart attack on the black egg and Joe in general, so she's decided to stay away from him from now on. He's sure sad about that! Jim's effort to seize Ollie's well sees him and the cops outgunned and one of them shot in the knee. But Junior seizes the opportunity to turn traitor and join up with Ollie. Man, that kid bloows.
So Joe told Julia about the egg. Why, I don't know. But he takes her to see it and it is GLOWING PINK. When she puts her hands on it, she sees another Joe, saying "the monarch will be crowned." Creepy. Julia thinks she's losing her mind even though SHE LIVES IN A TOWN SURROUNDED BY A DOME. Angie and Norrie bond by breaking snow globes against the dome, which is kinda symbolic I guess. Two bad girls who mean well! But then Norrie gets sad about her L.A. snowglobe, which is very silly because it never snows in L.A.
So Barbie then sneaks into the farm to make a bomb. He's followed that night by Jim's invasion force. Fighting and shooting ensues. Barbie blows up the well, which causes everything to go to shit. Jim gets captured, but Ollie's stranglehold on things is basically done. Jim is in Junior's hands now. Junior interrogates dad about mom's death, which was no accident. Mom had been crazy for a while, Jim says. She drove her car right into a tree deliberately. That's all that Jim covered up. As twists go, this is a letdown. Is it the truth? Well, Ollie goes to kill Jim, so Junior takes Ollie out, saying he believes dad.
But Barbie confronts Jim in his office about the five deaths sustained in the battle. Jim says they're united now. Barbie says only because he secured the town a reservoir, and he accuses Jim of wanting to control the town through the well. These two are not quite magnetic enough for me to care about their dynamic but whatever.
Our cliffhanger: Angie has a butterfly tattoo. Like a monarch! A monarch butterfly! And she's watching Barbie and Julia with a smile on her face! OMG!!!!