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.
Episode 9, "The Fourth Hand"
Watched by: Joe Reid
David and Ben:
Nine episodes in, the town of Chester's Mill has divided up between those looking to figure out about the Dome and how it works and what it is and how they can get out from under it, and those who are looking to build a new Dome society with new Dome laws and Dome ordinances and Dome lease agreements and Dome police investigations into Dome drug dealing and Dome propane malfeasance. Those in the latter group: pretty much everyone. A chipper Jim even says, "Things are looking up in this town!" OH ARE THEY? Meanwhile, those looking to actually figure out the Dome: Julia, three teens, and a dog. Super.
So a few of the CM residents are going a bit stir-crazy. One, Larry, is strung out and looking for his next fix of a drug called "Rapture," which the (now-deceased) preacher was selling. While Sheriff Linda investigates the roots of this drug (and finds out that Duke, may he rest in peace, was part of the shady dealings) Big Jim takes a different angle. Because he comes home to find Max (the wonderful and not-always-well-utilized Natalie Zea), who's apparently a) his boss in this weird propane scam, and 2) been hiding out in Chester's Mill this whole time, apparently. So the propane scam goes thusly: Big Jim and Max have been using the propane to make the Rapture drug, Duke had been paid to look the other way, and the reverend would sell it. Max is this criminal mastermind. AND she knows Barbie, from a one-night-stand turned criminal partnership. She knows Barbie killed Julia's husband. She knows Barbie and Julia are now doing it. She knows basically everything that doesn't involve the dome.
And so Max and Jim decide to call for a voluntary surrender of the town's guns, for everybody's own good. Barbie's hella suspicious, but in the end, Big Jim ends up with a pretty hefty arsenal (including a grenade that Jim fairly bad-assedly took when he disarmed crazy-resident Ted) in his storm cellar. Junior spies this cache at the end of the episode, because apparently Junior's the good one now?
Well ... he might be? Angie has a pink-stars seizure in front of Junior, who takes her to look at old artwork of his dead mom's, and it looks like mom painted pink stars falling all around young Junior before she died. Did she predict the Dome? Uhhhh, I mean, probably.
Meanwhile, the mini-dome and the black egg are no longer in the woods, and Joe and Norrie and Truman the dog spend most of the episode looking for it. Turns out, according to Angie, Joe zombie-walked out the other night and returned home with the egg, and placed it in the barn behind their house. So by episode's end, our three Indigo children are touching the mini-dome, and their handprints light up like they were always meant to unlock this thing. Only one more handprint lights up, and, much like perhaps some friends of yours who were at the NYC Pride parade yesterday, they need a fourth. Who is OBVIOUSLY Junior, if only because he's the next-youngest person left in Chester's Mill, that we've seen.
Episode 10, "Let the Games Begin"
Watched by: Ben Cosman
David and Joe:
So what, this Max character thinks she can just waltz right into our pleasant dome-town of Chester’s Mill and muck everything up? Apparently yes, because that’s exactly what she does.
Big Jim and Barbie spend most of “Let the Games Begin” trying to hatch a plan to get out from under Max’s thumb without spilling all of their dirt too, which isn’t as fun as it sounds because neither of them really trust the other. So they plot to sneak together into a house Max owns, which just so happens to be on a tiny lil island in the lake bordering Chester’s Mill but still conveniently finds itself under the dome’s dome-ain, in order to dispose of whatever records Max has on them. That’s the plan, at least, until the mastermind herself walks in all “You boys better not be brainstorming a mutiny” even though she knows that’s exactly what they’re doing. No matter, though, because Max has other plans for everyone’s favorite drifter.
He’s the main event in her underground (literally in the cement factory tunnels) fight club! Max has set up a shady debauchery club/swap meet where the town’s less wholesome population can trade vices (like iodized salt, I guess?), bet on dudes beating the pulp out of each other, and become indebted to Max. It’s a lovely place, really. To repeat: UNDERGROUND FIGHT CLUB UNDER THE DOME. So Max makes Barbie fight some guy he’s got a history with from his gambling debt collection days, but he throws the fight because he’s the _good guy_, you see. Enough is enough though, because he runs home to Julia and fesses up to, you know, killing her husband. She, looking past the fact that her husband is dead because of this man, does not kick Barbie out of the house. Cool.
AND STILL NO ONE BUT THE TEENS CARES ABOUT THIS DOME. Our trio of seizure teens go out hunting for their fourth, and guess what, Joe! You’re right, it is Junior! How do we know this? Oh, because no one in the entire town of Chester’s Mill has had a seizure since Angie was in tenth grade, and that lucky resident was none other than JIM JUNIOR. How convenient.
Meanwhile, Deputy Linda and Julia start sleuthing to get to the bottom of the town’s propane ring, and a solo Big Jim makes his way to the Chester’s Mill version of Martha’s Vineyard. Who should he run into but Max’s dear ol’ mum Agatha, herself some sort of societal outcast because she got pregnant at 16. She does not have the kindest of words for the people of Chester’s Mill, let’s leave it at that. After returning home from his jaunt and disposing of Agatha (leaving her to drown, like any upstanding councilman would), Big Jim finds Linda on his doorstep with some Qs about his propane dealings. Linda found out, of course, because Duke left a confession in his safe deposit box copping to the whole thing, and admitting he only did it because Max promised to keep the drugs out of Chester’s Mill. Because he, like Barbie, is a good guy.
We end with our quartet of teens all touching the mini dome (which, by the way, is now home to a monarch chrysalis, because fuck subtlety), and the black egg shooting out pink stars like a planetarium presentation. Junior, ever on-the-ball, asks “What does it mean?” Indeed, Junior, indeed.
Episode 11, "Speak of the Devil"
Watched by: David Sims
Joe and Ben:
The #DomeTeenz are trying to figure out the constellations, wonder if the Dome is trying to communicate with or even help the town. Joe thinks it's rad. Oh also they're convinced the Dome won't allow anyone else to know about this, so they have to keep it a secret, because DOME.
Jim says he was hoarding propane just to keep the town SAFE. Instead, he says, Sheriff Linda should look into Barbie. Who is greeted by Julia at home. "How was the couch?" "Lonely." "So was the bed." They're gonna visit her husband's grave and GET OVER IT so they can bone in peace. But then Max just shows up at the door and shoot Julia in the face. This is my introduction to Max, and I have to say, so far I majorly support her.
Junior tries to make things happen with Angie again, but she has some smart objections such as "you locked me in a basement!" He throws a hissy fit, says he's in love with her, and storms out, saying "I would rather live in here and die in here than be apart from you." Not sure why that's what he says as he leaves, but, Junior's pretty crazy.
Suddenly, some weird tornado is about to happen. The CGI effects are...fine. Max meets up with Jim and Junior, and then heads off to Bird Island. What's Bird Island? She seems very confident that she can just swan around shooting people and ignoring the catastrophic weather. "Who was that?" Junior asks. "The devil," Jim replies. KOOL!
Julia goes to the hospital, Barbie is suddenly a surgeon because he's an army veteran Fallujah hero man. He saves her, and Joe thus anoints him the town savior too, but Joe's a dumb kid, and I don't want to listen to him.
Jim tells Junior he wants to make the trains run on time. "Max wants to fill the trains with drugs and liquor!" he alleges, making for a weird metaphor (I think it's a metaphor, right? There's no trains in Chester's Mill, right?).
Angie gets Junior to come back by saying the big storm is a result of the Dome "talking" to the kids and saying it's angry because he ran away. He makes Angie say she needs him before agreeing.
Max walks down to the beach and drags the body of her mom out, just like that. Barbie and Jim agree to team up and stop her, but they have to get her alive, Barbie says.
Joe relays the status of Barbie as savior to the other kids. "I think he might be the monarch," he says. Junior, however, is convinced HE is the monarch. The storm stopped because he decided to come back. "The dome owes us some answers," Angie declares. It's a dome, guys.
Jim and Barbie IMMEDIATELY get captured by Max. Like, within 10 seconds of entering her factory base. But then they turn the tables and get her at gunpoint! Jim then shoots her dead. Barbie's bad, but, come on. That was a good call. THEN Jim goes to shoot him too, but Barbie knocks him out. Then the Sheriff shows up out of nowhere, just as Barbie has a gun at Jim, and all this business gets pinned on Barbie. Oh no! I'd be more upset if Barbie wasn't such a dull lead. Barbie punches Linda and runs off. Dear me.
So, we end with Jim making a broadcast sending the whole town after Barbie. He's accused of all the murders that ever happened in the history of the town. Jim also declares a state of emergency which means he can seek the death penalty?
Our cliffhanger: the teens all put their hands on the dome at the same time and see a mysterious figure. Who is it? Jim. In a yellow linen shirt, smiling creepily. Bleeding from many wounds. Is it a vision of the future? A suggestion? Suddenly all the kids have visions of bloody knives in their hands, so.
Episode 12, "Exigent Circumstances"
Watched by: Joe Reid
"That bastard threatens all of us." Those are Big Jim's words as he rouses the rabble to go hunt down Barbie, public enemy number one. He makes his big "this is our Independence Day" speech, to a bunch of cheers (and some Carolyn side-eye). Sheriff Linda tries her best to be the voice of reason, but what do you think her chances are?
Meanwhile, Junior is a classic easily-manipulated chump, which Big Jim is eager to use. He tells Junior that Barbie shot Julia, to which Junior's like, "Yeah, he DID flirt with Angie that one time, so I bet you're right." Big Jim sends Junior to guard Julia.
Elsewhere, Barbie knows that Jim would kill Julia rather than have her wake up and ruin his cover story, so he gets Angie to let him into the hospital. So she candy-stripers up and flirts Big Dumb Junior out of Julia's room. Only he catches on, because when he kisses her, she tastes like cigarettes. He says, "You taste like cigarettes." Cigarettes = Barbie, I guess? Cue the chase, then cue the FIGHT!
Dodee picks up chatter that the military is hunting down the Cadbury Mini-Egg, and she tells Big Jim all about it. She thinks it might be the generator for and key to bringing it all down. Big Jim is literally like "Bringing what down," because he is SUPER COOL with the Dome right about now. Dodee also overhears the military chatter, which says that drones picked up surveillance of Big Jim killing the Reverend. Nice timing, there. So, yes, Big Jim does kill Dodee, and burns down the radio station for good measure. R.I.P. the radio industry. This really opens the door for Joe and Norrie to start up a podcast, though.
Big Jim takes some thugs to retrieve the Cadbury Mini-Egg from the barn, past Carolyn's strenuous objections. Only the egg's not there. Norrie and Joe get hauled off to ... I guess jail? The gulag? Whatever prison camp Big Jim has devised for his little Dome Republic.
So Joe, Norrie, and Barbie all end up in jail. Norrie slashes Big Jim with a knife but still manages to get released. Barbie, however, merely gets an offier: confess in front of the whole town, or else Big Jim will say that Julia hired him to murder her husband. The kids go to Joe's friend Ben's house — he's been hiding the egg — and find the egg all glowing and the chrysalis about to hatch. Linda walks in on all this business and sees it for herself.
Meanwhile, Julia wakes up, and Angie catches her up on how Big Jim's gone power-mad. And in town's square Jim trots Barbie out in front of the town and accuses him of his crimes. Barbie: "Not guilty."
Next: On to the finale!