I’ll be honest, last week’s episode left such a bad taste in my mouth that I was actually very nervous about tuning in this week. I spent the week telling myself that the show’s lackluster 3rd episode was just a fluke and the writers were still finding the voice of Chester’s Mill. I told myself that Alexander Koch just needed a short grace period to find his footing with the Junior character.
If “Outbreak” is any indication, I was right.
This week Under the Dome bounced back with a strong episode that advanced several major character arcs. It also managed to deliver a suspenseful, standalone plot that managed to take the already isolated “dome” setting to a whole new level of claustrophobic paranoia.
Chester’s Mill experienced the worst timed meningitis outbreak in history this week. It was a good way for the writers to call attention to the finite amount of medical resources the town now faces. As I already mentioned, it was also a fantastic way for them to ratchet the tension and claustrophobic atmosphere of the series’ high concept.
I started the episode thinking that the show hasn’t spent enough time on the town being in fearful awe of the dome to transition them smoothly into a communal “oh shit, this town is our tomb” mentality. I stand by that, however, it was cool seeing the town in protest of the military abandoning them. Seeing the spray painted pleas on the dome wall was a very nice touch.
I was glad to see Joe finally show concern for his sister. Throughout the last couple episodes I’ve been yelling at him through my TV screen to ask where she’s been. I didn’t realize until this past week that Angie doesn’t live with him. So I can forgive that he waited until this week to ask. Unfortunately, the person he asked was Junior. Sheer dumb luck, I suppose.
Speaking of Junior, Alexander Koch did in fact bounce back from last week’s awkward tunnel excursion. I don’t know if someone on set gave him a note or if he just didn’t have to show much emotion this week, but I am totally on board with the calmer Junior Rennie.
As big a fan of Dean Norris as I am, it was refreshing to see Big Jim take somewhat of a step back from the forefront of the show for an episode. I have a feeling the writers know he’s absolutely the best actor they have on the call sheet, but it’s comforting to see they aren’t going to burn us out on him too quickly.
The scenes Big Jim did have were very strong, though. Him and Barbie teaming up to get the antibiotics was a fun little excursion into the increasingly demented mind of Lester Coggins. Seeing the reverend preparing to burn the medicine made me very nervous. Big Jim’s slip about Lester’s drug use makes me wonder what Barbie is going to do with that information. I’m anxious to see if he follows up on it.
In all its potential hokey-ness and melodrama, I honestly thought Linda’s teacher sacrificing herself so that Linda could get her medicine and live was a touching moment. I hope it leads to the, so far pretty good, character development of the Mill’s new sheriff.
Making Junior a cop so soon in the series will hopefully turn out to be a good thing. I’m sure it will. I’m really excited to see the show’s evolution into the inevitable (hopefully) Big Jim police state. This week’s episode took a big step in that direction.
Julia and Barbie had a rough one this week. Luckily for us, we got some sweet clarity into what Barbie was doing meeting Dr. Shumway. Having the man fall into financial trouble and making Barbie an enforcer for a bookie is pretty safe territory. We can’t hate Barbie because it was an accident and he was only doing his job. Not to speak ill of the fictionally dead, but Peter Shumway was an ass.
I really liked the scene where the bedridden Julia asked Barbie for her husband’s whereabouts. Barbie used Phil Bushey’s theory as an out and told her he must have skipped town. I liked the long pause as Barbie chose his next words. You could really see the character wrestling with the moral dilemma painted on Mike Vogel’s face. I was impressed.
As far as the kids of Chester’s Mill are concerned, I’m kind of glad Benny wasn’t around this episode. I needed a break after last week’s impromptu house party that made no sense and perfect sense at the same time. Stupid teenagers. Hat’s off to Joe, though, for convincing a girl to let him video tape them touching.
Seriously, though, that scene gave us a sliver of new information about the weird seizures afflicting the Mill’s young’uns. They can’t touch each other without seizing and talking nonsense about pink stars. Seeing Joe break from the seizure to shush the camera actually creeped me out a little. It felt very “Stephen King” inspired.
Having said that, I can’t stand the way the kids act in the seizures scenes. I’ve held my tongue about it for a few weeks now and I just can’t keep it in. Maybe there’s no way to make instant telekinetic seizures in teenagers come across as anything but awkward and unintentionally funny, but I get the feeling they didn’t try too hard proving that theory. The way it is now, the kids just look like they’re flopping around like dying fish. Its distractingly humorous nature makes it a little hard to find it compelling.
Finally, Angie’s dilemma in the fallout shelter was a great b-story that complimented the clinic quarantine plot very well. I felt uneasy at the thought of Angie chained in a room that could eventually lead to her drowning. It’s a nightmare scenario and the show paid just enough screen time to it.
The final scene with Big Jim finding her made for a great ending with lots of questions for next week. I’m genuinely curious about how Big Jim is going to react. Is he going to set her free and discipline Junior? Or is he going to help protect his son? Not to mention, how is he going to handle Lester’s threats?
This episode eased my fears from last week, for now. It may be their strongest episode left. I hope the show continues on this path. There’s too much potential here for it to turn into another, forgettable, run of the mill network series.
- How is the clinic already out of gloves and masks?! It’s been three days since Dome Day.
- Joe: “Let’s check out the video, I’ll rewind it.” Do the writers know how smart phones work?
- Needing an access card to open an exit seems to violate about a million fire safety codes.