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Under the Dome has become a successful mystery series in that each week I don’t know whether I will write a favorable review or pick the whole thing apart while comparing it to another show.  It’s been a very inconsistent show in its first eight episodes. Being an eternal optimist, I view this inconsistency as a good thing. If the writers listen to feedback and examine what works and what doesn’t, the series could really thrive in season two.

For now, however, let’s talk about episode 9: “The Fourth Hand.”



Now that Big Jim has dispatched of Ollie Dinsmore, he can set his sights on securing his power throughout the town. When he walked into the diner and talked to Angie, he seemed almost giddy with excitement. I like how the show has illustrated his near glee at the presence of the Dome. He’s been thinking long term this entire time while the rest of the town has been expecting the Dome to go away.

Screenshot_2013-08-21-09-00-50Big Jim would undoubtedly say that his actions have been for the good of the town. But the truth is he’s power hungry. He loves the control the Dome could potentially give him. The show has been doing a fair job of illustrating this hunger in a subtle fashion. This week, however, Big Jim Rennie made some big power plays while the audience was introduced to a new face.

Natalie Zea (Justified, The Following) joined the cast of colorful (and varyingly talented) characters under the Dome in Chester’s Mill this week. She plays Max, the woman in charge of the drug operation. She’s been laying low for the last week, waiting until the writers cleared up a plot or two before revealing herself to Big Jim. Or Jimmy, as she calls him so we know she’s above his power grabbing aura.

Screenshot_2013-08-21-09-06-49People have and will continue to cast aspersions on the difficulties that the show’s high concept presents when introducing new characters. I see no problem with the series introducing new characters who’ve been in the town “the whole time.” Chester’s Mill may be a small town, but it’s a small town of hundred or even thousands. We’re not going to meet everyone right off the bat.

That leads me to a small tangent here. Something struck me during this episode when Max showed up. I immediately thought, “Why haven’t the characters thought to take a census of everyone under the Dome?” It would borrow a bit from Lost (again) but it wouldn’t be anything too egregious. In fact, it may add to the atmosphere of the show and could present some good avenues for drama.

That line of thought led me to a different conclusion though. I have said before that I really enjoy stories that take place in a small town setting. Under the Dome hasn’t done much with its town setting besides having some looting and an armed militia defending a farm. I wish they would do more with it, though. I would like to see Big Jim command the attention of the town at a town hall meeting. Really, I would just like to see more of a community aspect to the show.

But I digress. Let’s get back to this week’s episode.


Barbie getting called into his freelance deputy job on a shots fired call made for a good scene. It may be my own family’s police background and my proclivity towards cop shows, but I enjoyed the short “COPS: Dome edition” sequence. Maybe it was seeing the police force returning to a temporary state of normalcy that satisfied me. I don’t know. I liked it, though.

Screenshot_2013-08-21-08-59-21Even though the tweaker in the scene’s drug of choice appeared to be a large dose of “overacting-icilin”, I was glad to see the Big Jim drug conspiracy plot line return to the series. We learned more about the drug, known as Rapture, and joined Linda as she chased down the propane lead. The amount of information that she uncovered in this episode makes me hope we have a resolution-heavy season finale that opens doors for the second season.

This week Angie became the third young Chester’s Miller to have a seizure and spout off cryptic words about pink stars falling in lines. Luckily Junior was nearby and didn’t throw her in the fallout shelter again. Instead, Angie began to slowly trust him again while he showed her an ominous painting. His late mother’s painting of him was a really good addition to the “pink stars” mystery. I’m genuinely curious where they’re going with this and I assume we’ll be given answers at the end of the season.

Screenshot_2013-08-21-09-03-30At the behest of Big Jim’s drug conspiracy supervisor Max, Jim introduced a program for the citizens of the town to turn in their firearms in exchange for some propane and food. It’s a sneaky plan that Barbie saw right through. Yet, I liked seeing Barbie keeping Jim close by. Barbie is sizing up the soon to be (potential) monarch. In fact, I really like the chemistry between Dean Norris and Mike Vogel. They work well together.

Speaking of Barbie and Big Jim, the scene with the two of them and Max was great. I was genuinely surprised seeing as I had almost forgotten that Barbie’s hands weren’t 100% clean. Big Jim jovially asking for Max to reveal Barbie’s secrets was a great bit of comedy in the episode. Dean Norris delivered the line perfectly.

Screenshot_2013-08-21-09-04-37Barbie being roped into whatever Max is planning for the town is a really interesting storytelling choice. I like that Max knows she is holding all of the cards and feels comfortable enough to taunt her two pawns. This new dynamic is going to pay off well in the last handful of episodes this season, I imagine.

Joe and Norrie searching for the missing mini-Dome played out like storytelling filler. It’s alarming to see that in a 13-episode television season, but by the end of the episode we had some nice plot advancement. Angie is the third hand our of four needed to…do something. I don’t know what the fourth hand is needed for exactly. But I know it’s needed.

So who is the fourth hand? The late Mrs. Rennie’s painting leads me to think it may be Junior. But the fact that he and Angie can make physical contact without weird stuff happening makes me think otherwise. Really the only person I can think of is Ben; seeing as he’s the only other kid in Chester’s Mill, apparently. If not him, maybe Carter but I feel like he hasn’t been given enough screen time to really warrant such a big responsibility.

I’m not sure what to make of Junior witnessing his dad stockpiling all the town’s guns. It could be foreshadowing to Junior snapping and going on some kind of spree. Or maybe he’s going to betray his dad for real. Who’s to say? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

If Big Jim is the monarch, will Natalie Zea be his Lady Macbeth? Who do you think is the fourth hand? What do you think will happen when they find the missing piece to the mini-Dome puzzle? Leave me a message in the comments and let me know!


Parting Thoughts

  • “So you said it’s an egg with its own mini-Dome around it?” – It looks like the writers are getting a slightly better handle on the network TV staple of opening scene expositional dialogue.  That and product placement are two of my biggest television pet peeves.
  • Speaking of product placement, holy wow Joe’s Microsoft tablet is great. AND you can attach a keyboard to it while your girlfriend is a little too eager about seeing topless pics of a prepubescent boy.
  • What does Big Jim’s reluctance to hand over the diner’s deed to Angie show? Is he just stubborn and we’re supposed to view it as a metaphor for his unwillingness to give up any control? Or is it meant to humanize him and show that he’s still mourning the death of his friend Rose? My guess is the former.
  • Angie’s butterfly tattoo signifying anything seems like a stretch. They called attention to it last week and it didn’t even register with me. I’ll be disappointed if it ends up having anything to do with the Dome.
  • “Firearm Turn-In Program” – Big Jim didn’t really strain any muscles coming up with that name.
  • Barbie training his gun on the back of Big Jim’s head lacked stakes. I don’t think the characters have enough animosity toward each other yet to earn that kind of tension.
  • I wonder if Jack Bender did the paintings for the studio scene.


Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @ObsessiveViewer, like the blog on Facebook and check out The Obsessive Viewer Podcast.

You can find the rest of my Under the Dome reviews here. 

Season 1 will be released on November 5th on DVDBlu-Ray and a collector’s edition Blu-Ray set.


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