Can we just take a moment to appreciate Under the Dome’s pilot episode and the fantastic hour of television that was? Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the latest episode, “Thicker than Water,” which once again demonstrates how a show with enormous potential has more or less gone completely off the rails.
The promotions and previews for last night’s episode heavily featured Big Jim and Junior heading toward a showdown. Considering the two have been fighting since Day 1, it wasn’t exactly a surprise and sadly, the scenes played out far too predictably. Big Jim, along with Barbie and Linda, wanted to commandeer Ollie’s water supply. But Ollie and his friends were willing to do anything to protect it, including shoot one of the deputies in the kneecap.
Junior decided that he wanted to be Team Ollie so the older man had him remove his father’s gun in a show of power. He also dropped a little tidbit that Junior’s mother didn’t die in a car accident; she committed suicide. This revelation should have been a huge deal, but instead, it fell completely flat because there was no build up. How were we supposed to know that her death wasn’t cut and dry? Shouldn’t this have been a seed the writers planted from the start?
Barbie, a dynamic character that is being wasted, came up with a plan to end Ollie’s reign of terror over the town: he wanted to blow up the well so the water could be rerouted back to the reservoir (I guess this is possible? Science was not my finest subject). Big Jim didn’t love Barbie’s plan because he wanted to make an example out of Ollie, but Barbie wanted what was best for the town.
A gun battle ensued between the two sides and Barbie did what he came to do while Big Jim was captured by Ollie and Junior. Big Jim broke down and admitted that Ollie had been telling the truth; Junior’s mother had killed herself and he’d kept it from him because he hadn’t wanted his son to know his mother had chosen to leave him. Ollie was over family bonding time and ready to kill Jim himself, but Junior quickly shot Ollie to protect his father. Later, he told Linda that had always been the plan; to be a Trojan horse. Could this plot have been any more predictable?
Norrie has reverted back to her original awful self. She blames everyone for her mother’s death: Joe, her mother and more than anyone, Norrie blames herself. This would be terribly sad if there was any reason to be attached to this character, but there is not. Angie spent the episode hanging out with her, trying to keep her mind off things (by ruining her snow globe collection) and then comforting her when Norrie finally broke down.
After being banished by Norrie, Joe let it slip to Julia that there was a mini dome. The two went to check it out and this time, it showed Julia a vision of Joe telling her, “The monarch will be crowned.” Clearly, neither had any clue what that meant, but the end of the episode featured a close-up of a butterfly tattoo on Angie’s shoulder. Hmm…will Angie by the town’s savior or be the downfall?
The more important question is will anyone care? Each episode represents one day in the dome so the residents have only been trapped or seven days, but for the audience, it feels like so much longer since we’ve been watching the show since June. But it’s next to impossible to form an attachment to any of the characters because they feel more like pawns being moved around a chessboard than actual people.
Let’s take Barbie and Julia for instance. The pilot set up what had the potential to be a huge story: Julia searching for her missing husband that Barbie killed in self-defense. She invited him into her home and then realized she couldn’t trust him. But now they’re a couple that casually talks about their weird days before going to bed each night? That doesn’t make any sense. Are Barbie’s demons gone? It doesn’t seem like it when he’s constantly almost beating people to death.
It’s frustrating to watch a show that has so much potential make lazy, predictable choices. There’s nothing wrong with adding new mysteries to the overall dome mythology, but the show needs to do something to make us care about the characters as people. It might seem a little cliché, but maybe adding flashbacks would help. Show us what their lives and relationships were like before the dome dropped or give us their incentives to why they desperately want to see the dome gone.
Just give us something, anything that will make us want to tune in for the last five episodes.