Under the Dome Recap: Big Jim Goes A-Hammering

Photo: CBS
Under the Dome
Episode Title
Go Now
Editor’s Rating

Under the Dome has been trying and failing, for 25 episodes, to operate as a fancy restaurant. Tonight it's reopening as an all-you-can-eat buffet, the kind where you will eat everything and LIKE IT (or just don't come back for nine months, till you forget how sick the food made you).

[A disclaimer, and a tantalizer for the weirdos, I guess: If you still haven't watched this episode and you're averse to brutal, caveman-style murder and violence against women, skip this episode and consider quitting this show. It goes there — all the way there. If you're going to watch no matter what, and you are queasy/hate this cheap-violence garbage TV is always spewing, just look away any time Big Jim's onscreen.]

Okay! We begin right after Big Jim has killed again, which I think was his first time doing so in season two. Melanie remains vanished into an oddly circular hole in the ground in the forest. (What do you even have me describing, at this point, Under the Dome?! In three months, you’ve reduced my brain to mush.) The whole, whole band is onstage for this finale’s opener, which is a great feeling after a scattered season of I-don't-even-know-what. Barbie, Julia, Joe, Norrie, Junior, our new friends Hacker-Hunter and Uncle Sam and Rebecca Sciencepine. Even Big Jim and, um, Pauline? OH, RIGHT, this is Under the No-Stakes-Ever Dome, where death — by abyss, by diabetes, by ax murder, by stabbing — never means you're dead. It means Zenith/the reanimation-capable afterlife got another angel! 

"He's dead," growls Jim when concerned citizens ask where Lyle Chumley, the Demon Barber of Main Street, spirited away to after merc'ing Pauline. Jim's talking in what I think Breaking Bad actor™ Dean Norris thinks is a strained growl, but at this point, it's like Dean Norris is trying to be, I guess, evil John Wayne? 

"After I got stabbed, I had a vision — the dome chose you," Pauline whispers to Julia. We know this, that Shumway is a Monarch whose potential will allegedly be revealed one day. What we didn’t know is the rest: "But you're not alone. There's someone else, but I can't see his face. He doesn't know he's the one." This is the second dying/dead middle-aged white woman delivering cryptic nonrevelations in an Under the Dome finale. Norrie's dead-but-reanimated-somehow mom, Alice, did the same thing last year, the words of the almighty dome coming through her mouth. "Forgive us — we're still learning to speak with you. We've taken on a familiar appearance to help bridge the divide," it said. "The dome wasn't sent to punish you; it was sent to protect you," it told us. "You'll see. In time," it LIED. "If you want the darkness to abate, you must earn the light. By protecting the egg."

Whatever happened to ANY of that beneficent geometric shape holding this town hostage?

"The dome's a sphere — it's contracting horizontally and vertically," says Joe, ever the science cadet to Rebecca Pine's science general. "I think it's shutting down, everything inside's going haywire." He's right — there's a steady, loud, dinosaur/smoke-monsterish rumble in the distance, and the ground is shaking. Then thunder and lightning start. On deck, presumably: tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, microclimate nanorobot attacks, sonic fissures, walking abysses, and a forest of cacti springing up at Jumanji-like speed. None would surprise me. I expect at least 80 percent of that to happen in the next two minutes.

The gang goes separate ways, 'cause we need A-through-F plots, for sure, it's a finale. Barbie wants "some gear" to explore the new "crater," which seems a bit sane of a term for a Magic Forest Hole that swallowed Melanie, a Magicgirl. Maybe Barbz has the right idea, since last time he did this same foolish thing, he escaped the damn dome. But then he came back, 'cause he loves Julia and is a Hero, so he'll do it again and again if he has to, which he does. Joe, Norrie and Hunter, meanwhile, think the insanity happening with the dome might have, um, opened a Wi-Fi signal? Haha, alright, guys, let's do this.

It's only been three minutes when a redshirt farmer guy gets (a) trapped under some metal barn equipment and (b) BARBECUED BY RETURN OF THE JEDI LIGHTNING! This finale is shaping up quite nicely, maybe! Under the Dome is a brutally batshit series that has spent too many episodes dabbling with the idea of trying to turn its caricatures into characters. Now we're doing the full-on bananas treatment, everyone yelling, everyone running, everyone dying, everything happening.

I just love this show — for what it is. Which is a mess. An unintentionally hilarious, partially intriguing, vaguely slick and cool mess with vague remnants of Stephen Kinginess clinging to it. And a little SK can go a long way, sometimes. Tonight is one of those times. Odd that the second season premiere, written by King, his first script for the series, was a clunker, and this finale is not only better but Kingier.

There's no Wi-Fi signal, though. Pointless plot point. "So the crater didn't create a crack in the dome and there's no new tunnel?" Norrie asks, only moderately panicked. She calls the new abyss "nothing but a giant killer suckhole." The combinations of words, the sentences that get strung together on Under the Dome, are HISTORIC in their lunacy. But Norrie's trying to skip the lunacy by saying, screw the dome's mad whims, I'm going to hang out with my last living mother, the one who's been grieving rather invisibly somewhere all season, whom we last saw like a hundred episodes ago. Joe would prefer his girlfriend join him in domesperimenting instead of spending time with that person, what's her name again, "Mom"?

That entire Norrie/Joe exchange, short as it is, is a perfect example of this show's actual relationship to Lost, a series that gets channeled many times every week: Lost was a show whose creators constantly insisted everything was really about the characters, not the plotty sci-fi madness. Under the Dome's creators, as far as I know, don't really say much of note, and we can easily infer from watching that this is a show all about the sci-fi madness. At its best, at least, it's that show. (Am I just relieved this season is over? Very, very possible I'm grading on that curve, friends. Recapping the last episode of a season is always a massive rush.) 

Anyway, Joe goes into the hole. For some reason (bad editing?), we don't get to see the suspenseful lowering moment. Joe, Norrie, and Hunter — let's keep calling them the Domekidz; Hunter, welcome to the Domekidz! — find a brand-new Styrofoam Cave-Tunnel inside the Magic Forest Hole. I just wish Joe wasn't wearing that fucking dog shirt still, I hate that creepy kind of mutant Target pup, a, hang on, bull terrier? Freakiest thing on this Stephen King show is that T-shirt.

Pauline's been kept alive for one (1) bonus episode. Uncle Sam, her brother, insists that the internal damage is bad enough to ensure that she'll die as soon as she utters a few more strained, opaque prophecies this show will definitely forget by the beginning of season three. Morphine Pauline thinks she can "paint the way out" of the dome, which means we might have to have to watch a "dramatic" deathbed scene in which Pauline is "taken by the spirit of mystical art" and paints a new "revealing painting" that's an inscrutable grade-school-level product at best.

Julia and Barbie have scooped up this random kid, Aidan, whom we met when his dad was, like I said, barbecued by the big-sky magic the science folk call lightnin'. This child is probably going to be a Magicboy in the traditional Stephen King mold this show has strangely avoided (except Joe and Norrie's season-one visions/seizures about the insignificant "pink stars falling in lines," whatever happened there, guys? NOTHING, SO THANKS FOR ALL THAT AGAIN). Whether he's a Magicboy or not, Aidan will clearly become Julia and Barbie's surrogate son eventually. Are we heading toward the same "awwww, blended family love" finale as The Leftovers, even if The Leftovers is 400 times the show Under the Dome is? 

In Caveworld, the Domekidz find a Frostian Fork. Before they can choose the path that shall make all the difference, they witness the return of the Magic Monarch Butterfly (EVERYTHING IS MAGIC, even if nothing is magical?) and follow it down the path it flies down while lighting it up with this video-game-ish glow. WTF, etc.

Barbie tells Julia to get the whole town together and bring them to the Magic Forest Hole, where he will properly Moses them this time. Before that, though, we need dark nights of the soul, where the townsfolk (represented by Norrie) wonder what they'll do once they escape this bucolic township. I mean, Norrie, guys: You can do anything after this. Go have fun. Being under a dome sucks, ya know? 

"They might be buried in Chester's Mill, but they'll always be with us," Joe reassures Norrie, speaking of their recently deceased relatives. Norrie, appropriately, looks at Joe like, Dude, really? But instead, she tells him why she was heading to "boot camp" on Dome Day. Turns out she punched a girl in the mouth and knocked her tooth out after the girl made fun of Norrie's hair. What a boring backstory, I appreciate Dome not asking us to know or care about that sooner!

Junior bolts to his mom's studio to get her supplies and we encounter this monstrous artwork, a self-portrait where a gory Pauline is gut-wounded and puking a waterfall of blood. She saw THIS coming, too! the show shrieks. Wow, great. It's funny, though, 'cause Real Pauline on her sickbed, spurting ketchup-ish mouth-blood onto her crisp white pillow, looks less convincingly damaged than Painting Pauline.

Julia, Barbie, and Aidan the New Kid are navigating the pouring rain to cram everyone onto some school buses. Norrie's mom, Carolyn, suddenly around and involved again, doesn't want to hear anything about being one of the Four Hands (of the Domepocalypse) — she wants Norrie to do as everyone else is doing. Get on the bus, get out, we're going somewhere nice with no mosquitoes, might even have us a cappuccino, fuck it!

Pauline will not be leaving the dome, though, because Rebecca Pine just used her science-teacher skills to administer a lethal injection at Pauline's request. Big Jim breaks down in real tears for the first time ever, I think, when he sees that Pauline is fading. It's weird. Also odd that Jim is breaking down while Pauline's brother, America's famous Uncle Sam, is completely chill.

Also also: Jim is about to kill Rebecca for killing his wife. No way around it. These two have had a wild ride this season — partners to enemies to partners to jailmates to potential lovers (for like ten minutes) to enemies. Hey, though, any excuse for Jim to put away his crocodile tears, grit his teeth, and rage out on everyone in the vicinity/universe!

The murder itself demands a dedicated paragraph. Jim does one of the sickest things a human can do to another — he slams Rebecca in the head with a hammer, a tool designed for pounding nails and thumbs ONLY. So Stephen King–y in its awfulness. What I mean by that is that every King novel has AT LEAST one moment you never forget, due to its gruesomeness, the way it bumps disgustingly up against what it means to be a fragile, mortal, human in a world of danger, death, and dickheads. (DDD, for short.) One such moment, one of the biggest, yuckiest King moments, comes in It, a 1,000-plus-page novel utterly jammed with such horrifying moments. There's a tiny part in that story, revealed, I think, through a newspaper article, where a man loses his mind and kills his young son with a hammer. It still sickens me with fear and discomfort 15 years after reading the book in middle school, an age no child should read about dads gone hammering. It gave and continues to give me nightmares, wretched ones. So to watch even an obvious, cartoonish villain like Big Jim Rennie do that to a woman onscreen on CBS, in slow fucking brutal revolting motion, is just too much. Get bent, Under the Dome. I can't even root for Jim's comeuppance after that. I only want to throw up. You're not getting five stars for this episode anymore. (You're spectacularly bad at making your way to the five-star promised land. It's always one step forward, seven steps back with you.)

Phew. Deep breath. Two more deep breaths. Then one more, a deeeeeeep one. Now let's try to keep going and hope Junior doesn't follow in his father's footsteps and hit anyone in the head with a hammer until they're dead forever.

Jim, tearing apart his departed wife's studio as the chaser to his murder cocktail, opts to haggle with the dome-lord he's been fancying himself a friend of all season. "I'll make ya a deal: If you bring her back right now, I won't murder every single one of your special little friends. I won't slit Julia's throat, shoot Barbie in the heart, or burn those kids alive. Okay? You got three seconds." That's not how praying or deity-requesting works, though, so red-eyed, tearful Jim is ON THE HUNT. What a monster, what a vile, repellant man. He needs to take a nap and cool off, not commit every brand of -cide there is just because he lost someone. What a buffoon. A bald one. You're bald, Jim! You look like the Thing/Michael Chiklis! Booooooooo!

At the Magic Forest Hole, Barbie is so fully mimicking Jack Shepherd in those many moments of Jack Shepherding the Losties. Imagine if the Magic Monarch Butterfly's plan isn't to illuminate the proper path but to lead all of the town to a big, fat doomsday? That would take this show to a whole 'nother level. I doubt we'll have such luck.

In Andrea's knickknack-hoarder home, Julia finds Big Jim with his Big Gun and Bloody Hammer. It's really a shame that this dumb man — who couldn't even catch Walter freaking WHITE! — is without a doubt going to do more murders before the night's end. So Jim shoots Andrea in the head. We barely knew her and can't, on paper, care about her, but it sucks. Mostly because she's a prop for Jim's ascent up Mount Sociopath.

We can't say this isn't what we bargained for — psychotic breaks with reality run in the Rennie family. Junior had one in early season one, trapping Angie in a bomb shelter for days, and Pauline probably had them over and over through the years. Hers were just more magical. Jim's are not magical. He swings his hammer at Julia, the Monarch in Wait, and she frying-pans his hand. Then it's a horror movie, with Jim as Michael Myers. More grotesque violence against women, not tone-deaf at all, Dome! "You know why the dome didn't bring Pauline back?" Julia gasps. "Because you're a joke; because the dome doesn't make deals with insects like you." You're too kind, J. He's a ruthless killer and he's lived for like at least 20 minutes too long, this is getting egregious. KILL JIM NOW, SHOW. I'm still shaking my fist at the man's ugliness, but also still at the ugliness of Dome. This series can be so manipulative despite its inefficacy as a long narrative TV series.

"I'm not your son anymore," Junior tells his dad in the woods. "You're not leaving this town." Jim's response, mature as ever? "You don't tell me what to do." Hopefully that's your last word, Jimbob. You're dead. Or not, sadly. James blasts Jim in the chest because shooting your dad in the face or dick is hard. Hopefully the megalomaniacal car salesman bleeds out on the spot, chubby little moron mofo. And while Junior finally "rejecting" his father (with a bullet) is satisfying and has been set up for a long time, it's still not enough to excuse everything we've had to endure tonight. Pretty sure two consecutive long showers won't wash that filth off me. Going to need a long nap.

I'm ready to see where this season ends, where Dome takes us. The path is through the poorly lit Styrofoam rock cave, the Magic Forest Hole, regrettably. And it includes ANOTHER Julia/Barbie estrangement — they're literally divided by a crack in the earth. This ending also includes lines like Barbie's "everything we've done for this town, we've done together." I am not enough of a mathematician to tally up the amount of times an "everything I've done" line has ham-fisted its way into this series, man. Julia thinks Barbie's the faceless man from Pauline's prophecy (again, these strings of just straight-up preposterous, silly-ass words!) and that he shall save humankind. Is he that guy? Will destiny be realized? Dome seems to think we eat and breathe and shit Twists, rather than just strong storytelling. The M. Night moment is coming, right? (Wrong, thankfully.)

Two minutes on the clock. Flock of butterflies flaps in cave, lighting ceiling with Magic Phosphorescence, another beautiful/hollow CGI Doment. Butterflies depart, leaving humans alone between a rock and … some other rocks. Norrie "flips out," pounding the blank stone they're facing, the one that's not any kind of "exit" from the dome. "SCREW YOU!!!" she shouts. "Can you HEAR ME?! Whoever you are, CONTROLLING all of this, can you JUST talk to us and TELL US what's going on!!?" She's speaking to the writers, the producers, the directors, the Powers That Be, and this is their chance to answer. Can they? Or will they once again open a hatch without taking us inside, like they've done probably 100-plus times by now in 26 hours of TV?

Grown-up Magicboy Dale Barbara touches the flat stone, and it glows an alien aqua hue and begins to splinter with light, slowly, then all at once. "How did you ..." murmurs Joe. (A-plus for effort, McAlister. You'll never get an answer to anything, this is UTD.) "I have no idea," Barbie answers.

The entire rock face crumbles away. The Gawd Melanie stands on the other side, drenched, calm. "Follow me; we're going home," she says. Cue:

And that's it. They just won't take us into that hatch, these cursed people.

Minutes From the Town Meetin'

Three stars for this one, an average installment in the end after all. Under the Dome is crazily, loopily average. Can you guess what the season average is, in terms of stars, in this humble recapper's obsessive opinion? THREE, on the dot.

Commenter Ben_Dover (yuk, yuk?) last week: "Maybe the dome is contracting into a sphere that will float away with Chester Square intact, and implode in outer space. Alternatively, the show will return next summer. Maybe some of the kids complexions will have cleared up by then." I like the way you think, sir, even if your handle is a Bart Simpson prank call.

"Go Now" was directed by Lost veteran and Dome executive producer Jack Bender, his eighth episode of Dome. (He does about four episodes a season, meaning he's responsible for a little less than one third of the series, directorially. He did the season-one finale, the season-two premiere, and this finale.) I'm starting to question the credit Bender built up with Lost, talent-wise. Maybe he's just polishing a turd the best he can.

• And here's the #triumphtune that I listened to on repeat the whole time I was editing this recap. You deserve to listen to it now as an epilogue, a bolstering end-credits tune. Thank you, Drizzy; thank you, Dome, for ending (maybe forever?! we'll see!); and thank you, Vulturites, for reading. Happy Tuesday! Sincerely wishing you good luck erasing those Big Jim murders from your memory.