Under the Dome
When Lost ruled the world, season five ended by fading to white rather than the usual black. Like many of the show’s finales, it was frustrating. Not the fade itself, but what it represented — rabies-inducing mystery offered in lieu of actual resolution. A cliff-hanger to distract from the fact that we’d lost sight of what cliff we’d been climbing all this time. It’s beyond my ken why Jack Bender — who’s become as much an in-house director for Under the Dome as he was for Lost — opted to end Dome’s first season on another whiteout. We’ve been hiking this summit for thirteen weeks, man — what do we have to do to get a goddamned treat?
Forty minutes prior, though: Julia Shumway’s unamused voice-over kicks in for what I can only dream will be the final time ever (do not keep this for season two, Powers That Be!). I’m trying to foster vague feelings of goodwill. This has been a bumpy few months, but surely the finale’s got some of the strong stuff in store? I won’t allow myself to hope, but I’ll assess what I care about at this point. I don’t care about the monarch. I care about the pink stars, if only out of obligation after hearing about them so many times. I care about what’ll happen with Julia and Barbie. I care about the Domekidz getting some good screen time. No hopes allowed, only concerns.
Junior is pressed against the dome all desperatelike, dying for any semblance of a clue. (Aren’t we all, Junes?) It seems like he’ll roll with the dome’s patricidal urges as long as he gets a good reason. At cool-dude skater-boi Benny’s pad, the rest of the Domekidz watch the monarch butterfly hatch inside the mini-dome. Sherriff Esquivel, ineptitude and willful blindness intact, is unhappy that everyone’s been hiding all this cool shit from her. (A black rhythm shaker egg? And you didn’t tell me?! We could’ve had three solid jam sessions by now — I need a way to de-stress here, people!)
The newborn mini-monarch starts bonking against the mini-dome, sending out oozy dark splotches along the surface. This, of course, happens to the actual dome next. It’s fast, but it’s one of those rare moments of dome-oriented awe the pilot was rich with. Since the premise of an impenetrable dome clapped over a small town has been squandered and rendered dull, it’s good to up the stakes with a completely blackened dome. It’s eerie, absolutely. And it’s realigned the town’s focus from “what are the best ways we can kill each other?” to “what the hell were we going to do about this dome sitch, again?” Esquivel has gone full throttle with this bully-taking-total-control act and declares herself the only one allowed to touch the mini-dome. She gets blasted across the room; no one is sad. It’s been too many episodes of my heart shouting LET ME LIKE YOU, LINDA. She’s past help.
Who’s more difficult than Linda, though? Big Jim right after Barbie pleads “not guilty” in front of the whole town. Fortunately, the murderin’ car salesman exits the town hall to gawk at the sky with the rubes, allowing Angie and Julia to bust in and free Barbie. D.J. Philly Phil shows up, still under the irate assumption that Barbie killed Dodee. Hands-tied Barbie kicks Phil’s ass. Being a military guy with a rage-out problem makes you a better fighter than being a guy who plays cool new songs on the radio.
The Domekidz relocate the blackened mini-dome to that refugee mainstay, the cement factory. (You wanna know what happened to the underground gambling ring/fight club/speakeasy? FORGET IT.) Dome Jr. summons its BFF’s handprints again, they oblige, it glows, it explodes, then — presto! — crumbles into dirt. The baby butterfly finds new life in the rubble, accompanied by Inspirational Butterfly Music. One meandering flight later, it looks like Barbie’s going to find himself wearing a real fancy hat, maybe even a sword.
Barbie’s doing good work calling out the show’s inherent mythological silliness tonight, like Han Solo smirking at the idea of some hokey Force binding us all. “Okay, is somebody gonna tell me what the hell’s going on here?” he asks. Then to Joe’s “this has to be the way the dome chooses its leader,” the very astute, “What, by using insects?” If Barbie seems more than just reticent to go full-monarch, there’s a reason: You can’t be Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.
Chester’s Mill is having a collective come-to-Jesus moment thanks to the darkened dome. Big Jim takes the altar as if it were built were for him, deigning to fill “the hole in our spiritual community” that opened up after Jim, y’know, heinously murdered Reverend Drughouse. The congregation raises some big concerns — no sunlight equals no crops; no sunlight equals no warm, snuggly temps — but it’s nothing Jimbo can’t warp into a motivational speech. He either makes up a Bible quote or keeps one stashed in his pocket for political purposes. He wins. Again. So lucky for Jim to have grown up in a hamlet full of folks utterly unable to detect a scumbag monster, right? And then to have this dome thing happen, too? What are the chances? Best life ever!
“The egg — it’s doing something!” says Norrie, the one who moments ago said, “Things are happening, Junior!” The rhythm shaker has gone all white and shaky, and it’s starting to do the kind of stuff that happened on Lost when everyone was too lazy to push the button in the hatch. Julia gets an idea and grabs the egg. How come? OH, BECAUSE SHE’S THE MONARCH. YOU’VE BEEN PROPHECIED. No more shaky hatch button room. Everything’s cool.
Philly Phil heads to Jim’s whiskeyed office to accept a proposition for mass gallows construction. “Find as many carpenters as you can,” Jim says. “This town is on the brink of chaos, son. You wanna maintain the peace, we need to show everyone exactly how serious we are about Law & Order.” Maybe he says “law and order” — I haven’t seen enough Law & Order to know if gallows are a big part. Anyway, this is heading in a real Handmaid’s Tale dystopian future direction where everything’s going to be awful and people are going to swing from their necks for stealing oranges and kisses. Hope you’re happy, Big Jim.
Esquivel, hunting for those prophecy-mongering Domekidz, finds the “pink stars are falling in lines” graffiti in the McAlisters’ barn and runs it by Jim. Jim slinks down in his chair; his wife once painted that vision. Big Jim wants to do show and tell now.
Junior got a taste of being a good guy and didn’t like it, so he’s back to being a raging shithound. He wants to take the egg to the police (dude, no police department has a Magic Egg Task Force!), so the Domekidz beat feet and Barbie gets left behind to get his face mashed. Big Jim shows Esquivel the pink stars canvases his wife painted. We’ve seen this ridiculous second-grader art three too many times. Get it out of my eyes, please.
In the woods, the Domekidz petition the egg for a little help. It sends them a vision of Norrie’s very recently deceased mom, Alice. Again, Lost. Lost did this shit all the time — dead people, people who couldn’t possibly be there, all rationalized later by an underwhelming explanation that rhymes with joke flauntster. But against the odds, this is one of the most promising and tantalizing bits of tonight’s episode.
“Forgive us — we’re still learning to speak with you. We’ve taken on a familiar appearance to help bridge the divide,” divide-bridger-as-Alice says. Norrie asks what the hell and also what the hell, gets no answers. Joe postulates that the speaker is whoever’s behind the dome. And that’s when we learn that “the dome wasn’t sent to punish you; it was sent to protect you.” But, like, from what? Nuclear war outside the dome? The possibility of Big Jim running for president? Captain Trips? “You’ll see. In time.” DAHHHH. Just when we were getting somewhere! But the dome is black, so seeing anything in any amount of time seems tough. “If you want the darkness to abate, you must earn the light. By protecting the egg,” dome-as-person says. But if you can’t manage that, it’s okay, you’ll just all die. Don’t forget — the dome’s for your own good. Have fun!
Barbie gets back to the jail he just escaped, always a sign of sure-footed writing. Jim hits the airwaves to publicly tell Julia that she either turns in the egg or Barbie “pays the ultimate price for his crime.” Jim decides the dome was sent down to tell him and his son they’re a very special family. He confesses to Junior that his past isn’t murder-free. Jim changes his “we’re all in this together” tune to “you and I are in this together.” Father and son hug it out. The Rennies are in business for season two. (They better be — Junior can’t keep waffling about whether he does or doesn’t comprehend the obvious fact that his dad is a scourge to humankind.)
Julia has taken to cradling the egg like a baby. It’s weird. She’s doing great for someone who just got shot and received improvised medical care, though. The egg-love is short-lived, as Julia decides to toss it into the lake in order to hide/protect it. This sends up a flurry of glorious pink stars, kicking off another one of those precious moments where Under the Dome’s many failings wash away and you’re transported to this world, a temporary prisoner to the mystique and terror of this situation. The stars rise, our jaws drop. And then the dome is white and Big Jim is hollering at Junior to hang Dale Barbara by the neck — “NOW, JUNIOR! DO IT NOW!” — and that’s it. Fade to white. And give us one more look at that crazy-making, occasionally intriguing dome on the way out, would you?
Dear commenters: Please flag any spoilers referencing Stephen King’s 2009 novel loudly and clearly.