Under The Dome episode 8 review: Thicker Than Water
Joe and Julia receive a cryptic message from an egg in this week’s insultingly dim episode of Under the Dome.
This review contains spoilers.
1.8 Thicker Than Water
There’s something indecorous about laying into Under the Dome. For a start, it’s too easy (titling an episode ‘Thicker Than…’ is just asking for it). Secondly, if I wasn’t writing about it for this site, I’d have switched off by now. Only sticking around to take swipes at something I’m fairly sure will piss me off each week really isn’t cricket, especially as everyone who agrees with me me will have skedaddled long ago, leaving only a robust ten million fans to shout me down in the comments.
Every clunker of a line, every melodramatic stare-down, every attempt at depth flattened by overly on-the-nose exposition and dialogue feels like a kick in the teeth to well-scripted sci-fi drama. To the kind of sci-fi that reveals something about the human condition other than “fathers and sons, it’s never a walk in the park” and “women say a lot of things they don’t mean”. The kind of sci-fi that suggests probing metaphors instead of lobbing them at the viewers like snow globes smashing against a wall. “I’ve seen some things today that have been testing the limits of my comprehension” said Julia this week. Well I’ve seen some that have tested the limits of my patience.
The shoulder-slump began early on in episode eight, as Julia told a grave-digging Barbie, “You’re pretty good at that”. Credit where it’s due, restraint was shown in not spotlighting the dramatic irony with a flashback to Barbie digging her husband’s grave, but all the same. “I can’t imagine losing a spouse like that”, she continued, giving the irony corkscrew another painful twist.
In just twelve and a bit hours since her mother's death, Norrie had passed through all six stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance, and stating the bleeding obvious. Bonding with Angie as a fellow tearaway teen, Norrie felt moved to articulate a parallel that’s been building since the dome was attacked with that big-ass missile with the killer line, “Now you’re in a snow globe”. Just once, the writers could have let a metaphor pass by unnoticed instead of trampling it to death.
When its characters weren’t wading through mouthfuls of tee-hee knowingness, they were choking on exposition. Angie reminded Big Jim about the deal they made, Julia reminded Barbie about the baby born when Alice died, Ollie reminded Big Jim about the town’s water supply problem… Perhaps Under the Dome is trying to accommodate its viewers popping out for fag breaks or missing the odd episode, because if it didn’t happen in the preceding scene, it thinks we need reminding.
Other than exposition, macho glaring was the theme of Thicker Than Water, as Big Jim engaged in a staring contest with just about every other male in Chester’s Mill, from son Junior to farmer Ollie to ex-military man Barbie. The prize? Control of the town’s water. After Barbie completed his A-Team videogame mission (Blow up the well: Trophy Achieved), the water was no longer monopolised, but belonged to the people. At least that problem/resolution story took longer than a single episode to work out. As I said, credit where it’s due.
Things were distinctly Oedipal in the Rennie household, as relations between Big Jim and bovine Junior were further strained by the revelation that Ma Rennie had killed herself and Pa Rennie had lied about it. Unfortunately, the plotline saw the end of Leon Rippy as Ollie, the only actor of any charisma Dean Norris had to work with.
Which leaves us with the series’ ongoing mystery: who created the dome, and why? Like The Tommyknockers, something weird in the woods might provide the answer. The egg left us with the message that the monarch will be crowned… Hmm. The monarch… like the butterflies that arrived out of season a few episodes back… like the butterfly tattooed on Angie’s shoulder… add it all together and you get... what? Is Angie about to be turned into some kind of mega incubating Queen for whatever's inside that egg? Let’s hurry up and crown her so we can all get back to our Battlestar Galactica box-sets. Now that Chester's Mill is running out of coffee, their civilisation's days are numbered anyhow.
Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Imperfect Circles, here.
Please, if you can, buy our charity horror stories ebook, Den Of Eek!, raising money for Geeks Vs Cancer. Details here.