One of Stephen King’s recurring themes is the overwhelming nature of evil, that evil is like a storm in the hearts of all mortals ready to burst free with the slightest push from an unforgiving reality. This idea manifests itself both literally and figuratively in this week’s Under the Dome, as the weather inside the dome threatens the residents of Chester’s Mill as the dome grows angry and Big Jim and Maxine free their inner darkness at the expense of Barbie and Julia.
Maxine is not a complex character. She is a manifestation of all the baser instincts of humanity. She is a thrill killer, a thief, and an unrepentant purveyor of sin. So when she shoots Julia just to send a message to Barbie, a man she wants to punish because she can’t have him, it should come as no surprise. Her brand of evil is effectively simplistic, she wants, so she takes. Big Jim is another story. Maxine is a threat to him as well; a physical threat that can bring his carefully built world crumbling down, and a threat to his sense of order and his masculinity. Maxine makes it clear that she will hurt Junior if Big Jim doesn’t play ball, but the only thing Jim cares about is losing his power. Big Jim and Barbie should be on the same side, they both seem to care about Chester’s Mill in their own way, and they both have something to lose if Maxine isn’t stopped, but absolute power corrupts, and Jim, who is on the verge of being the king of the dome, sees Barbie as a future obstacle. So, it’s not enough to bring Maxine down, which they do, with Barbie wanting to arrest her and Jim taking matters into his own hands and making Maxine the third victim to die because of Jim’s need for power. Jim also frames Barbie for the murder of Maxine and the attempted murder of Barbie’s own lover, Julia. That is the overt nature of evil, a festering need for control ready to strike despite the circumstances.
Jim now controls the town’s weapons, the town’s media, and the town’s power supply, and all of a sudden Jim has gone from corrupt politician to despot while Barbie finds himself on the run in a town where such a thing is pretty much impossible. The only part of the episode that didn’t ring completely true was Sheriff Linda’s complete faith in Big Jim’s word that Barbie killed Maxine and shot Julia. Linda has been portrayed as a woman with a keen instinct for the truth and this blind faith in Jim betrays her established character to some degree. Only Julia holds the truth to Barbie’s innocence but she lays in a coma. The reporter is silenced while Big Jim spews his lies over the radio station he now controls.
This all occurs while an eerie storm brews under the dome. Is the dome angry over Jim’s actions, or is it angry that it’s seemingly chosen quartet, Norrie, Angie, Joe, and Junior are not as united as they should be? The storm beneath the dome mirrors the storm brewing in Junior as he vacillates between being a loyal ally to the group and the psychopath that thought himself entitled to chain Angie in his basement. As the evil inside Junior and Jim grows, the dome watches and judges those it holds, but the ending reveals that there may be a sort of empathic link between the dome and those suffering in Chester’s Mill as the dome provides its chosen four with a warning and the means to remove Big Jim from power.
As Stephen King points out to his constant readers, it is hard to define evil, but what is certain is that evil may come in many forms. It is trapped in Chester’s Mill and if it wins, the town is lost.
Den of Geek Rating: 3.5 Out of 5 Stars