When Under the Dome first began, there was some buzz regarding the idea that the gimmick would get old quick, how many hours of television, people wondered, could be squeezed out of the conceit of a town being trapped beneath a dome? The answer is, hopefully many, because, so far, the character work done by Brian K. Vaughn and company has been so spot-on that the show has only scratched the surface of the story potential contained within the residents of Chester’s Mill. The incredibly diverse cast gives an unlimited shelf life to what some feared would be a limited concept. As long as the writers stay true to the exploration of a group of characters trapped and unable to escape their pasts.
For example, this episode focused on the relationship of Junior and his dad, Big Jim. Viewers have gotten hints of past troubles between the two, and there was passing mention of the death of Big Jim’s wife, but in this episode, the truth comes out. Big Jim is still furious at Junior for kidnapping perpetual victim Angie (and this episode, thank God, Angie does something other than get beaten or captured), but he is not furious over the immorality of Junior’s actions, instead, he rejects his son because Junior’s actions will cause Chester’s Mill to see Big Jim in a negative light.
If his fellow citizens learn that his son is a twitchy obsessive, they will see Jim as something other than their magnanimous protector and control of the town will slip through his grasp. If we learned one thing about Big Jim, it’s that he does not like to have his authority questioned, which is the inciting event of this action-packed episode. The last few weeks, farmer Ollie has been challenging and soundly defeating Jim at every turn. He had Jim beaten last episode and is forcing Jim to turn over his stash of propane in exchange for access to a valuable well.
Well, now Ollie has had enough of cooperating on any level with Jim, and is challenging his authority. Jim’s character is defined by his need to control, and he organizes an assault to take the well, an assault that will cost lives. To make matters worse, after Jim rejects Junior, Junior joins with Ollie and learns the truth about his mother’s death. Turns out Mama Rennie killed herself, forcing Junior to face another rejection. With Junior firmly on Ollie’s side, Jim is obsessed with taking Ollie down even if Barbie comes up with a plan to take the well with minimal casualties. This is when Jim gets all Walking Dead’s The Governor on everyone’s ass, as he ignores Barbie, a seasoned soldier, and goes for broke, and loses. Ollie and Junior have him, and its only Jim’s masterful and conveniently timed confession to Junior that saves his life and costs Ollie his. This is masterful character work.
Did Jim truly confesses to unburden his soul, or did he know the right words to say to Junior at the right time to win him back? A confrontation with Barbie by episode’s end seems to answer that question. With Ollie dead, it seems Jim has turned his attention to Barbie, another possible challenge to his ultimate control of the domed town.
Meanwhile, the mystery of the Dome deepens as Joe reveals the mini-dome and the egg to Julia, the voice of truth in Chester’s Mill. Julia is the third person to touch the Dome and hears the words “the monarch will be crowned.” Could this mean that Jim’s power grab worked and he is now the monarch of Chester’s Mill with Ollie dead? Perhaps, but a final shot of a monarch butterfly tattooed on Angie’s shoulder and a sly smile as she watches her brother and Norrie reunited says things are forebodingly different.
The balance of power has shifted in Chester’s Mill, with Big Jim standing triumphant with Junior at his side and Barbie ready to oppose, but is this through free will or the Dome’s design?
Den of Geek Rating: 3.5 Out of 5 Stars