The corruption inherent in absolute power is a theme that Stephen King fans should be familiar with. From Mother Carmody’s biblical uprising in The Mist to the role of Randall Flagg as humanity’s dark savior in The Stand, corrupt beings taking advantage of horrific situations is an archetype King has gone back to again and again. It makes for great drama for it is not the villain that brings the true horror to these situations but the fact that they are put in power by the fearful and superstitious victims of the event.
Big Jim Rennie, the most powerful man in Chester’s Mill, is an evil man but he cannot fully be blamed for the chaos that now exists under the dome, it’s his followers’ fault for not seeing the selfish despot he is clearly becoming. It is the fault of Sheriff Linda, whose analytical mind is blinded by trust in the establishment. It is the fault of radio guru Phil for assuming Barbie’s guilt in the murder of his close friend Dodee. And it is, tragically, Dodee’s fault for not seeing Jim’s evil soon enough, a misstep that led to her own murder this week. Chester’s Mill gave Jim the power to search their homes as he looks for the mysterious egg that could be the key in unlocking the dome’s secret, a key that only Jim would allow himself to possess. Like any good despot, Jim uses the fear and uncertainty in Chester’s Mill as a means to control the populace, the same way Mother Carmody used the creatures inside The Mist and the same way Randall Flagg used the superflu in The Stand.
They must share the burden of guilt because the characters who resist the fear are not under Jim’s spell. Norrie already lost her mother, she has nothing left to fear or to lose, so Jim cannot control her. In fact Norrie took a shot at murdering Jim this episode! Joe does not fear the dome, he wants to understand it, so Jim can’t control him. Even Angie does not fear Jim, because she felt true fear at the hands of Junior and compared to that ordeal, what can Jim do to her? Junior’s sociopathic tendencies allow him to remain fearless, so even he sees through his father’s illusion of control, and of course, Barbie, a soldier who survived true horrors in Iraq does not fear Jim’s tin-plated dictator routine, so he remains Jim’s worst enemy.
This episode, Jim tries to “Ned Stark” Barbie by promising him that Joe, Norrie, Julia, and Angie will not be harmed if he confesses to the shooting of Julia and the murder of Dodee. Clearly Jim is lying and will have Barbie strung up after a public confession, so Barbie does what Ned Stark could not, he renounces Jim and exposes him as a liar. Barbie will not go quietly, and the few fearless residents of Chester’s Mill are now exposed to Jim’s wrath but finally free to take steps to free Barbie and the town from Jim’s control. The ending of this episode, Jim’s refusal to bend to Jim’s will, was a true fist pump moment and probably the series highlight so far. One more episode to go and I for one am not ready to lose my weekly dose of dome just yet!