Under The Dome: Force Majeure Review

The blood rain continues in the newest Under the Dome as things get biblical on the Stephen King TV series.

Last week, things started getting Old Testament for the residents of Chester’s Mill as a plague of insects almost took out the town’s remaining crops. This week, the biblical madness continues with the Dome’s Slayer tribute. That’s right, it’s raining blood in Chester’s Mill, and the residents must decide whether to put their faith in religion or science to stop the acidic crimson rain. It really is Under the Dome.

It was Rebecca Price who took out the caterpillars last week, and it was Chester Mill’s former science teacher that combated the rain this week. Rebecca could have been a plot convenience—a character that simply existed to clue the viewers into any needed information regarding anything science-y, a learned exposition machine.

Instead, she has become a welcome character with some severe shades of grey: a woman who uses cold logic to find a way to survive the coming hardships. What she calls pragmatism, Julia Shumway would call a culling when Rebecca was trying to convince “Big” Jim to purge the population as to save resources. The scary thing about Rebecca was not necessarily her Third Reich-like approach to survival, but how she was able to manipulate Jim so easily. Does she truly believe in Jim as a higher power or was she appealing to his ego in order to institute her control over those under the dome?  Whatever the case, she’s become quite the wild card.

Speaking of wildcards, we have Melanie Cross. Melanie is one of those characters where the success of the season’s narrative hinges on the mystery surrounding her identity. No one knows who Melanie is or where she came from, except perhaps “Big” Jim’s morally ambiguous brother-in-law Sam Verdreaux, but the revelation could decide whether this season is a success or a muddled mess. This episode, Melanie, Joe, and Norrie investigated the high school where Angie was killed. Melanie knows the combination of the locker where rests Angie’s bloody handprint, a fact that burns the already jealous Norrie. The always analytical Joe put the clues together and found that the locker belonged to none other than Melanie cross in 1988.

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Okay, Under the Dome, time travel, huh? You want to go there? It didn’t work out great for Lost, y’know? Well, let’s just hope the writers behind Under the Dome have a plan with Melanie, because quite frankly there is enough strangeness and mystery under the dome that adding the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey could make things needlessly complex. Hopefully, there is a plan for Melanie because right now she’s distracting from some intriguing mysteries that have not been paid off from season one.

For example, thus far Julia is the Dome’s chosen in name only. She doesn’t do much at all, even though she was chosen last season by those ever-present dome butterflies. This week, she serves as the moral counterpoint to Rebecca’s suggestion of thinning the herd, and maybe we have a The Stand like holy war simmering, but so far this season, Julia has kind of taken a back seat to the newer characters.

As for the episode’s A-plot, the blood rain was a pretty effective, classic King scare. The rain burned the skin and even “Big” Jim was brought low by the exposure to the acidic force of nature. Once again, Rebecca had the secret to fight it and as she beats these plagues more and more, Domers are trusting this knowledgeable woman of science.

On the other side of the science versus religion conflict we have new character Lyle Chumley, the resident barber of Chester’s Mill played by country legend Dwight Yoakum. Despite some hammy acting from Yoakum, Lyle is a classic King character: a man who enables his own immorality by justifying it as God’s will. He is cut from the same cloth as The Mist’s Mother Carmody.

When first we met Lyle, he was giving “Big” Jim a close shave using a straight razor. First off, who the heck goes to the barber for a straight razor shave in 2014? Although, it is safe to say the Dollar Shave Club can’t deliver under the dome. Secondly, it seems Jim and Lyle were once in competition for the hand of Jim’s wife. Now, if I once stole the heart of a woman my barber once loved, I don’t think I would let him put a glistening razor to my throat. Jim wasn’t the only person Lyle held helplessly in a chair this episode. During the worst of the blood storm (wasn’t that a ‘90s Image comic?), Lyle kidnapped Rebecca and burnt her with the acid rain. Rebecca escaped with the help of Barbie, Julia, and Junior and temporarily blinded Lyle with the water. Now, Lyle sits in a cell with some secrets, secrets about the fate of Junior’s mom who was revealed to be alive this week, sending Junior’s story spinning into a whole new direction.

There is a fine line between plot progression and plot convenience, and having Joe and Junior able to temporarily gain access to the Internet borders on the latter. The episode needed to have Junior connect with his mother, so without explanation, the dome kids were able to have temporary access to the Internet where Junior found a website connecting him to his mom. Another plot point where the merit will be decided in the payoff, but as of right now, things seems to be a bit too convenient to not call it out.

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The stuff with Rebecca is intriguing, but there seems to be some laziness in Chester’s Mill so far this season with Barbie way too trusting of Jim—a man who had a literal noose around his neck just two episodes ago. Even pushing to the side of the extraterrestrial elements of the dome, I still have to say, really? No mention of Joe and Norrie’s dome induced trances, like, at all? No headway into Dodee’s murder, and no mention of Barbie’s mysterious past? I can see time needed to establish the new characters, but plot threads are fraying here!

The potential culling could have potential as far as future conflict goes, but please, let us not forget who these people are that will be picking a side between Rebecca and Julia. New mysteries are welcome, but not in lieu of mysteries that are still lingering.

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2.5 out of 5