Things are going to get biblical in Chester’s Mill, huh? Ok, I can deal with that. This week’s episode didn’t bring the locusts, but it did bring an infestation of caterpillars in the first of the plagues the residents of Chester’s Mill must face in the coming weeks. It’s all good as the second installment of season two was much more cohesive and controlled than last week’s premiere, making “Infestation” mostly a winner.
Let’s start with some head scratchers. There can be no denying that “Big” Jim Rennie was a megalomaniacal despot last season. Of course, the average resident of Chester’s Mill is enamored with the cue balled fascist, but the show’s main protagonists, Barbie, Julia, Joe, and Norrie know the darkness that lies in “Big” Jim’s black heart. So in the name of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, can someone tell us why Norrie and Joe have agreed to crash at Rennie’s house? They saw him try to hang Barbie, they saw him act psychotic and sociopathic many times, but they are still willing to live under Jim’s roof and eat his scrambled eggs? Yeah, Joe’s house was destroyed by an electromagnetic pulse from the dome last week, but there has to be a better place to crash than with Dome Hitler.
Yes, Jim seems to have turned over a new leaf. It’s like he found heroic ways to help the people of Chester’s Mill because he thinks the dome is testing to see if he is worthy to lead his people. Well, Jim loves a challenge and he found one in the aforementioned infestation of caterpillars. The infestation was discovered by new character, science teacher Rebecca Pine. A new player who is growing on me, a little. At first, she just seemed like a fountain of exposition but she also has a moral grey area that gives her an interesting edge. She was willing to burn some perfectly good crops in order to stop the caterpillar infestation and save the reaming food supply of Chester’s Mill until “Big” Jim revealed a crop duster that would do the job and save the crops. “Big Jim” was eager to play the hero until Barbie went up himself and did the job.
The old Jim would have allowed Barbie to crash after the war hero accidently scraped the dome with his wing (one of the cooler visuals thus far in the series), but season two Jim talked Barbie down and shared the heroic spotlight. Jim seems to be stepping a bit towards the light until, and this is where things get interesting with Rebecca, the science teacher informs him that Chester’s Mill will not have enough supplies to sustain the town’s entire population. She seems to suggest there may have to be a culling, an unexpected twist for a character that seemed to be nothing more than a convenient way to relate sciencey stuff.
If there is a culling, let us hope they start with the new sheriff Phil Bushey. Sheriff Linda is not even cold in the ground and I’m already sick of this guy and his stupid hair. “Big” Jim has made some boneheaded moves to insure his own power, but assigning a radio DJ, and not even a good one, to protect Chester’s Mill will come back to bite everyone in the ass. Yeah, there’s some built in dramatic irony if Phil ever finds out that “Big” Jim killed the ex-DJ’s gal pal Dodee Weaver, but that doesn’t help the amount of suckage brought to Chester’s Mill by stupid Sheriff Phil.
On to better things. It looks like this season will be a very big locked room mystery as someone in Chester’s Mill has killed Angie McAlister. Sheriff Phil is one the case, which pretty much means the murderer will never be found. Having the murder of Angie be the narrative glue that binds the many characters that are living under the dome together is a very effective way to juggle the many stories running concurrently in Chester’s Mill. First off, it gives everything an overlaying sense of paranoia because anyone could be the murderer. Secondly, it darkens the already pitch black character of Junior Rennie. This episode nods to the Stephen King novel, as Junior is shown cuddling up to the corpse of Angie. In the book, Junior spends a great deal of time cuddling with corpses, but hasn’t exhibited that less than charming character trait in the show.
Could this image of Junior clutching the cold hand of dead Angie foreshadow an even darker turn for him? It sure seems like it, when Junior found Angie’s bracelet under his bed. The night Angie was killed, Junior was blackout drunk and had already came very close to murdering Angie in season one. The whole thing felt like a feint, but it leaves Junior in an intriguing, albeit troubling, place moving forward.
Speaking of troubled, we move to Angie’s brother Joe. There hasn’t been much movement of Joe being the Chester’s Mill resident most connected with the dome. Instead, he seems to be channeling Anakin Skywalker an awful lot and wishing death on people. There was a whole lot of movement last season of Joe, Norrie, Angie, and Junior being the Dome’s chosen. It would be nice to see a return to that as Norrie has done nothing thus far this season and Joe seems to have forgotten about his connection to the dome.
“Infestation” did feature a nice morality test of Joe not giving into temptation and shooting the new mystery girl a number of characters blamed for Angie’s death, but that’s not what I personally wanted to see from Joe. I wanted more answers to why he is able to channel the dome’s will, more of the brave boy willing to face the unknown to help his friends, not this vengeance thirsting basket case.
Not much Julia this week or the ghosts of Dodee and Linda but the episode did manage to flesh out the new characters, particularly Rebecca. Before I can enthusiastically get behind season two, I would like to see a bit more acknowledgment of some of the threads of season one, although this week’s twists and the beginning of a thoroughly original whodunit is a step in the right direction.