Last week, young stoner Ben Drake told his pal Joe McCalister that a group of teens have been watching The Simpsons Movie on loop, a funny little wink to the fans and critics. I’m totally abashed to admit that during last week’s review I forgot to mention The Simpsons Movie reference. When Under the Dome was announced, many non-King fans met the concept with a derisive “Simpsons did it!” so kudos to the show for acknowledging the criticism and summarily dismissing it.
A few episodes back, viewers learned the danger of a simple fire under the dome; the latest episode reveals the terrifying truth of what would happen to a town, cut off from the rest of America, if it were to suffer an infectious outbreak. The creative handling of the meningitis outbreak in Chester’s Mill was briskly paced and disturbing. It served as a reminder how much society relies on being part of a whole, and if something were to cut off a part from the societal body, the part would be in danger of withering.
During the outbreak bonds are formed and severed. Reporter Julia finds part of the truth regarding her husband’s relationship with her new pal Barbie. Fortunately for Barbie, Julia does not find out that he murdered her husband, but the savvy reporter does find out that Barbie worked as a mob enforcer and who looking for her husband. Most disturbing is that Julia found her lead through the increasingly psychotic Junior. While Julia and Barbie are no longer tight, Julia now has a growing bond of trust with Junior. The irony of this new dynamic is that Barbie is perhaps the only person who sees Junior for what he is, and could serve as Julia’s protection against Junior when he inevitably turns his misogynistic rage against her.
Speaking of Junior, the meningitis outbreak served as a coming out for Big Jim’s deviant offspring. Big Jim assigns his son to make sure that no one suffering from the very infectious outbreak leaves the hospital. At first, Junior gives into his baser instincts of threatening people to stay, but with Sheriff Natalie’s guidance he becomes a calming force during the crisis. He is so effective, that Natalie deputizes him. Uh-oh.
Junior’s ascension serves as a symbol of the grey area in the characters under the Dome. Junior is a vile human who sees kidnapping and psychological torture as justifiable actions, but he can also be someone, on the surface, because of his guile, that can help the residents of Chester’s Mill survive. Speaking of Junior’s captive, Angie, she must be the most incompetent hostage ever. Not only does she botch an attempt to stab Jim with a hidden pair of scissors, she also succeeds in damn near drowning herself by bursting a pipe during an ill planned escape attempt. Angie’s comedy of errors leads her to being discovered by Big Jim, a father who found a new respect for his son at the hospital. A respect that might be washed away by the sight of his son’s helpless ex chained to a bed and minutes away from drowning.
As Natalie and Junior come together and Julia and Barbie are torn apart, romance blooms between Joe and Norrie. A frustrating bit of irony occurs whenever the two horny teens touch each other. When their skin makes contact, the two fall into a dome-induced seizure. During one of these episodes, the series’ creepiest visual occurs as Joe and Norrie tape themselves seizing. It is a skin crawling little moment that reveals the dome itself may possess an intelligence, a well-timed moment of pure terror that is pure King.
All in all, between the diverse character relationships, claustrophobic feel, and creepy intensity, Under the Dome is turning into a fine meditation on how fragile the concept of society truly is.
Den of Geek Rating: 4 out of 5 stars