After a few weeks of wheel-spinning, Under the Dome’s cast has returned to their roots in a much tighter episode than in previous weeks. Lately, the players of Chester’s Mill have acted in ways that run counter to what was established last season. Is this due to plot convenience or lazy writing? Who knows why, but this week was a refreshing step in the right direction, a step away from soap opera and snarkiness back into the realm of what made the show succeed last year.
First off, the show creators seemed to suddenly remember this episode that there were some sci-fi elements with Joe and Norrie, who have done literally nothing for this entire season so far. Now that Melanie has replaced the deceased Angie as part of the Dome 4, we can get back to Joe and Norrie’s original purpose. I totally forgot that Joe was science kid until they brought it back up with this episode as Joe got the bright idea to test Melanie’s blood to see what’s so special about the young girl who died in 1988, yet still walks Chester’s Mill. It was so good to see Norrie and the real Joe back that I could even forgive the hacky love triangle as Joe tried to steal a kiss from Melanie. I forgive it, heavy handed as it is, because it served as a reminder that Joe is still very, very young, and the intensity of his relationship with Norrie, along with the added stress of a giant dome over his home town, would make the inexperienced Joe act rashly at times. Norrie’s reaction was realistic, and the whole thing was quickly downplayed, eventually serving to make Joe realize he loved Norrie, perhaps a bit too late though as the fiery ginger didn’t like her man stiffing around ghost girl.
While the real, layered Joe and Norrie are back for their real purpose after four weeks of being lazily crafted ciphers, the real Julia also made her return. Hey, remember last season when the dome made a big show with butterflies and everything to show the town that Julia was the chosen leader of Chester’s Mill? Yeah, this season hasn’t really mentioned much of that. Instead, Julia has just shrewishly yelled at Barbie and palled around with the clearly nefarious Sam Verdreaux. This week, Julia takes on Jim for the town’s trust and is able to finally lead the town she was chosen to watch over through a food crisis. See, it’s not that hard, establish something and then follow through. That’s called storytelling. This week finally saw the end to the needless wedge driven between Barbie and Julia as Julia was reestablished as the cunning chosen leader, and Barbie her moral enforcer.
Speaking of enforcers, I am so happy to see the end of the Sheriff Phil Bushey era. When Sheriff Linda died (soooo needlessly), Bushey was put in charge. He proved himself to be a reactionary ass last season and was put in charge by “Big” Jim as his puppet sheriff. The set up could have been interesting if the character wasn’t so painfully dull. The only interesting thread he had was the death of his gal Friday Dodee, a plot point that hasn’t been brought up since the season premiere. Well, this week, Phil was used by “Big” Jim to blow up a newly established food pantry (seriously guys, no one thought it would be a bad idea to put ALL the food in one place?). Bushey’s big plan was to make Chester’s Mill believe all the food was gone, but secretly save it for hoarding so he could appear to be a hero. Julia discovered the plot, and Barbie kicked Phil’s ass, and now we need a new sheriff. The fallen Phil could have some character potential now since he can be embittered and disgraced, always interesting story fodder.
Norrie and Joe weren’t the only members of the Dome 4 that saw action this week as Junior and Sam tried to solve the murder of Angie. Little did the trusting Junior realize that his Uncle Sam was the man to kill Junior’s former prisoner and obsession. It came to light this week that Sam believed that by killing the Dome 4 that he would cause the dome to fall and save Chester’s Mill. An interesting wrinkle was added to Sam as when he had a chance to suffocate Junior, he hesitated when Junior told his uncle that he loved him. We do love to see our shades of grey, and it’s nice to see some after a few weeks of flat characterization.
As for “Big” Jim himself, in a small way, the villain is back. The schemer that made Under the Dome so much fun last season resumed his machinations, threw Phil under the bus, and made nice-nice with Julia so the town will start trusting him after that whole culling debacle. His betrayal of Phil was my favorite moment all season, and it was cool to see Jim pretend to be humbled in order to start building his empire again.
The story of Melanie has failed to grip me as the ghost girl of Chester’s Mill seems like a needless complication in an already overly fantastical show premise, but, that being said, I can’t help but wonder how she fits in relation to Joe and Norrie, and if she is a replacement for Angie as the Dome’s chosen four, and if so, what will Sam’s reaction be?
Okay, Dome, you have my attention again, don’t blow it!