Last week Under the Dome opened with an impressively tense hour that showed a lot of promise moving forward. That episode debuted to more than 13 million viewers, making it the most watched summer scripted premiere in over a decade. This week’s installment, while problematic, kept the dread turned up to 11 and was appropriately atmospheric enough to let me look past the problem spots while watching.
Let’s start with the good. We get answers to pretty much every mystery from the pilot, which was refreshing given the current state of mystery on television. Barbie is a debt collector who confronted Julia’s husband over an unpaid debt and ended up killing him during a struggle over a gun the husband pulled. It certainly doesn’t paint Barbie in a purely heroic light, but the writers clearly want us to view him that way. We also learn what’s up with Jim and Duke and, presumably, what’s behind the propane deliveries: Jim is manufacturing drugs. Duke let it slide and Reverend Lester is hooked.
It’s this storyline that unfortunately gives us the main plot of the week. Sheriff Duke (who really is dead so props to the writers for killing a main cast character in week one) has left his house to Deputy Linda. He’s also been holding on to the receipts for the propane purchases there, which Jim desperately wants back. So he tasks Reverend Lester with breaking into the house to steal or destroy the documents. Unfortunately, Lester is an idiot who decides to burn the receipts instead of just stealing them and Duke’s house is apparently coated in lighter fluid and, well, you get the picture. Lester lives, thanks to the idiotic efforts of Linda, but the house fire foreshadows a big problem for the town (especially when Duke’s propane tank explodes).
Idiocy is really a running theme in this episode as a lot of people make a lot of a lot of really dumb decisions. In addition to Lester’s and Linda’s actions at the house, Julia decides that the appropriate response to learning that the dome really is a dome is to immediately broadcast this information to the entire town, consequences be damned. Luckily, there don’t appear to be any consequences, but it was a stupid move, nonetheless. And, in probably the dumbest scene of the episode, the town forms a bucket brigade to fight the house fire. Unfortunately, Barbie is at the end of that line, and his entire plan seems to be to throw buckets of water through the open door instead of, you know, fighting the fire. And even after the possibility of the fire spreading to other houses is mentioned, nobody seems to really be trying to stop the brush fire caused by the exploding propane tanks.
In the end, we see what’s probably going to be the real threat going forward, as one of the deputies starts to go a little nuts and ends up shooting the dome, with the ricocheting bullet killing Deputy Freddy. I really think this episode would have been helped by a little space from the pilot, maybe taking place a few days after the events of the first episode, rather than just plowing forward the next day. Because of that, the deputies mental break seems a little bit forced.
Ultimately, “The Fire” is a step back story-wise, though not in atmosphere. I’m still optimistic moving forward.
A couple of spare thoughts:
The Junior and Angie storyline is still terrible. I literally groaned when Joe said, “You’re sick Angie. I’m going to make you better.” The faster this is all over, the better.
On the other hand, I really enjoyed Joe’s storyline this week. Mapping the wall may seem boring, but it introduces us to more of the town, delivers exposition about the wall in an interesting way, and brings us our Gore of the Week, with the remnants of a man bisected by the falling wall, or at least the lower half of him anyway. Appropriately creepy.
The deputies make a pretty quick leap to the dome taking out “things with batteries” after Duke’s passing. Maybe it’s just a plot point that needed to be addressed, but it was tackled pretty awkwardly.
The wall is apparently permeable a little bit, which would explain how air can get in and out, but still doesn’t explain why there was wind in last week’s episode