August 13, 2013

Under the Dome: "Thicker Than Water" Review

It's been a few weeks since I've written about Under the Dome, and things have gone from bad to worse in Chester's Mill. They also haven't gotten that much better in terms of the show's writing or acting, but I don't need to talk about that again.

Regardless, last night's episode, "Thicker Than Water," was a pretty good one. It didn't advance the plot much, but as its title suggests, it delved into family relationships, offering character insights that up until this point, the show had lacked. At the start of the episode, we learned that Big Jim is just about the worst father since Darth Vader, kicking his psychotic son Junior out of the house in a fit of rage. I'll admit, this made me laugh out loud. I mean, where's he gonna go? Later, we learned that Junior's mother, who he believed died accidentally, actually committed suicide. There was a lot of blame bouncing between the father and son, which may explain both their fragile relationship, and their fragile grasps on reality.

Alexander Koch as "Junior"
The episode's title was also a play on words, as the main plot line focused on a feud between Big Jim and Ollie over the town's water supply. Big Jim recruits a group of townspeople to storm Ollie's property and seize control of his well. (Is it just me, or do the residents of Chester's Mill seem particularly predisposed to vigilante violence?) The twist here is that he'll also be opposing his son who, in your typical act of teenage rebellion, has joined forces with his father's nemesis.  Barbie, however, concocts an alternate plan. He believes the best choice is to blow up Ollie's well, diverting the water to the town's reservoir. To the viewer, this seems like the good solution, and a way to prevent bloodshed. But Big Jim protests that there's no way to be certain that the explosion won't taint the entire supply of water. This is another in a line of reasonable concerns from the unreasonable councilman.

For better or worse, Under the Dome is good at keeping the viewer guessing who the true villain of the story is. Certainly, neither Ollie or Big Jim is to be rooted for. Both of them are willing to lie, steal, and even kill for their own selfish gain. And while Barbie often comes out looking like the hero, we can't forget that the first time we met him, he was burying the body of a man he murdered - a man whose wife he's now sleeping with. Not exactly heroic qualities. Junior, for all his faults and acts of kidnapping and murder (add Ollie to his list of victims), is looking more and more like a victim himself, if only of his father's horrific parenting. Of course, many of these villainous actions wouldn't have happened if the Dome hadn't fallen. So does that mean the villain is the Dome itself? Norrie certainly seems to think so, blaming the mysterious phenomenon, as well as Joe and ultimately herself, for her mother's death.

Now that the Dome is speaking through hallucinations (do I need to reference Lost again?), it may become easier to view the fishbowl anthropomorphically. Even if the Dome is the bad guy, though, are the residents of Chester's Mill really the good ones? I suppose things aren't that simple when your town is "cut off from the rest of the world by a mysterious dome." Normally, I would say that makes a story good. Stories shouldn't be basic and characters shouldn't be one-dimensional, but I'm having trouble finding anyone in Chester's Mill heroic (or interesting) enough to root for. I'm hoping that changes by the end of the season.

Speaking of which, I was somewhat bemused to hear that Under the Dome has been renewed for a second season. Bemused, but also encouraged. It's always a risk to invest in a summer show, as these are so often short lived. So it's nice to know the snowglobe town will be waiting for me when summer 2014 rolls around.

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