Most of Chester’s Mill escapes the dome! The dome is destroyed! And Big Jim is dead! Under the Dome couldn’t have rung in the new season on a more upbeat note.
It’s a shame, then, that all of those events are utter lies, and everyone is still stuck under the dome despite an obviously fake tease of a more peaceful life.
“Move On” picks up immediately where season 2 finale’s left off. Everyone in town, minus Julia, Junior, and Big Jim, are following Melanie into a vague CGI-laden white space. After spending a brief moment in this The Matrix-esque limbo, Barbie and the rest of his crew end up OUTSIDE THE DOME. Standing in the real world, they watch as a shower of pink stars shoot upward into the center of the dome, before sending a shockwave out that shatters the dome walls.
They’ve won! They’re free! And even though Barbie finds a dead Julia, Junior and Jim in the town, it looks like the mystery of the dome is solved and everyone can resume their regular lives.
But at this point, there’s still over an hour-and-a-half left of this two hour premiere. That’s your first obvious sign that something is up, but rather than address the nagging question at hand (How does a show with “dome” in the title go on without a dome?), a time jump sets the momentum onward as if the dome is truly decimated.
“Move On” initially hides the truth of the situation. Traveling to Yemen, we see Barbie back in the army, interrogating, and then killing a man while searching for hostages. The scene cuts to Barbie returning to base as a weird filter that looks suspiciously like the wall of the dome overtakes the screen. So rest easy, Under the Dome has not suddenly taken a turn into Subtlety’s Mill.
Instead, we discover the show has jumped a year in time, Barbie is in love with a woman named Ava, and he’s still holding on to Julia, haunted by her death. To make things worse, Joe won’t leave Barbie alone, but Joe’s not asking him to take a look at his new vlog or check out his Surface Pro tablet. No, Joe simply wants Barbie to come home for a dome memorial that Ava encourages him to attend.
So they and Hunter, who is also working in the army, arrive in Chester’s Mill, which is booming now that 17 people aren’t dying on a daily basis. Dale runs into Joe and Ben, who continues to talk like a ’90s skater kid written by a 40-year-old. Almost immediately Chester’s Mill’s penchant for the bizarre kicks in, as both Ben and Barbie spot Melanie walking through the streets. This is the second time Barbie’s spotted her, after briefly seeing her back at his base.
By now “Move On” has clearly shown it’s hand that the dome is far from gone, with two other perspective shifts. One is to Melanie (or whoever is impersonating Melanie), watching the recovered Chester’s Mill via some purple crystals stashed in a rock wall.
The second is Julia and Junior, who are alive and well. The two want to cross over to where the rest of the town disappeared in the tunnel, but they need a ladder to reach across a chasm. They head to the school, where Big Jim appears to have just been conveniently waiting for them (and where he presumably sat planning his sneak attack for at least an hour or so).
He’s got a gun in hand, having survived when Junior shot him. He proceeds to tie the two up under threat of death. But it’s all posturing on Jim’s part for information, as he doesn’t just spare them, but even allows them to leave once Julia reveals their plan to chase after the group. Oh, but he shoots his own son as petty payback. Crazy continues to run deep in this family.
While Julia and Junior attempt to reach their friends and loved ones, the fake Chester’s Mill continues to play out like a version of The Truman Show where everyone is Truman and the director running the show is not a pretentious director but an alien/monster/shapeshifter in a young woman’s body.
NEXT: Who’s that therapist that conveniently pops up around every corner of town? [pagebreak]
After seeing her walk through town, coupled with plenty of other little occurrences, everything is adding up to make Ben suspect things are whack, yo, as Ben would probably say. Later in the day, he promises Barbie he’ll have proof at the memorial service. (And when you find out what that proof is, you’ll realize Ben may have actually never used a cell phone before.)
Before then, Under the Dome offers a look at a few other lives in this brave new world, and not everything is as cheerful as the glossy sheen of New Chester’s Mill seems to indicate. Joe is still sad because of Angie’s death, avoiding going to college because he’s afraid to move his life forward. It’s a good thing he has a therapist, FEMA trauma specialist Christine (Marg Helgenberger), who does not understand boundaries. Joe comes home to find her waiting in his room, where she tries to help him accept a life outside of Chester’s.
Unfortunately, he’s stuck in a rut. Christine is not making much headway with another patient, Sam, who’s locked up in prison. He’s trying to improve his life and make a better man of himself, but what he really wants is forgiveness from Joe. He pleads with Christine to ask Joe to come see him.
But Joe isn’t in much of a mood to see or talk to anyone. He’s even been ignoring Norrie’s texts. The two split up after their two-week romance that got way too serious way too fast, and she went off to college and joined a sorority (another sign that everything is clearly out of sorts).
They all end up at the memorial service, though, where Joe makes a brave attempt to speak to the crowd. As we’re all aware, eloquence has never exactly been Joe’s strong suit, so Barbie has to step in as Joe becomes overwhelmed with emotions. But, it’s Barbie, so the speech just ends up being about Julia.
What’s happened to Julia? She and Junior have gone back down into the caves to try and reach the group. They cross the cavern after a run in with a hoard of butterflies, and Junior surprisingly disappears. Julia moves on in search of him and the rest of Chester’s Mill, stumbling upon an area covered in a mysterious goo, glowing purple roots, and strange cocoons. At least she’s found what she came looking for, as she recognizes Barbie, seemingly asleep, inside one of these cocoons.
Before going on to solve the mysteries of the cocoons and the Chester’s Mill That Never Was, let’s check back in on Jim, who spends the rest of the first hour skulking around town, still angry at his son. He returns home and shoots any photo in sight that includes Junior. He then slips into the parenting cliche of watching old home videos of Junior. But rather than remind him of the good times (because the video proves Jim’s temper has been horrible from day one), he also casually shoots the TV, spouting off one liners like he knows an audience is watching him.
Julia takes more of an initiative, investigating Barbie’s resting place. At the same time, Melanie happens upon Junior, and, with a kiss of doom, sentences him to a life in Above the Dome Chester’s Mill. She insinuates she’s one of a group, saying the townspeople will have to become who “we need you to be. But first we have to fix you.”
Junior, after going through physical embodiment of a scene transition, rolls into Chester’s Mill on a motorcycle, looking like he just jumped off the stage of a local production of Grease. He runs into Barbie, who quite clearly remembers seeing Junior dead at the dome site.
The walking dead is not Barbie’s only concern, as Ben died at the memorial service. Barbie pocketed his phone and found a video on it that Ben conveniently cut together and provided voiceover for, but forgot to upload anywhere or send to anyone. It’s a video of three men in different jobs all around town who look identical, but unfortunately the video immediately disappears after Barbie watches it.
NEXT: Big Jim actually saves the day!? [pagebreak]
His search for answers becomes even more complicated when he developers a competing set of memories that inserts Junior into the last year of his life alongside the memories that don’t include him. Barbie catches a break when he sees one of the identical men from the video, and, upon closer investigation (aka slamming the guy into a tree), he realizes it’s the same exact man he killed in Yemen.
It’s a shame Barbie hasn’t spoken with Christine more or he could have discovered something was amiss long ago. She’s not only wears an auspicious ring with a giant glowing purple rock, but she has an even larger glowing chunk of it sitting in the center of her mantelpiece. (Christine must have attended the Lex Luthor School of Villainy because she flaunts her dome-connection like Luthor shows off his supply of Kryptonite.)
Though Christine is trying to keep control of things in this pseudo-reality, Melanie continues to pull the strings from behind the glowing purple curtain. She attempts to drag Julia into her scheme. Pretending Junior saved her but then was taken by a cocoon himself, she impels Julia to leave the catacombs by not so coyly suggesting they retrieve the egg. Maybe it’s a key to unlocking the cocoons, she suggests, including that suspicious, larger one in the corner.
The two write a message to Melanie and Barbie’s father on the wall of the dome, asking him to return the egg. He pleads with his superior to let him bring the egg back. His boss can clearly tell that Don wants to do this for the sake of saving his family, but ignores that fact when Don meekly suggests he’s doing this for the good of their company.
So Don’s boss allows him to return to the dome, and the desperate father washes up on shore to find Melanie waiting for him. Julia is taking a nap and misses as faux-Melanie both chokes Don to death and steals the egg. Luckily for Julia, she’s woken up by the positively cheery Jim, who’s spent his time yelling at stray dogs while he assumes control of the town.
Julia assumes Jim killed Don, but for once the sheriff/councilman/megalomaniac speaks the truth. He helps Julia realize, in the most condescending fashion imaginable, that Melanie played her and wanted the egg for some nefarious scheme.
That scheme includes bringing the egg to the mysterious central cocoon, which is revealed to house Christine. The egg has begun reacting, energy surging through the cavern, and though Julia arrives on the scene, she’s too late. Melanie begins to kill her, until, as luck would sadly have it again, Jim comes to the rescue. He destroys the egg, freezing everything in the fake Mill.
Thankfully, he does so at the most opportune moments. Junior is about to start a massive fire. Hunter and Norrie are about to have sex. Sam is stabbed in prison and bleeding out, asking Joe, who came to visit him, for his hand and forgiveness. Barbie is at the hospital with Ava, who he’s discovered is pregnant.
All of these scenarios come crashing down, though, when everyone from Chester’s Mill begins emerging from their respective cocoons. But the people of Chester’s Mill are joined by a few newcomers. Christine and Ava also break out of their cocoons. And so everyone ends up pretty much where they started, with an additional few dome overlords among them to ensure chaos continues to reign in season 3.
They Said What!?
Norrie delivered the most painstakingly obvious metaphor of the week. She tells Joe, who refuses to consider moving his life forward that “It’s like you’re trapped under a dome and you can’t even see it,” because the best thing to remind someone who was trapped under an unexplainable dome is that their life is still as terrible as it was.
But it’s Big Jim who really knocks it out of the park this week. Not only does he unintentionally transform into the embodiment of the Twilight Zone character Henry Bemis, he also delivers one of his most triumphantly meta lines ever. After firing into his television, he pauses and actually says to an empty living room, “Nothing good on television these days anyway.” Never change Jim. Or at least, don’t lose that need to always say something.