A fire brings the citizens of Chester's Mill together. But tragedy strikes, no thanks to that pesky Dome

By Darren Franich
July 02, 2013 at 04:37 AM EDT
Michael Tackett/CBS
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Outside of the Dome, order reigns supreme. Scientists are performing tests: They’re spraying the invisible barrier with hoses, and there’s talk about firing a laser. Body parts have been cleaned up and disposed of. Serious-looking men with serious-looking firepower stand guard at regular intervals. They don’t communicate with any of the citizens of Chester’s Mill; they just stand there, watching, like the guards with the big furry hats that stand silent and motionless outside Buckingham Palace.

Inside of the Dome, it’s a different story. The second episode of Under the Dome saw the town’s citizens exploring the boundaries of their new imprisonment. Whiz Kid Joe McAlister used trigonometry to estimate the barrier’s size and shape. Radio engineer Dodee Weaver kept hearing little snippets of military chatter on the radio. A terrifying event brought the town together…and an even-more-terrifying event saw the first cracks form in the town’s resolve.

The episode began with a flashback. We saw Barbie have his mysterious meeting with Julia’s Lying Husband — the last person to die in Chester’s Mill before the Dome came down. Their talk was vague, but nasty. Barbie asked for something; the Lying Husband said he didn’t have it. “Boss is not gonna like that,” said Barbie. “You have one day.” The Husband pulled a gun. Barbie tried to talk him down: “All you gotta do is pay up. You don’t wanna do anything stupid.” They tackled each other; there was a scuffle; and Barbie wound up shooting the guy. (You could argue it was self-defense, or even an accident. I imagine we’ll be debating that scene as the weeks go by.) Barbie woke up and stared the dead man right in the face. And that’s when he realized that he lost his dogtags.

The episode appeared to begin mere minutes after last week’s cliffhanger. Deputy Linda still held the dying Duke in her arms. A couple other uniforms came to help her. They figured out that the Dome didn’t like anything with a battery. Or maybe it liked batteries too much — supercharging them until they exploded, like Duke’s pacemaker. One cop seemed a bit squirrelly. “Who’s in charge now?” he asked. It’s clear that Duke was the voice of authority in Chester’s Mill. (Heck, he shared a nickname with John Wayne.)

Once again, we found Big Jim lurking at the Sweetbriar Rose talking to helpful diner marm Rose, who I’m trying very hard not to refer to as Aunt Zelda. He got the generator up and running: There’s still some power left in Chester’s Mill, a sense of normalcy. Out-of-towners Samantha and Carolyn were still skeptical. They’re city folk; they’re a psychiatrist and a workaholic attorney, respectively, the kind of professions that seem more than a little meaningless when you’re anywhere that looks like the 1950s. Big Jim assured them that Chester’s Mill was a grand little place. “If you’re gonna be stuck here, this is the place to be. I’ve lived here my entire life, and there’s no place I’d rather call home.” That’s when Deputy Linda ran in and announced Duke’s passing.

Evidence that Chester’s Mill might not be so grand: The second that Deputy Linda turned her back, Big Jim started talking about his mysterious plan with the third member of his Nefarious Criminal Operation. When a powerful city councilman and the Chief of Police are both corrupt, it’s a tragedy; when the local reverend is corrupt, too, it’s a farce. And Reverend Lester Coggins seems particularly ill-suited to whatever Big Jim and Duke were up to. “You’re using our stuff!” Big Jim chastised him. “You’re high as a kite.” (MYSTERY SPOT CHECK: So now we know drugs were involved.)

Further evidence that Chester’s Mill might not be so grand: Big Jim’s own son, Junior Rennie, is still keeping his sorta-girlfriend Angie hostage in their nuclear bunker. Angie tried to escape, but Junior chained her to the bed. He tried to explain his logic. “We were doing great. And then this thing comes down and you tell me to take a hike. I think it scrambled your brain.” He talked about That Guy She Was Talking To, and she had no idea who he was talking about. Junior is coming off more and more like an Evil College Kid on an episode of Law & Order: SVU. Angie decided to feed his paranoia, maybe out of frustration, maybe just to make him angry. “That guy at the hospital? He screwed my brains out,” she lied. “And I loved it.”

NEXT: Oh look, a last will and testament!On the morning of Day 1 AD (After Dome), Barbie awoke to find Julia throwing a ball against the invisible barrier. (Possible reference to The Great Escape?) The guards stood watch outside. Julia noticed their radio and made for the local radio station. There, she found Dodee and Phil, still listening in to the occasional burst of army chatter. Julia demanded to alert the town, but Dodee blanched. “We’re not a news station,” she explained. But Julia broke the laws of Music Stations vs. News Stations and went live, telling the whole town that there was indeed a Dome that they were Under. Seriously, at one point, Julia said: “We’re under a dome!” In the business, this is what’s known as a Ghost Ship Moment.

Deputy Linda walked into the police department and discovered Big Jim paging through Duke’s desk. Jim pulled out a big envelope marked Last Will and Testament, wherein Duke left everything he owned to Linda. Call it an accidental wedding present. Linda bemoaned Duke’s death with fellow officer Freddy, who turned out to be her brother-in-law. Freddy tried to cheer up Linda by revealing a family secret: Linda’s hubby Rusty was planning to take her to Hawaii for their honeymoon. Right about then, Reverend Coggins walked up, said hello, and pickpocketed Duke’s house keys right out of Linda’s pocket. (At least, I think that’s what happened; I never knew they taught you how to pick pockets at priest school. Unless you count the collection plate, amiright? #ChurchJokes.)

Meanwhile, Big Jim drove around the outskirts of town. He saw an old guy aiming his bulldozer right at the Dome. “I’m digging my way out!” explained the old guy. (In the words of Anton Chekhov, “If in the first act you have put a bulldozer on the road, then in the following act, something must be bulldozed.”)

Meanwhile, Joe and his friend Ben tried to create a map of the Dome. Ben played around with orange paint, at one point drawing an orange door with a helpful doorknob right on the invisible substance. (This show is filled with nifty visual gags like that.) Joe figured out that the Dome is about ten miles across, covering the whole Mill and even a little bit of Lake Eastpoint. They saw some of those scientists spraying water against the far side of the Dome. When Joe put his hand up to the stream, it came away wet. So the barrier works like a strainer, for pasta: It can let water, and air, through.

Back in town, Barbie went to the convenience store and asked for a pack of cigarettes. Then he bought a couple more packs, and scoped out Norrie — the LA girl with the troubled past — stealing a candy bar. He told her he was storing up for a long winter, planning to trade cigarettes as hard currency if and when things take a turn for Siberia inside the Dome. (MYSTERY SPOT CHECK: So we know Barbie has seen some hard times, either in prison or in a bad part of the world. Is he Special Forces? Did he get dishonorably discharged and sent to prison?)

Barbie returned to the cabin where the fight went down. The cabin was called The Cabin, and another fight went down right quick.

NEXT: The Lord works in mysterious waAAAAAAAAHHHH FIRE!

Barbie found his dogtags right where he left them. Unfortunately, he also found Junior, who’d been following him all the way from town. A comical misunderstanding played out. Junior thought The Cabin was where Barbie took Angie for a love sesh; Barbie couldn’t figure out what the hell Junior was talking about. Fisticuffs ensued. Barbie threatened Junior to stay away from him. Junior did not look like he got the message.

Reverend Coggins broke into Duke’s house and did some quick digging around for telltale evidence. He found what appeared to be receipts from Jackson’s Propane. He set it on fire. He grabbed a cigar. “The Lord works in mysterious ways,” he said. He threw the burning evidence into the trash can…and the flames lit up, immediately catching the drapes and the whole house on fire.

The first people to spot the smoke were Joe and Ben. They had just discovered a pair of detached legs: Whoever they belonged to had been sitting right on the border of Chester’s Mill when the wall came down, and a bloody trail led away from wherever the torso used to be. (Or maybe the poor guy/girl crawled away.) They found a dog named Truman, trapped inside with the rest of our gang. (ASIDE: I can’t remember if there was a dog in the book, but the name “Truman” conjures up The Truman Show, another movie about being trapped inside of a genteel small town barricaded on all sides by a futuristic dome. Is someone watching Chester’s Mill? And is it for science, or for entertainment? END OF ASIDE.)

Seemingly everyone in town quickly converged on the burning house. Barbie got everyone into action, assembling garden hoses and buckets of water. Julia said what everyone was thinking. It hadn’t rained in weeks. The town was a tinderbox. “If those flames spread to any of those other houses, it’s going to take Chester’s Mill with it.” Deputy Linda got Reverend Coggins out of the fire…right before Duke’s propane tank ignited, spreading the flames to the trees. (Possible bad omen: Duke’s propane is not good for this town, not even in small doses.)

The town assembled together to put out the fire. It was an inspiring sight. The visitors from LA couldn’t imagine their neighbors banding together like that; as Carolyn noted, “I don’t even know who our neighbors are.” Joe recorded everything on his iPhone, and caught the eye of Norrie. Then Big Jim showed up with the bulldozer and tore down Duke’s house. It was a heroic act…which also removed any other evidence lying around the man’s den.

(Meanwhile, in the nuclear bunker, Junior walked downstairs and talked to Angie and Angie talked to him and Junior is in love or something. This plotline is already feeling like a warm leftover from a bad episode of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior–Home Edition, and I hope Angie gets out of that bunker ASAP.)

Deputy Linda asked Coggins what he was doing in Duke’s house. The Reverend said he was getting soup A SUIT for Duke’s funeral, then he switched on a light and kablooey! “The Dome’s right there in Duke’s back yard, probably severed a line,” said Big Jim unconvincingly. But Linda went along with it, because there’s a giant Dome over her town and maybe she’s not in the most Sherlockian frame of mind just now. Everyone cheered on Linda and Big Jim. Big Jim gave a speech: “We stood shoulder to shoulder like a town should…we’ll get through with the same courage and solidarity that you saw today.”

A happy ending…until the Squirrelly Cop from earlier showed up again. We had seen him stockpiling weapons and talking darkly about lawlessness; now we saw him immediately bring that prophecy true. He freaked out about the Dome. “That thing is trapping smoke,” he pointed out: The air above Chester’s Mill is already polluted. “That thing is never gonna go away,” he yelled. “And we’re all gonna die.” Beyond the Dome, the military guardsmen stood watch, patient, expressionless. The Crazy Cop fired a couple rounds at the Dome. The bullets ricocheted: One of them hit Freddy, Linda’s brother-in-law. Barbie sprang into action and brought the Crazy Cop down. But once again, the episode ended with Linda cradling in her arms a loved one with a hole in his chest.

This was a solid and world-buildy second outing for Under the Dome. The episode mostly served to further establish the boundaries of the New Dome Order; not much happened until the end, but it seems like the final act will have serious reverberations throughout the town. How do they handle Crazy Cop’s murder? Was it even murder, or just Accidental Manslaughter? And cut off from the outside world, how many people will be willing to debate the difference?

What did you think of the second episode, fellow viewers?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

Chester’s Mill residents suddenly find themselves cut off from the rest of the world by a mysterious, impenetrable barrier, which surrounds the town in this Stephen King adaptation.
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  • 06/24/13
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