Michael Tackett/CBS

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

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July 02, 2013 at 04:37 AM EDT

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!

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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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