Under the Dome recap: 'Outbreak'
The people of Chester’s Mill had formed yet another angry mob. They were all assembled at one of the several roads leading out of town. Just outside the Dome, the military were clearing out. Citizens were spraypainting messages on the wall, throwing bottles at the invisible shield, and generally making a mess. Because this is Under the Dome, every major character on the show suddenly appeared in the exact same place. Julia Shumway and Barbie, Big Jim and Sheriff Linda, Ollie the Barfly and Reverend Coggins. Coggins, who so far on the show has been portrayed as a shifty drug addict who doesn’t know how fire works, has had a Radical Character Transformation. Now’s he’s a doomsayer preaching about his direct line to the Almighty. “This Dome is His Wish for a New Eden,” he said.
Sheriff Linda pulled out a gun, which almost caused a riot. Big Jim gave yet another speech. Exact transcript: “Football is a game of inches. Today we declare our Independence Day. You’ve bled with Wallace, now bleed with me!” Big Jim’s amazing powers of rhetoric once again narrowly stopped a riot. Then Sheriff Linda fainted.
Elsewhere, Julia was following a lead. She found a curious map inside of Barbie’s bag, with “X” marking a spot. She found DJ Phil Bushey’s trailer. More to the point, she found her husband’s car. Phil claimed that Peter sold him the car. Then he fainted. Lot of that going around.
At the hospital, Alice and Carolyn led their daughter Norrie and local boy Joe into the hospital, to investigate the Mysterious Seizures. The nurse didn’t have time to help. The hospital was filling up with people, and they were low on medical professionals. One doctor was on vacation; one died on Dome Day; one was the dear departed Mr. Shumway, current location unknown. Fortunately, Alice is a doctor. Or a psychiatrist, but doctors are all doctors, right? (It’s kind of like on The Walking Dead, when they introduced Hershel by saying that he was just a veterinarian, but then immediately showed him performing radical invasive surgery on a human being. Whatever! Doctor stuff!) Alice used her vague memories from medical school to announce that they had an epidemic of Meningitis on their hands, and they needed a wheelbarrow full of antibiotics, stat.
Meanwhile, in the Bunker of Perpetual Boredom: Angie tried to escape. She did not succeed in escaping. Then she tried escaping again, and accidentally knocked open a pipe. She conked her head and fell down unconscious, while the bunker began filling up with water.
Big Jim and Barbie set off to get antibiotics for the town’s sick. Big Jim gave his son a shotgun and said that no one could depart the hospital, lest the infection spread. Junior closed the door and announced: “No one leaves. No one.” There was an interesting analogy here: The Dome has closed off the town, and now Big Jim was closing down the hospital. But this nifty idea wasn’t really explored. Under the Dome is filled with nifty ideas that aren’t really explored. (Example A: “All the Doctors in town are gone! We’re in trouble! What a dramatic situation!” “Actually, that visiting tourist lady from out of town is a Doctor.” Dramatic Stasis: ACHIEVED!)
Julia was feeling under the weather, but she took the opportunity to question Phil Bushey. She asked him why Barbie had a map to his place. “Peter, I’m sorry man, I can’t make it to the cabin today,” Phil said, rambling. Doctor Alice walked up and told Julia to leave the poor man alone: “He’s hallucinating. It’s one of the symptoms of Meningitis. And he’s also saying vague phrases that seem calculated to incrementally move a mystery subplot forward. It’s one of the symptoms of Meningitis. I’m a Doctor.” Julia walked up to Junior and said she wanted to leave, and she mentioned that Phil used the word “cabin.” “Oh, like the cabin I found Barbie in!” said Junior. “Right at the end of Sparrow Lane.” “That must be it!” said Julia. “How many cabins could there possibly be in a single town?”
Doctor Alice walked up and said: “Conveniently-timed revelations. It’s one of the symptoms of Meningitis. I’m a Doctor.”
NEXT: Man of God, Man of Dome
Big Jim and Barbie discovered the local pharmacy had been ransacked of antibiotics and they figured out it was ransacked by Reverend Coggins, because there are like six people in town. Look, I’m being cruel to be kind here. Under the Dome has a ton of promise, and the first episode was a ghoulish delight, but at this point I have very little idea what kind of show it’s trying to be. It’s a serialized show which has basically repeated the same serialized-mystery beats every week without moving any of them forward. Every episode of the show sets up a potentially huge crisis — a fire, a runaway cop, an epidemic — and resolves that crisis by the end of the day. The show wears its influences proudly, but it seems to be mixing up those influences into a jumble.
Take this week’s Reverend Coggins storyline. Big Jim and Barbie found the Reverend burning up the drugs, because we all know the Reverend likes burning stuff. The Reverend made a lot of noise about how God wanted people inside the Dome to die, or something. Fair enough. People start talking Apocalypse over the littlest thing; having an invisible invulnerable Dome appear over your town is as good a reason as any. But the episode didn’t really do much with Coggins. It seemed to imply that there would be more coming, at some point, but nobody got angry at him for almost killing three dozen people.
I actually wonder if, weirdly, Under the Dome could use less serialization. One of the show’s clear influences is The Prisoner, the incredible late-60s British series about a spy known as Number Six trapped in a mysterious village. The Prisoner is one of the craziest shows in TV history, and part of what makes it especially interesting to watch nowadays is that it’s utterly uninterested in continuity. Events in one episode almost never carry over to the next episode; heck, the identity of the main villain actually changes almost every episode, with a revolving door of actors playing different iterations of the antagonistic Number Two.
But even though The Prisoner doesn’t really have any narrative continuity, it does have conceptual continuity. Every episode is basically a riff on the same idea: The Village tries to get Number Six to submit, and Number Six refuses. Sometimes this plays out as a thriller, other times as a comedy; one episode is a political allegory, and one episode is a western.
Because everyone who consumes pop culture now is obsessed with narrative continuity, The Prisoner model would never fly today. (The two shows that come closest are, weirdly, Louie and Adventure Time.) But I imagine that the makers of Under the Dome wish they could untether themselves a little bit. The most intriguing part of last night’s episode came when Junior gave a speech to the soon-to-be marauding townspeople. He mentioned his dead mother and he mentioned cornbread and he said they were all in this together; then he put down his shotgun, and everyone stopped marauding. There’s a germ of a good idea there — Junior, Violent Crazy Person, is a rhetorical pacifist — but it was reduced to a non sequitur single scene, mixed in with the ongoing (boring) tales of Julia Shumway investigating her husband’s disappearance and the Pink Star Seizures.
Julie went out to the cabin, found a piece of paper, and fainted; then she saw her Ghost Husband, who was either a Hallucination or a Genuine Ghost, and presumably we’ll find out in summer 2016. At the hospital, Barbie talked to Phil, and learned that the absent Dr. Shumway had been asking out hitmen after having serious money problems. Barbie rescued Julia from the cabin, carrying her out in slow-motion. She revealed that her husband was completely broke. Barbie, in turn, revealed that he was an enforcer for a bookie in Westlake, and that his job was making sure guys paid up their gambling debts. He didn’t mention the whole killing-your-husband thing. Julie told him to leave her house.
I was more interested in the Pink Star Seizures. Joe and Norrie decided to try to force the seizures by touching each other. Joe taped it; they held hands, giggled, and then suddenly fell over. When they checked the recording, we got the very, very spooky image of Joe sitting up, turning towards the camera, and making a “Shhh” gesture. That single scene was scarier than anything else Under the Dome has thrown our way so far, implying a higher intelligence at work in the Dome. More of that, please!
The episode was almost over, so Doctor Alice walked onscreen and literally said: “Everyone who needed antibiotics got them! EPIDEMIC SOLVED!” Joe offered to let Norrie’s family stay with him at his big empty house. (Oh, I forgot to mention that earlier in the episode, Joe saw Junior and said, “Hey, Junior? Have you seen my sister? Girl I’m related to? I forgot about her until just now, but I haven’t seen her in like three days or something. Dome!”) Carolyn stole some insulin, worried about what could happen to Alice if the Dome never leaves.
Also, Sheriff Linda decided to make Junior her Deputy, because she talked to her third grade teacher and the teacher died and Sheriff Linda makes bad decisions. Meanwhile, Junior’s dad had a nasty run-in with Reverend Coggins, who gave back his share of the drug profits and told Big Jim that his bad deeds had damned the town he was trying to save. Heavy stuff. Big Jim poured himself some whiskey. Then he heard a girl’s scream echoing throughout his house. He went downstairs, and found Angie, chained in a bunker that was overflowing with water.
This single cliffhanger marked the first time that any plot on Under the Dome has moved forward since the season premiere, making me just a bit excited about next week’s episode. What did you think of the night’s Outbreak festivities, fellow viewers?