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TV Review: UNDER THE DOME – “Thicker Than Water” (01.08)

August 13 2013

TV — UNDER THE DOME — STEPHEN KING

BY RACHEL HYLAND

Based on the novel by Stephen King and created by Brian K. Vaughan, Under the Dome tells the tale of the residents of Chester’s Mill, who one day find themselves imprisoned by an invisible barrier of mysterious origin. Let’s see how they’re getting on…

Catch up on Episodes 1 – 3 here, Episode 4 hereEpisode 5 hereEpisode 6 here and Episode 7 here.

Written by: Adam Stein
Directed by: Jack Bender
US Air Date: Monday, August 12, 2013
CBS

In Short: The townsfolk go to war over water – and butterflies again.
Recommended: Not really.

ANGIE: Goodbye, New York. I never much liked musicals anyway…
NORRIE: Goodbye, Paris, France. I got C’s in your lame language anyway, so you can suck it. Au revoir, la… biblioteque.
– Angie and Norrie bond over throwing snow globes at the Dome. Yep, that was the best part of the episode.

SYNOPSIS

“Thicker than Water” is all about refreshments, and the control of same. The town is running low and BMOC (Big Man on Council) Big Jim Rennie (Dean Norris), is on the case – after all, if the cupboards of Joe (Colin Ford) and Angie (Britt Robertson) can be so bare that they have to go and forage for breakfast at poor dead Rose’s diner, then surely everyone must be in the same boat. And according to journalist Julia (Rachelle Lafevre), there is no coffee left anywhere in Chester’s Mill. So, they’ve been under this Dome for less than two weeks and everyone is already out of coffee and other necessities to sustain life? Oh, sure, of course they are. It makes total sense that in a small rural community like this no one would have especially large stockpiles of food on hand – no vats of olive oil or cases of tinned peaches bought during an annual pilgrimage to Costco or anything.

Oh, wait. No, it doesn’t.

Jim wants to seize the land under the law of Eminent Domain, but Ollie wants to hold onto the land under the law of I Have Lots of Guys with Guns Who Will Shoot You.

Of greater concern is the hydration situation, since the only remaining source of potable water comes from an artesian well situated on the farm of the belligerent Ollie (Leon Rippy), a surly, saturnine individual with delusions of grandeur and no love of Big Jim. Jim tries to come to an agreement with Ollie – again! – about working together to keep the town fed, but Ollie can’t see past a lifetime’s worth of brangling. He’d do anything to see his nemesis taken down, including allowing his neighbors to starve. Filled with righteous indignation (and scared for his position as the town’s only lawmaker, no doubt), Jim commandeers Sheriff Linda (Natalie Martinez) and her ad hoc deputies Junior (Alexander Koch), Carter (Andrew Vogel) and Barbie (Mike Vogel). He wants to seize the land under the law of Eminent Domain, but Ollie wants to hold onto the land under the law of I Have Lots of Guys with Guns Who Will Shoot You, and during this standoff Linda loses the services of not one but two Ad Hoc Deputies: Carter gets shot in the kneecap, and Junior switches sides to be on Ollie’s championship team.

See, Senior and Junior Rennie had quite the verbal tussle as this episode commenced, Daddy so disappointed in Junior’s imprisonment of Angie for the first week of the Dome crisis that he disowns him, calls him crazy (like his mother “in the end” – ooh, there’s a family history of whacked out behavior! What a surprising new development!) and kicks him out of the house. Quite how Big Jim thinks that he can keep Junior under orders to stay away from Angie – as he had promised her, and promises again here – when he’s banished the kid (and talked smack about his mom), who can say? But put his Dad’s “no son of mine” tirade alongside the fact that he just got chewed out by Linda for killing that would-be Angie-raping Dundee guy last ep, and it’s hardly surprising that Junior turns his coat to Ollie’s side with barely a second thought.

Thwarted in his well-stealing ways, Big Jim rustles up a hasty posse of gun-toting townies, scoffing at Barbie’s plan to blow up the well – “What are you, some kind of demolition expert?” – and thus allow all the water to flow back to the town’s natural reservoir. (I freely admit, I don’t even have a basic understanding of irrigation and underground waterways – but is this really how wells work? Huh.) Your basic Western-style shootout ensues, but Sheriff Linda is of Barbie’s blow ‘em up opinion, so the carnage ends with a quite satisfying kaboom. Now water-less, most of Ollie’s men abandon him, but Junior takes his dad into his overwrought, rifle-clutching custody. There follows quite a touching father/son scene in which Junior decides to kill Ollie rather than his dad – and when he reports this to Linda, she is remarkably sanguine about it all. Oh, killed a guy for the second day in a row did ya, Junior? That’s nice. Now, you get a good night’s sleep – I’ll give you an even bigger gun tomorrow.

Oblivious to all of these tumultuous happenings, meanwhile, is journalist Julia, who is still out at Casa Joe and Angie after the death of Norrie’s Mom Who Was Samantha Mathis (Samantha Mathis) last episode. Indeed, the water fight is by no means the only thing Julia is oblivious to – she still doesn’t know that it was her new squeeze Barbie who killed her husband LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AGO. This is particularly amusing when he is digging a grave for Dr. Alice (oh yeah, that was Mathis’s character’s name!) and she comments first on how good he is at it and then on how she “can’t imagine losing a spouse like that.” He looks on the verge of laughter at this and so, indeed, are we. But when Barbie heads off to pitch in at the Sheriff’s department, it is Julia who gets the scoop from a Joe made uncautious by the devastated Norrie (Mackenzie Lintz) blaming him for her mother’s death. She is sure that if they hadn’t found the egg in the mini-dome last episode, and if they hadn’t touched it, then her diabetic-without-her-insulin mother would surely have survived. So Joe lets Julia in on the whole mystical egg at the dead center of Dome discovery (seriously: NO ONE ELSE HAS THOUGHT OF CHECKING HERE?) and upon demanding to see it, she is granted a Dome Vision of a False Joe proclaiming “The monarch will be crowned.”

Later, in bed, she ruminates a little on this with Barbie… then cut to Angie, who has a monarch butterfly tattooed on her shoulder blade! (Because she’s classy that way.) What could this, and the cryptically cunning look on her face, mean? Truly, Under the Dome, WHAT a cliffhanger!

Oh, and in Barbie news: a) Yes, Big Jim, of course Barbie is some kind of demolition expert! Duh; and b) he’s got your number now, dude. I’d heed his warning and not make an enemy of him. Who knows what other specialized skills he might have?

THOUGHTS

Sigh. After last week’s glimmer of hope in a world gone dreary, this episode brought back all my disdain for this silly, silly show. My main problem with Under the Dome continues to be the general stupidity of its denizens – both those with whom we are acquainted and the general population who exist only to be cannon fodder. Even Smart Kid Joe wasn’t given any credit for brains this time out, and usually he’s the only one who seems like he might possibly have what it takes to even graduate High School.

For all its abiding awfulness, there were a few moments that made this time I spent trapped under the Dome with the rest of Chester’s Mill not entirely regrettable.

Still, for all its abiding awfulness, there were a few moments that made this time I spent trapped under the Dome with the rest of Chester’s Mill not entirely regrettable. For one, Angie finally decided to change her jeans! (But then, maybe doesn’t. Or perhaps all her jeans look the same? Let’s just give her the benefit of that doubt here, so I can stop obsessing over her basic hygiene) Also, the scene in which she and Norrie deal with the latter’s loss of her Mom only 12 hours earlier is quite sweet, if a little abrupt with the catharsis. Oh, if only all teenagers were so self-actualized that they could deal with such a massive trauma in less than a day. There’d be far less emo in the world, that’s for sure.

Also good was the dramatic showdown between Junior and his father, with Norris turning in a fine piece of Acting as the distraught Jim begging for his life (and his son’s forgiveness). It was also pretty clever of Junior to tell Linda that he had taken Ollie’s side as a double agent all along. I will give him points for that one.

Let us also hear it for glorified extra DJ Phil (Nicholas Strong), who managed to take part in the episode without doing anything except get shot in the shoulder. Why was he here at all? Will his family members who were Marines have something to do with it? Or was that piece of exposition just a further waste of everyone’s time?

And while I don’t think I care for the Mystical Glowing Egg of Wonder in the middle of the Dome – if this seriously turns out to be aliens, then it may be a bit too Kingdom of the Crystal Skull for my liking – the new prophecy given to Julia (and superseding “Pink stars are falling”) is at least slightly intriguing, especially if it turns out that Angie the Butterfly Tattooed somehow does have something to do with all of this. (AGAIN with the butterflies! What is it with this show?)

Only time will, unfortunately, tell on that score, since there are still five episodes to go in this debut season, and the show has, somewhat inexplicably, already been renewed for a second 13-episode run.

Lord – or Mystical Glowing Egg of Wonder – help us.

The Checklist:

What’s going on here? Check.
Where the hell was Angie? Joe actually asked this question! (And, predictably, received no answer.)
Crazy People Count: Still Junior, for sure. Possibly also Big Jim. And Ollie was a megalomaniacal tinpot dictator of the highest order.
Barbie saves someone: Check. Arguably a lot of someones, by blowing the well and ending the shootout.
Death: Check. Ollie, and five random townsfolk. Bye, random townsfolk! Now, stop killing your neighbors!
Relationship Report: Barbie and Julia are quite cutely at the joking around “how was your day, honey?” stage, and our teenage dream was on the rocks there for a bit, but smashing snow globes against the Dome really managed to chill Norrie out about the death of her Mom just last night. But of more interest to me currently is the possibly familial relationship between actors Mike and Andrew Vogel. Neither’s IMDb page carries this all-important detail, but it would be a hell of a weird coincidence if they weren’t, huh?

– Rachel Hyland

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