Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In Which I Review Under the Dome (1x13)

Raise your hand if you feel personally victimized by CBS's "Under the Dome."

When CBS started promoting Under the Dome, the aspect that intrigued me most, outside of being scifi, was that it was a simple summer show. It would have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Now granted all shows have that, but for an entire narrative to be told over 13 weeks was refreshing. But then, of course, the first night out, Under the Dome got close to 14million views and CBS knew they had to capitalize on that. So it was renewed, the writing got sloppy and lazy, and the story dragged on to an absurd degree.

This week's episode, "Curtains," was like a spit in the viewers eye because it was actually pretty good (still full of questionable choices and plot holes but good). This episode should have been the bridge between the first half and the second half, with the rest of the season played out to conclusion. No renewal, no second season, just one arc. 

But I digress. Tonight's episode both provided answers and gave more questions. 

The egg must be protected. At all costs. This weeks episode was egg-tastic: who's got the egg, who wants the egg, and what is the egg?

Answer: as of the final moments of the show, no one has the egg. Everyone wants it. And we have no idea what it is. Besides an egg, that is.

The episode begins where last week's ended; the butterfly is about to hatch. The poor little dear, once released from its protective shell, fights against the mini-dome, trying to escape. As it hits the walls of the mini-dome, black inky spots begin to appear, spreading across the surface. As this is happening, spots begin to form on the Big Dome and darkness settles over Chester's Mill. It's all very apocalyptic (more on that in a bit).

Linda, in her continued effort to be the saddest person ever, decides that the egg and mini-dome are police business and she is going to take command. Like Dodee a few episodes back, Linda reaches out and touches the mini-dome and is sent flying back, electrocuted and passed out. Jorrie and Junior take off with the mini-dome strapped to the back of their truck (where did they get the truck? how is there still gas in Chester's Mill?) and Angie, Julia, and a now freed Barbie (who defeated several men without using his hands) relocate to the cement factory. There, the four kids touch the now jet black mini-dome. The mini-dome crashes into a pile of dirt (why dirt?) and the butterfly, now free of its confined space, floats majestically around the room to its own sweeping orchestral movement. It finally floats near Barbie and Joey declares that Barbie must be the monarch.

Of course nothing in Under the Dome is that simple.

Someone please explain to me why Julia is the monarch. Suddenly, without warning, the egg begins to shake and glow a bright white color, as if it's about to explode. Jorrie, Junior, and Barbie all have natural preservation instincts and try to run but Julia bends down and picks up the egg for no apparent reason. Suddenly, everything stops shaking and the butterfly lands on the egg, now in Julia's hands. Barbie then declares that SHE is the monarch. Huh? Why? I can see Julia being the Queen to Barbie's King but why is she now the sole ruler? And if she is, why isn't the egg speaking to her? Why doesn't she know what to do? Why do I really doubt that she is the true monarch?

Junior, naturally being Junior, takes this opportunity to go McCrazy Pants and points his gun at Julia demanding she hand over the egg so he can deliver it to his father. Barbie distracts Junior by headbutting him and the others take off for the woods, egg still in hand. Let's pause here and check in with Big Jim Rennie.

While the egg adventure is happening, Big Jim is trying his "best" to keep the town calm and collected. The inhabits of Chester's Mill have flocked en masse to the local church, after the sky has turned as dark as night. Everyone thinks it's the end of days and they might be right.

Let's talk popular Christian belief. Ever heard of the Anti-Christ? Chances are, even if you're not a believer, you have. Hollywood loves it. It's the perfect bad guy. Historically and linguistically speaking, trying to identify a singular figure as "Anti-Christ" is hard because most often it's used for plural, not singular. For example, John 2:22 "Who is a Liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son," indicating that all liars and deniers are the Anti-Christ, not one individual. However throughout the years it's been reduced to a singular person who will stand opposed to Christ in the end days; a false prophet who will deceive the hearts of the people in the final days before Judgement. Hollywood and TVLand care very little for history, so we need to accept the more popular belief instead of the historical reality.

Is Big Jim our Anti-Christ? As the show progressed tonight, it felt more religious than science fiction (not that the two are mutually exclusive, in fact most often they go together quite nicely, but that's maybe a blog for another day). This episode was riddled with religious imagery in its most basic form: light vs dark, good vs evil. Big Jim has spent a lot of this season making grandiose speeches that somehow get people to do whatever he wants. Tonight in the church, he said he had faith, that times were hard but he promised that nothing bad would happen to the people of Chester's Mill. He manages to be so convincing that the residents agree to build a scaffold and a noose to hang Barbie, almost gleeful at the idea of killing someone. And this is to say nothing of the rather politically charged idea of a politician as the Anti-Christ, but I'll leave that one lie.
There is also the title of this episode, "Curtains." Now on its most basic level, the curtains motif is the blacking out of the Dome. However, on a higher more religiously attuned level, I couldn't help thinking about the curtains in the Christian New Testament, which hang in the Temple and in some versions of the Passion Narrative are split at the death of Jesus (cf: Mark 15:38; Matthew 27:51; and Luke 23:45). And what is happening at the end of this episode: the hanging of Barbie as a town of people look on. Perhaps very religiously charged.  Compounding all this are two things: the first is that Big Jim thinks the Dome and the Pink Stars are his Destiny (with a capital D). Apparently his tortured wife artist not only painted that painting of Junior and pink stars we saw a few episodes ago, she also painted an egg, resting in a blanket of pink stars (because it's convenient. Why didn't Junior know about this painting? Why show us the one of him and the stars but not the egg?) For our second compounding factor, we must return to our kids and Julia out in the woods.

Julia, unsure of what to do, hands the egg over to Norrie and tells her to ask the egg for assistance (side note: what a strange sentence to write). Norrie pleads with the egg and what does the egg do? Provides a vision of Alice (Norrie's dead mom, in case you've forgotten). Or rather, something takes on the form of Alice in order to communicate with the kids and would-be Monarch. The pseudo-Alice says that "they" are still learning to speak with the chosen ones. Angie demands to know why the Dome was sent as a punishment and interestingly enough, it wasn't. It was sent as a protection, though we don't know against what. But if I'm correct that Big Jim is standing in as the Anti-Christ, it could be that the Dome is protecting the outside world from his influence. Also, the kids and Julia must "earn" the light by protecting the egg. Only when the egg is protected will the light be restored. So the chosen ones have a choice: give the egg to Jim and save Barbie, or let Barbie die and save the egg. Julia, as would-be Monarch, makes the decision. She takes the egg out to the Lake and after some contemplation, drops it into the water.

As this happens, and Jim is laying down the law and about to kill Barbie, the stars begin to leave the egg and shoot upwards toward the sky in a brilliant pinkish light. Everyone in town sees it and Jim, slightly panicked, says it is proof that God approves of his plan and yells at Junior to pull the lever and kill Barbie. The stars, having reached the zenith of the dome, combine together in one giant brilliant ball of light and suddenly everything is full of light. The final view is one of the Dome from the outside where instead of darkest night there is now brightest (though obscured) day.

So what happened? Julia protected the egg by hiding it in the river but did Barbie die? Who sent the egg?

I've been harping on aliens for quite awhile now but after this episode, I'm not so sure. What if it's not aliens but angles? What if this is the end times and instead of alien overlords it's the army of heaven come to defeat the forces of darkness?

Miscellaneous Notes from Curtains 

 --Will I continue to watch Under the Dome? Yes. It's cheesy and overwrought and some parts have been down right terrible, but with this episode, I have to know what happens next.

--Why does the military want Barbie? Why is he the key? This is why I don't think Julia is really the Monarch. I think she's more of John the Baptist type figure, she paves the way for the true Monarch, Barbie in our case. She did baptize that egg after all.

--Linda needs to get a grip. And not be so sad. She's sucking all the energy out of the scene.

--Junior and Jim had nice moments. Psychotic and dysfunctional, but nice. Also, Junior abandoned all his friends and is about to kill Barbie. Is he maybe our Judas?

So that wraps up the summer blogging of Under the Dome. What's next, you might ask (whoever YOU are). Well, I am for sure blogging Once Upon a Time and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. I want to try and blog Sleepy Hollow, Agents of SHIELD, and Dracula, not to mention all the Doctor Who specials. And then before we know it, Mad Men is back for its final season (TEARS). Hope you join me.


  1. *raises hand*
    -I don't understand how Linda (being the chief of police, and how 'stupid-head former radio guy whose name escapes me' can be so stupid. Julia helped Barbie escape...WOULDN'T THAT INDICATE THAT MAYBE BARBIE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR SHOOTING HER IF HIS ALLEGED VICTIM IS HELPING HIM ESCAPE?!?!?
    -So you are speculating that the Dome is protecting the humans at large, not the people of Chester's Mill?
    -I'm less inclined to think angels because they would know how to speak with man. Do not all angels have the gift of tongue? Aliens however, if they've evolved to a certain point, may not have used traditional (human) means of communication for a millennia.
    -Going along with your Junior-is-Judas theory, wouldn't he need to be trusted by all for that to work? At this point, no one but BJ and maybe Linda actually trust him.

    1. Re Angels and language: not necessarily. There is quite a bit of lore about angelic language and whether or not humans could understand it. However, in the realm of fiction, the author can create his mythology however he wants to suit his story.

      Re Junior Judas: again, not necessarily. Judas is perceived as a bad man but that really develops later, specifically by the time of the Gospel of John where he's basically Satan. And the Judas archetype is simply as Betrayer. You can be the archetype without fitting every single piece of category. For instance, there was 30 pieces of silver yet he certainly fits the mold of the one who betrays and has from the get-go, betraying Angie's trust and locking her in a pit. And I would say that the lack of trust is new, up until this episode the other three were willing to set aside differences because he was one of them.

  2. Sorry for beeing all smartypants...but isn't the dirt comming from the dirt that's trapped inside the minidome?...

  3. Oh, you're probably right. Well spotted :)
    In my head the actual dome had turned to dirt and I couldn't make sense of it.