Friday, July 24, 2015

In Which I Review Under the Dome (3x6)

Just whistle while you work. Or while your mind and body are being taken over by an alien parasite and you become part of a hive collective that is all about Communism--or community. Same thing, really. Here's something somewhat (okay, totally) shocking: this weeks episode, "Caged," had two distinct themes. This isn't to say that those two will be handled well in future episodes, but at least it's a step in the right direction from the normal meandering and multi-forked gibberish of a plot. These two themes were, one, the idea of being caged or trapped--either by design of another person or symbolically trapped by a totalitarian society. The other theme, one that has less significance to the current plot but might be more relevant to the show as whole, is the idea of civilization and how we define a prosperous civilization. Is it built by creative individual leaders, charismatic thinkers and doers who shape from the top down? Or is it the followers, working together in a group (a kinship you might say) to build something together, as a team? In other words: Great Men Of History or the efforts of the everyman? Philosophically deep and interesting but most likely never going to get the proper treatment it deserves here in Gibberish Land simply because the great men of Chester's Mill are all terrible people and the little townsfolk who suffer under them are currently being mind-warpped by sex juice from a cave. So, everyone, grab a tuna can and let's go!

Let's start with the first theme of the night: being caged. On a literal level, almost every major character ends up caged somehow this week. Obviously, Big Jim (and Hero Indy the Dog) are in a physical cage, trying to sweet talk and flatter his way into getting Queen Bee (who is likewise in a cage) to confess her dastardly plans so that the lone scientist in his white lab coat will let Big Jim loose on the world. Jorrie are caged in the broom closet--the same broom closet, I believe, where they officially put Joe's amply supply of condoms to good use. Julia is tied up and gagged (which is really the best way to have Julia at all times) by Junior and the rest of the Chester's Mill Borg Collective. See, literal levels. But on a more symbolic level, the Chester's Mill Borg Collective are caged as well, and not by the upside down goldfish bowl. It's true that they've literally been caged for about 3 weeks (that's all? really?) inside the Dome, but now their cages are their minds and bodies, not a physical manifestation. I would be interested to know if any of the former "person" resides in the new hollowed out Borg form. There must be something intact because Norrie snapped out of her momentary lapse and thus far Joey hasn't been affected at all, even though he was inside the cocoon. However, Junior (and Queen Bee to Big Jim) insists that there is nothing of James Rennie left inside the tall, muscular, lusciously lipped Little Crazypants. But I think that's wrong, not only because of the aforementioned Norrie, but also because Queen Bee has been very careful in how she manipulates her Chester's Mill Borg Collective. She tosses around ideas like kinship and being "for the group" when in public (which is just politics and thus akin to local amateur theater full of shadows and dust) but on an individual level--say Queen Bee and Junior--she uses the host's life, quirks, flaws, and traits to bend them to her will. When Queen Bee is manipulating Junior for the first time, she doesn't talk about the greater good of the group; she uses Junior's own traumatic past (namely the emotional abuse and neglect at the hands of Big Jim) to get him to burn down the Rennie house (another cage). Having found in Queen Bee what he never got from Big Jim, Junior is more malleable and open to suggestion, like sex in the Cave of Wonders. I think Queen Bee knows that she is playing a dangerous game; her plan to turn the residents of Chester's Mill into her Borg Collective is teetering on an edge. One strong gust--say from Julia or Jorrie--and it could all fall to ruin. The individuals have to be gotten rid of if they won't play by the rules because once you introduce independent thought and creative genius (even if it's crazy creative genius) into the mix, the masses will open their eyes and blink away the effects of their drug. This does bring one question to mind: would the Chester's Mill Borg Collective consider Queen Bee their goddess as well as their leader? They certainly revere her in a manner that is not unlike revering a god. They stand around (whistling) while they wait for orders; there is no forward motion for the Chester's Mill Borg Collective unless dictated by Queen Bee. Now, that's a monarchy (tyranny, really) but it's also a (highly) negative and cynical look at religion. And at this stage, if there is an apotheosis a'coming for Queen Bee, then I am reminded what Marx said about religion: it's the opiate of the masses.

That is also a nice bridge to our second theme of the night: civilization and the merits of what makes one "good" and what makes one "bad." Under the Dome seems, in my mind, to be setting up a dual and oppositional dynamic here: the individual, non-cult-like flavor of a few select Chester's Mill residents against the drugged out, cult-like (with some potential religious connotations) of the Borg Collective. It's an us vs them mentality, but given the language Queen Bee was using in her conversation with Big Jim, it's more than that. It's that individuality must be suppressed. You--the core of what you are--do not exist. The collective, the kinship, the fellowship, the herd exists. But you do not. You are a cog in a machine that is intricate and far more important than your tiny bit. As I said, it's more than an us vs them mentality; we can extend to it to religion (atheism vs organized religion); to political systems (republics vs communism) and so on and so forth. Perhaps this isn't what Under the Dome is intending--and, actually, given their track record of thinking small and only in cheesy cliches, I would be stunned and amazed to learn that they had put this much thought into their show--but nevertheless, it's where my brain went and given that TV is subjective, I'm running with it. I'm not even sure that Under the Dome wants to come down on one side of this issue. Being part of a collective is serving the residents of Chester's Mill on one level: they are fed; they are being put to work; they are whistling (I assume) in happiness. Yes, they've lost their individuality, but their needs (if we go by Maslow's woefully outdated pyramid) are being met. On the other hand, being a leader isn't that great. Big Jim was a leader and he was hated and despised. Queen Bee is a leader but Sam stabbed her through the stomach this week because of her choices. Yes, they get to call the shots but they aren't exactly living the high life. I strongly suspect that Under the Dome will come down in the middle--you need to work together as a kinship (but sans sex juice) with the help of strong, charismatic leaders--to survive. And if that fails, then you better have a Cave of Wonders with some sex juice to wrap you tightly in a cocoon while you return to health. See. Just when it gets deep, Under the Dome reminds you not to give it too much thought.

Miscellaneous Notes on Caged      

--Queen Bee is "not of this earth, but something very foreign." Please just use the word "alien." Come on; we all know they are aliens.

--Anthropologists were hired to find fragments of a meteor that fell to earth. I really don't think Under the Dome has any idea what anthropologists do.

--The drawing Junior found: what are they plans of? A way to reach the aliens still up in space who need to come to Chester's Mill? A way to bring down the Dome? The next orgy?

--"We mean no harm, but we will defend ourselves." What does 'mean no harm' even mean to you then, Queen Bee? Cause lots-o-people have died.

--Why has Joey been totally unaffected and why did Norrie snap out of it? Please don't say true love.

--Queen Bee orders Eva to have sex with Barbie. How romantic.

--RIP Barlie? No more BBQ-ing I guess. 

--"I've seen the movie, Mrs. Spock." I'm going to pretend Under the Dome did not just riff on "Wrath of Khan."

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