Since the first season, the people of Chester’s Mill have been suffering from Exposition Syndrome, a terrible disease that forces them to explain things over and over again, even when everyone has just seen these things happen or, in truly acute cases, just as these things are happening right in front of them. Unfortunately, this disease is not fatal, and those suffering from it will never feel the merciful relief of death’s sweet embrace. Instead they will just keep explaining things until Under the Dome is canceled. Like the West African Ebola outbreak, this is a fast-spreading virus but, fortunately, the Dome was lowered over Chester’s Mill to keep it contained.
In this episode, the Dome is breached.
The most virulent disease vector in Chester’s Mill are the teens—Junior, Fivehead Norrie, Scarecrow Joe, and Dead Girl Melanie—and as this episode begins we see just how advanced their cases are.
Melanie: I fell asleep.
(Yes, we just saw you)
Junior: That’s okay, you were tired.
(Yes, because we just saw her sleeping)
Melanie: Aren’t you?
(No, because he was not sleeping)
Junior: Knowing that Lyle’s out there wanting to kill us kept me awake.
(We just saw this last episode)
Norrie: Did the egg do anything else last night?
(Apart from what we saw it do at the end of the previous episode?)
Junior: Not since it showed us the obelisk from Zenith.
(The one we saw last episode and will see twice more this episode?)
Melanie: Which is so weird. Why would it show us something from my hometown?
(We all know your hometown is Zenith. It is all you have been talking about for three episodes.)
Norrie: Your hometown is Barbie’s hometown. That has to mean something.
(I hope so, because everyone keeps talking about it.)
My desire to strangle these children is mitigated somewhat by the sympathy I feel for their condition. You can already see how the constant delivery of plot exposition has softened their brains. When Barbie appears in front of Scarecrow Joe this episode, Joe cannot process that Barbie is actually there until he speaks it as exposition. “Barbie, you survived the cave-in. You’re alive.” Yes, Barbie is standing in front of you respirating. He is alive. Later, the mystery of death is cheapened when Joe spells out what death means for his sister, Angie. “She’s never coming back,” he expositions. No, she is not coming back. That is what being dead means.
Barbie and Julia Shumway suffer the least from Exposition Syndrome and they hastily put as much distance as possible between themselves and these virus-riddled kids, running back to the bottomless pit because that is where Sam jumped, trying to kill himself before the disease ate his brain. Now Barbie is obsessed with recovering Sam’s body from the bottomless pit because it has scratches on it. Of course it has scratches on it. The man just fell into a bottomless pit.
Rebecca Pine, high school science teacher, and Julia Shumway accompany Barbie to the pit but Rebecca is flummoxed when her compass spins around. “It says we’re facing every direction at once,” she exclaims, revealing that she is in the grip of an advanced state of Exposition Syndrome. Also, that is not what it means when a compass spins around. That would be like saying, “My phone just cut out while I was talking. That must mean I am dead.”
Then Barbie lowers himself into the Bottomless Pit using what we assume is a Bottomless Rope. “The darkness, I think I’m getting closer to it,” he says. Be careful of delivering plot exposition into the abyss, because the abyss also delivers plot exposition into you, and with that Barbie cuts the rope and plunges to his doom, determined to die rather than deliver one more line of exposition. Julia Shumway screams “Baaaaarbaaaaaaaayyyyyy!!!!” and Rebecca Pine tries to comfort her, but without a hose to spray water on Julia (her solution to every problem) she is out of options.
But it turns out that Barbie hasn’t died. Instead he’s been teleported to a playground in Zenith, his hometown. Which is so weird because his hometown is Melanie’s hometown. That has to mean something. Rather than cleansing himself with fire, Barbie strolls around infecting the population of Zenith with Exposition Syndrome. Then he goes back to his apartment where some nightclub bouncers break in (big muscles, shaved heads, black t-shirts—what else could they be?). Chillingly, they disgorge extensive plot exposition revealing that the disease has already spread to Zenith long before Barbie even arrived. How is that possible?
It turns out that Sam is not dead and covered with scratches at the bottom of the Bottomless Pit but instead has been strolling around Zenith for 24 hours, spreading his infection. Now he finds his sister, Pauline, teaching her terrible art to crazy people in an asylum and he speaks exposition at her (“How come you didn’t tell me you were going to fake your own death?”) until she succumbs to the infection, too. These two spend the rest of the episode explaining and re-explaining everything we’ve already seen without moving the story forward in the slightest or offering any insight, and only you can relieve their suffering by dialing 1-800-I-CAN-HELP right now. For the price of an iTunes download a day you can provide treatment for an actor suffering from Exposition Syndrome.
Back inside the Dome, Big Jim is explaining his motivations again and again to anyone who will listen. Meanwhile, the fickle Millers stage a candlelight vigil for Barbie, a man no one knew. Sheriff Linda, on the other hand, a beloved member of the community, doesn’t even get a roadside wreath.
Outside the dome, the infection spreads. Barbie runs across a lawn in the middle of the afternoon with his gun drawn, and then meets his father, who is head of the portentously named Aktaion Energy. This is a Greek name that means “Someone in the Writer’s Room Looked It Up on Wikipedia” and it is also the company responsible for the Dome, which probably means it is a subsidiary of CBS. Within seconds of encountering his son, Barbie’s father is thoroughly infected with Exposition Syndrome and the two of them backstory at each other for the rest of the episode. Then Barbie says he wants to go back to the Dome because he is in love. At that moment, he and his father walk by a door that Pauline once painted. And that is the moment when everyone watching this episode experienced a sinking feeling because we all know that sometime soon, someone is going to have to explain that door. A lot.
We can only pray we survive.
Grady Hendrix is the author of Satan Loves You, Occupy Space, and he’s the co-author of Dirt Candy: A Cookbook, the first graphic novel cookbook. He’s written for publications ranging from Playboy to World Literature Today and his novel about a haunted Scandinavian furniture superstore, Horrorstör, will be out in September.