Last night’s episode of Under the Dome taught us many things. We learned about the United States government’s murderous rage towards anyone who tampers with insect navigation, and that the Army gives you a magical coin when you shoot your own soldiers, the most important thing we learned was what the dome really is. It’s crack cocaine. Rock. Beautiful Boulders. The Devil’s Dandruff. The Legendary Hubba. That’s right. This show is one big drug metaphor. And the drug in question? Botray.
The motivating force for last night’s episode was the US government’s vow to protect the insects of this great land. The government has been baffled, perplexed, and frightened by this dome, and they almost went to war with China over it, but when a lot of monarch butterflies land on the side and gently flutter their wings, that is the last straw. The Pentagon buses in everyone’s families to have a visitor’s day by the dome, stat!
Sheriff Linda warns everyone to absolutely positively not touch the dome or she’ll settle their hash, then she runs over and begins to lick it when she sees her fiancé. Unfortunately, she has to tell him that his brother is dead. Fortunately, this is made easier by virtue of the fact that he has a sleek and powerful Microsoft Surface Table PC with a sassy red cover to write messages on. With its beautiful, beveled edges and a shell made of vapor-deposited magnesium, the Surface is a revolutionary device that does what you need and want to do. Unlike most tablets, the Surface RT comes with a USB port, so you can upload files from a flash drive or charge your phone right there on the spot. And when you absolutely have to tell someone that a family member is dead, the Surface is there for you with touch-optimized versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, with Outlook on the way in Windows RT 8.1.
Dodee once again demonstrates that she’s the Swiss Army knife of plot points since she’s the only person allowed to communicate with people outside the dome by using sign language to talk with her mom, but it’s only Barbie who realizes her potential for lip reading. Barbie approaches a soldier—who is excited when the Don Johnson look-a-like holds up a magical coin he got from George Washington for helping his unit of “Jackrabbits” kill a bunch of their own soldiers (but he saved one too!) in Iraq or the South of France or someplace—and the guy lets Dodee read his lips.
And his lips say: We love freedom, but we love butterflies more. He also reveals that this was a reverse visitor’s day because people thought they were saying hello but really they were saying goodbye. Psych! Then Barbie spots a box labeled MOAB which means “Mother of All Bombs” (actually it means “Massive Ordinance Air Bomb”) thus continuing the government’s War on Women as it associates the image of motherhood with lots of people getting killed in a fiery holocaust. I was sort of waiting for someone to pipe up and tell Barbie, “Actually, Moab means ‘seed of the father’ in most of the Semitic languages, first found in the Septuagint, translated into Koine Greek from the Hebrew.” But I think the image of the government shooting the seed of the father against the dome is just a little too gross after we saw Sheriff Linda licking the side of it, like, five seconds before.
Anyways, why is the government shooting a bomb at the dome? And why are they using a bomb that is specifically designed NOT to penetrate armored targets to do so? Well, you wouldn’t expect the writers of this show to do anything unless they had a very good reason, and that tradition continues here. See, Dodee figured out that butterflies navigate by magnets. “A lot of insects use magnetic fields to navigate,” she says. Say no more, Dodee! “If this is altering them,” Barbie barks, “The government won’t stand for that.” So they’re going to blow up the dome BECAUSE OMG NO ONE MESSES WITH OUR BUTTERFLIES AND THEIR DELICATE INSECT NAVIGATION OR THE TERRORISTS HAVE WON 9/11 NEVER FORGET WE REMEMBER MISSION ACCOMPLISHED ETC.
What happens next is truly beautiful: the dome becomes an enormous relationship therapist and it brings people together. Big Jim totally lets all the drama out of the whole “Angie Trapped in the Bomb Shelter” situation by letting her out of the bomb shelter just as a bomb is approaching, demonstrating that he has a keenly developed sense of irony and that he will continue to entertain himself by only ordering Jumbo shrimp, finding a large man and nicknaming him Tiny, and hoarding shampoo. Angie runs home and winds up being found by Junior, who’s now wearing a deputy uniform (presumably stripped from the corpse of one of Chester’s Mill’s many dead, but similarly-sized, law enforcement officers) and is holding a gun and waiting for her. He takes her hostage again but she doesn’t mind because the bomb is coming and so they cuddle.
Everyone else runs to that most popular of Chester’s Mill tourist attractions, the old cement factory. There, in its dusty tunnels, just as Julia and Junior grew closer two episodes ago, Julia and Barbie come back together, Deputy Linda runs her fingers over initials that she and her fiance carved into public property in happier times although how she refrains from licking them I’ll never know, Barbie and DJ Phil bond because Phil tried to pawn a crummy watch to pay his gambling debts since he’s never heard of credit cards and Barbie gives it back, and the two lesbian moms demonstrate that even though you don’t need a man to raise a child, maybe you do need one if you want to keep track of said child for more than five minutes at a time.
Their daughter is having so many feelings because of a plot twist that is so insanely irrelevant I’m not even going to dignify it by writing it down, but it makes her go running away with Scarecrow Joe, who has decided that as the world ends he should maybe find his missing sister and so he concocts the amazing plan of jogging awkwardly through the streets of Chester’s Mill shouting, “Angie? Angie?” Then he and angry daughter kiss because dome and the end of the world, and the bomb hits the dome and...nothing happens.
And that’s where we learn the true meaning of the dome. Nothing happens. Nothing ever happens. A bunch of character dynamics that we have little to no investment in have altered imperceptibly, but nothing has changed in any meaningful way. Angie and Junior, after a beating and a kidnapping and an unwanted bomb sheltering, are even right back in the very first place we saw them five episodes ago: her bedroom. The only thing that’s changed is Junior’s uniform, but Angie is still wearing the same clothes.
At the end of the episode, Big Jim gets grumpy with the Reverend and kills him by holding his hearing aid to the dome, revealing that he’s evil, something that we’ve all pretty much known since episode one. Barbie and Julia have gotten over their whole “You killed my husband, get out of my house” spat so they can continue functioning in their roles as the flagship love interest on the show, and the two kids have kissed which is pretty much where we all knew this was heading because they’re the only two kids of approximately the same age in the cast. For all the wheel-spinning, frantic music lifted from LOST, houses burning down, people getting shot, and intimations of Huge Secrets Being Revealed, we’re right back where we started.
Just like crack cocaine.
See, a crack high doesn’t last for very long, and by the time you’re done smoking that rock of Kokomo you’re right back in the backseat of that burned out car in the vacant lot wondering where you can find more babies to sell for another vial of that sweet, sweet yimyom. In fact, you probably feel a little stupid, and maybe even slightly headachey, exactly the symptoms most viewers experience after watching an episode of Under the Dome. We all start out full of optimism, thinking that this episode is finally going to be the one that changes things, and then suddenly the credits are rolling and nothing has changed at all.
There are some people who try crack once or twice and realize that it’s whack and they never go back. There are others who stick with it no matter how bad it gets. They’re addicted, which is how I’m starting to feel. But not “addicted” in the “This-crack-is-so-great-I-can’t-wait-to-get-more” positive sense of the word, but more in the “Oh-god-I-can’t-stop-because-I-keep-getting-promised-this-is-going-to-get-better” sense of the word. The mechanism of Under the Dome addiction is easy to understand: at the end of each episode there’s a “Scenes from Next Week” clip that promises a lot of stuff is going to go down next time. Look, it’s raining inside the dome! People are rioting over food like they should have been doing three episodes ago! Dean Norris is making Intensity Face! But we should all know by now that while those things will happen in the most clichéd and meaningless manner possible, none of them will actually change anything.
And yet, I go crawling back each week like Pam Grier in Fort Apache, the Bronx, crawling back to the empty promise that next week, next time, next episode, something will actually occur that has an impact on the story and maybe we won’t spend a disproportionate amount of time watching two parents try to keep track of their teenaged daughter, while Julia Shumway mourns a marriage no one cared about in the first place. But we all know I’m wrong. We all know that next week I’m going to suck on that glass pipe and nothing’s going to come out but a whole lot of hot vapor, and then an empty promise that next time it’ll be better.
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 story, “Mofongo Knows” appears in the anthology, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination.