“We’re excited to tell more stories about the mystery of the dome and the secrets in Chester’s Mill,” CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler said in a statement Monday as she gloated over the renewal of Under the Dome for a second season, thereby causing everyone who thought that the mystery of the dome was going to be wrapped up in 13 episodes to know what it feels like when hope dies.
Ever since Roots back in 1977, we’ve all had an implied agreement with television that a series can be renewed but a “television event” like Under the Dome is a miniseries that cannot cause further harm. But now, all bets are off, up is down, black is white, and we’ll see if the ratings plunge as people realize that the dome isn’t getting explained any time soon. Except for right here. Because I actually have a pretty good idea of what the dome is based on the clues revealed in this week’s episode. But in the meantime, ya’ll all hate diabetics, right?
In this episode of Under the Dome the biggest terror known to man rears its ugly head: dehydration. Known to cause decreased blood pressure, dizziness, and fainting, here it also reveals its lesser known symptoms such as looting, libertarianism, and poor law enforcement decisions. But before we can fully understand the dangers of dehydration, we need to talk about its root causes: diabetics. So let’s begin at the beginning.
The episode starts with the main characters who seem to be Julia Shumway, Julia Shumway’s Hair, Sheriff Linda’s Furrowed Brow, Barbie and his Five o’clock Shadow, Lesbian Moms, their large-foreheaded daughter and her boy toy, and Big Jim Rennie standing by the dome and looking at all the destruction outside. After recapping the plot, the ensemble scatters.
Julia heads out to see her magical engineering Asian, Dodee, at the radio station where he has once again cooked up a magical science machine that will further the plot. Apparently there is some kind of signal that is blocking the signals (?) and Julia Shumway, being a reporter, needs to get to the bottom of it. Dodee, being Asian, will help her with science. The science she uses in this episode seems to be a tracker from Aliens but Dodee claims that, “Us radio heads call it a yokey.” Shut up, Dodee. We all know that Thom Yorke calls it something far more depressing and ironic than that. Dodee and Julia get in the car and take an awesome Thelma & Louise road trip only instead of getting drunk and sleeping with Brad Pitt they listen to the yokey make incomprehensible sounds and they don’t drive off a cliff at the end so it’s actually a terrible road trip.
Meanwhile, in another part of the plot, diabetics, amiright? As we learn later in this episode when Norrie (big forehead daughter of lesbian moms) goes on her lethargic looting stroll, diabetics come in three flavors: pistol-packing, adorable children, and hallucinating lesbian mothers who destroy the water supply for entire towns. Unfortunately, Alice, one of Norrie’s moms, is of this latter type. She starts to get hot flashes, becomes confused, insists on making the car pull over, then claims she has to catch a flight to Los Angeles, a common symptom of low blood sugar. Then she runs out in the road and causes a speeding appliance delivery truck on its way to urgently deliver a new washer/dryer to one of Chester Mill’s residents who, in a cruel irony, waited until the dome descended to finally spring for that new Energy Star unit, to veer off the street, crash through a fence, and destroy the entire town’s water supply.
You may think that the residents of Chester’s Mill could simply drink water from the enormous nearby lake but not so fast, you. See, when the dome came down it unleashed methane from underground pockets and I have to catch a flight to LA and pink stars are falling in lines and—sorry, I fell asleep for a second there. There are dead fish in that lake! And Barbie can light it on fire in Big Jim Rennie’s office like he’s about to serve him a flaming Jager shot. Fortunately, Big Jim was a very boring child whose grandfather gave him “an old map” of the Chester’s Mill water table and Big Jim pored over it for hours until he learned where every aquifer was and that is so sad and lonely that you just want to go back in time and give little Big Jim Jr. a hug and say, “It gets better. One day your grandfather will give you real toys like a map of the Los Angeles freeway system.”
But there is no time for hugs. Dehydration is setting in and Chester’s Mill is suffering from the symptoms. This isn’t common dehydration that causes dizziness, headaches, and swelling of the tongue, this is super-dehydration and amongst its many symptoms are:
Libertarianism—as an economic model, libertarianism has been proven to be unviable, but suffering from a loss of fluids and a corresponding loss in blood volume, store owners in Chester’s Mill decide to stop accepting American currency and insist on barter instead, while centralized law enforcement, contract law, and eminent domain are all rendered helpless in the face of this powerful political idea. Demonstrating that liberty is the absence of capitalist authority and, further, that a society based on freedom and equality can only be achieved through abolishing authoritarian institutions that subordinate the majority to a political elite, Farmer Ollie, owner of the town’s only artisanal well, sneers that Big Jim can come wave some paper at him anytime but he’ll shoot him if he steps onto his land. Meanwhile, teens gather at secret parties and read excerpts from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged out loud while beatboxing.
Looting & Rioting—as their lost body water content reaches 2%, the citizens of Chester’s Mill go totally berserk and begin to loot and riot. It starts out mild, as they attempt to shoplift off-brand toilet paper, then escalates to wild as they turn into a can-grabbing, backpack-wearing, running-in-circles-screaming-while-holding-shopping-baskets-half-full-of-groceries, window-breaking horde. Even Scarecrow Joe and Norrie get in on the action as they stroll through town, randomly throwing garden gnomes through the windows of Type 1 diabetics’ homes and raiding their refrigerators. Dehydration can affect everyone.
Poor Law Enforcement Decisions - as anyone who has ever been out mowing the lawn on a hot summer day and forgotten to drink enough water can tell you, the next symptom of dehydration is a loss of the ability to make sensible law enforcement decisions. The first sign is Sheriff Linda’s compulsion to hand out guns and badges like orange juice at a blood drive. She’ll give them to anyone with a pulse, including some cute brunette guy we’ve never seen before and who therefore seems headed for an early grave just like most of the Chester’s Mill police department. She also attempts to give Barbie a gun and a badge but he turns them down, preferring to be the Batman of Chester’s Mill, running around without a badge or distinguishing uniform, chasing criminals down back alleys, and choking people out left, right, and center. However, it should be noted that Barbie doesn’t start grabbing people around the neck and squeezing until after Sheriff Linda shouts that, “Starting a panic is not going to help anyone,” then opens the trunk of her car, pulls out a box of expired tear gas she got from the Federal government after 9/11, and starts randomly chucking it into the crowd of dehydrated looters. “It’s not working!” she cries in frustration. Of course not, you silly Sheriff. When has a handout from the illegitimate authority of the Federal government ever been able to repress the forces of libertarian economics in action?
But this orgy of rampant fluid deficiency and political expression reaches its climax when Angie—who has previously belted Junior Rennie in the head with a snow globe (“Argh! The symbolism!” he cries, clutching his forehead and crashing to the ground), then gone on the run and hidden in the cafe where she worked—is attacked by Waylon, whom we’ve never met before, and a buddy who are looking for “fresh meat” because they are very thirsty. Rose, the owner of the cafe, tries to stop them but Waylon beats her to death with a baseball bat. Then Waylon sees the unconscious Angie and, his lust enflamed by water loss, decides to rape her.
I don’t know what it is about her, but Angie really does bring out the worst in everyone. I would never suggest that she is asking to be sexually violated, but the writers of this show clearly feel that she should be visited by pretty much every form of sexual peril in rapid succession, and so they’ve kept Waylon, an obvious sociopath, out on his farm strangling puppies and posting YouTube comments for five episodes, saving him for just this moment when they can unleash him against Angie. Fortunately, Bat-Barbie appears and chokes Waylon out, then he staggers into the street carrying Angie’s limp body. Big Jim Rennie asks what happened and Bat-Barbie tries to tell him that Rose has been killed, which leads to some of the most dramatic pauses ever seen on Under the Dome.
Big Jim Rennie: What happened?
Bat-Barbie: Two of them broke into the diner. Knocked her unconscious, and Rose…
Big Jim Rennie: ?
Big Jim Rennie: ???????????
Bat-Barbie: (slow head shake)
Big Jim Rennie: !!!
Big Jim Rennie: :(
Then, just as Sheriff Linda is trying to keep a panic from starting by pulling her gun and randomly shooting into the crowd of looters she just tear gassed, it starts to rain. Why does it start to rain? Big Jim sums it up nicely when he says, “It came out of nowhere! All right!” Thus turning the randomness of the show into a meta-meditation on the randomness of the show. On the other side of town, Dodee and Julia have realized that the source of the dome energy (?) is Norrie and Scarecrow Joe, but rather than trying to figure out what that even means they let the two teens wander off to get run over by runaway appliance delivery trucks, killed by diabetics, or fall into the evil hands of Waylon. “I know, it doesn’t make any sense,“ Julia Shumway observes, echoing the thoughts of pretty much every single viewer.
But that’s okay. Dehydration has been solved, or, as Dodee explains, the dome has created a micro-climate and provided them all with fresh drinking water and, “It filters the water so we can drink it,” which only the most uncharitable viewer would point out is based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever. But why else would the dome make it rain, except to bring out Chester’s Mills’s phantom guitar players who send up a romantic solo that causes Julia and Bat-Barbie to make out in the glamorous and moody precipitation?
But now, will it ever STOP raining? Will over-hydration become the next done-in-one threat to Chester’s Mill? Is flooding something everyone has to worry about in the next episode? Who cares? The bigger mystery is the nature of the mysterious dome. Or maybe the not-so-mysterious done, as I like to now call it. Do we have the clues we need to solve the mystery yet? I think so.
Julia: It protected us when we needed it. Just when we need water, it rains.
Dodee: So you mean the dome’s helping us?
Julia: Maybe. Maybe it’s trying to reassure us.
Dodee: First it traps us. Now it’s trying to reassure us?
Maybe it’s a TV writer’s room? Or maybe, as the show seems to suggest, the dome is somehow conscious? In the scenes from next week it appears that the dome has made a woman pregnant, which is also an important clue. For as we all know that there is only one creature on this planet that is sentient, dome-shaped, has a conflicted relationship with humans, wants to reassure us, yet is capable of breeding with us across species lines. Although we’re used to them being much smaller, there is no reason not to believe that one of them may have grown to enormous size and now envelops Chester’s Mill. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the first photo of the true identity of the dome:
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.