This week, something new popped up under the dome. “Folks,” Julia Shumway said, delivering a speech at the end of this episode. “I said this morning that I thought it was time for us Millers to focus on our future.” I did a doubletake. Millers? Does Chester’s Mill have an actual family who own an actual mill that grinds their precious crops into flour? And there it was again in the end credits, “Scared Miller – Samantha Worthen.”
And suddenly I realized, the Millers are what the residents of Chester’s Mill call themselves. The way people from New York call themselves New Yorkers or people from France call themselves Francers. And this episode was all about their quest. Whether they’re credited as “Scared Miller,” or “Townsperson,” “Chester’s Mill Resident,” “Chester’s Mill Local,” “Diner Patron,” or even “Townsfolk” they’re all Millers, each and every one of them, and what they all yearn for is…a name.
Five episodes into season two and there are so many plot threads piling up everywhere that the first six minutes of this episode were spent with the main characters recapping what happened last episode, while the characters they’re recapping to commented on how implausible the events being recapped were, sort of like the comments section of this recap. We are all Julia Shumway now.
The main characters are so caught up recapping things that the great mass of Millers finally get a chance to shine. If this episode was a Transformers movie it would be called Under the Dome 5: Rise of the Nobodies. And the rise begins when Julia Shumway and Dale Barbie hit the Sweetbriar Rose for a little brekkie.
“I can bring you cereal, toast, or tea,” Andrea the Isolated Hoarder offers. Andrea, for those who blinked, was granted a name when she delivered a bit of plot exposition way back in season one, episode one. Yet here she is again, disgorging an endless supply of styrofoam bowls of breakfast cereal, just like a real character. “Where’d you get all the food?” Julia Shumway gasps with her mouth. “And what the hell is your name again?” she snaps with her eyes.
But then another Miller, call him Angry Black Miller, points an accusing finger at Julia.
“If she’s eating here, I ain’t!” he shouts.
“Did I hear you right, Greg?” says Generic Blue Collar Miller with a Wart on His Temple, standing up. “You’re throwing in your lot with the guy who tried to murder everyone with that virus of his?”
“Jim wouldn’t come up with no virus,” Angry Black Miller, or Greg as he will henceforth be known, retorts. “It was a set-up.”
Generic Blue Collar Miller and “Greg” get in a shoving match that only a lead actor (Dale Barbie) can break up. Greg, now gifted with his precious, precious name, flees the diner.
“This trial of yours?” sneers Generic Blue Collar Miller to Julia. “It better reach the right verdict.”
Julia’s trial kicks off beneath a breezy gazebo surrounded by curious Millers, including Greg. But before she can bring out Big Jim and Rebecca Pine, high school science teacher, to hear their charges, Julia Shumway runs down the agenda for the assembled Millers.
“I think it’s time to focus on our future,” she begins.
“Where’s that piece of crap, Big Jim?” Generic Blue Collar Miller shouts.
“Yeah!” all the Millers nod.
“He’ll be arraigned and tried in front of a jury,” Julia Shumway says.
The process will be fair, she assures them, but it doesn’t sound like much fun. Julia Shumway needs to remember that the Millers are trapped beneath a dome with no internet, and they’re getting really bored. They’ve already had some rager parties, started a fight club, formed a lynch mob (twice), had a riot, gotten the plague, cheerfully constructed a gallows for a public hanging, and blown each other up. These Millers know how to party, and a fair trial sounds pretty boring to them.
“But first, I’d like to talk about the food situation,” Julia says, continuing to misread her audience.
Various Millers vigorously shake their heads.
“Supplies are running low,” she says, sparking more mass head shaking. “But we can get through this together. That’s why I’m initiating a voluntary food share program.”
Now heads are nodding. This sounds like a good idea. Even Female Heckler (Tia Hendricks) is nodding along.
“People can bring what they have to the Chester’s Mill fire station where volunteers will oversee distribution, ensuring no one goes hungry,” Julia continues.
The mere mention of the words “fire station” turn Female Heckler’s enthusiastic nods into angry head shakes because she, like all Millers, knows that fire stations explode all the time. Living up to her name, she heckles.
“You want me to give up my family’s food? That’s CRAZY.”
Julia tries to reach the Millers again, but she’s lost them. Then Generic Blue Collar Miller shouts, “There’s the son of a bitch!” as Big Jim is brought out.
Chaos reigns as the Millers all shout “There he is now!” and “That’s right!” and “Why’d you try to kill us, Big Jim?” and “Why this, Jim?”
Julia Shumway is unused to so many lines coming from poorly-paid extras and she tries to read the charges.
“It’s all lies,” Greg calls, emboldened by his new name. “YOU deserve to be on trial!”
Now the Millers are nodding again.
“Hey Jim,” one shouts, “Tell us what you think!”
“She’s doing the best she can!” pleads another.
“Don’t you touch me!” bellows a third as a lethargic shoving match breaks out. This mass of disinterested jostling prompts Generic Blue Collar Miller to pull a gun and rush Big Jim. Barbie disarms him but, angered that another Miller is trying to get a name, Sheriff DJ Phil shoots him.
Rebecca Pine, high school science teacher, splashes her hands in the Miller’s blood to no avail. He’s dead. As she washes Miller blood off her hands, Julia confronts her in the bathroom.
“We’re lucky only Wendell died today,” Julia says. “Anybody could have been hit. Me, you, another lead actor.”
Rebecca sobs. That’s not Miller blood on her hands…it’s Wendell Blood. In death, he has finally earned his name.
The death of Wendell hits everyone hard, but no one takes it harder than Sheriff DJ Phil. Barely rating a name of his own, Phil was just another Miller before the high mortality rate among the law enforcement community saw him inherit Dead Sheriff Linda’s still-warm uniform. He’s been a great sheriff, too. “I caught those vandals who were defacing the bridge,” he said proudly to Big Jim last episode. But now that he’s shot a Miller who turned out to be granted a name like a real live boy, it doesn’t matter how many bridges he’s saved from defacement. It’s the end of his law enforcement career.
Over at the fire station, Millers are following Julia Shumway’s orders like mindless automatons, stacking boxes of food. Only Dale Barbie notices that these cardboard boxes…are completely empty! Suddenly, confirming the worst fears of Millers everywhere, the fire station explodes. And now comes the Millers’s moment in the sun.
Lesbian Mom and Dale Barbie carry out Heroic Head Wound Lady. Julia Shumway tries to explain that while fire stations do sometimes explode for no reason that doesn’t mean that they should avoid putting their food in them forever. Scared Miller (Samantha Worthen), puts her hands on her hips.
“The last of my food was in there. What’s my family supposed to eat tonight?”
Julia doesn’t know what to do, which is Sheriff DJ Phil’s cue.
“These people need to know the truth,” he says. “Julia’s big plan? It was just a way to take everybody’s food away from them.”
The Millers are nodding again. Ex-Sheriff DJ Phil will lead them to names! This is their chance!
“Then she sticks it all in one place along with a beat-up old generator,” Phil sneers, “Which, if she’d bothered to check, the wires were all frayed. Big Jim never would have made that mistake.”
The Millers turn rowdy.
“Big Jim never would have!” they agree.
“Now we’re all going to starve!” another shouts.
“She’s trying to kill us!” a third cries out.
Sheriff DJ Phil went from a bottom drawer Miller to a nearly-lead character in just two seasons. Sam Verdreaux? He wasn’t even in season one, but now he gets to lick his lips when he looks at a vodka bottle, then smash it against a wall like a real actor! It could happen to any Miller! The first Millers to make their play are Sheriff DJ Phil’s henchmen who spring into action when Dale Barbie starts investigating the bombed out fire station: Beardy Box-Stacking Man and Old Gray Mustache Grab ‘Em From Behind Guy. Barbie makes short work of them, however, and then stops Ex-Sheriff DJ Phil’s plan to hoard all the food.
With Ex-Sheriff DJ Phil shot in the shoulder, Andrea makes a last ditch attempt to move up the credit crawl, revealing that her husband was a survivalist and because of that she’s got plenty of food for everyone. Chester’s Mill celebrates with an all-you-can-eat buffet at the Sweetbriar Rose.
“Andrea, you’re doing an amazing job,” Julia Shumway says, thereby anointing Andrea as more than just another Miller. “The town continues to live because of you.”
At the end of this episode, Julia publicly forgives Big Jim and Rebecca Pine and as she shakes Big Jim’s hand, the assembled Millers burst into applause for this man who, two days ago, tried to poison them all. Because they are Millers and they will do anything a lead actor does. But that may not last forever, as this episode demonstrated.
Who will be the next Miller to get a name? Will it be Big Bellied Swinger in Red Shirt With Top Button Unbuttoned? Or Confused Man in Apron with Plate in Each Hand? What about Bookclub Ladies Sitting in Booth? Or Maybe Smiling Hispanic Child Waving to Imaginary Dinosaur?
It could be any of their turns next week. So stay tuned, because at any minute, any one of them might be granted a wonderful, magical, marvelous name.
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, comes out in September.