There are two very important things that Under the Dome would like you to know. First, the Dome is shrinking. In the first five minutes of this episode Scarecrow Joe mentions it, Computer Hacker Guy mentions it, Fivehead Norrie mentions it, and so does Creepy Lyle, Rebecca Pine (high school science teacher and triage center setter-upper), Junior Rennie, Dale Barbie, and Julia Shumway. So guys, THE DOME IS SHRINKING OKAY?
Second, the actors have a very special message for you. “Thank god it’s warming up again,” says Pauline. “It seems warmer,” says Melanie. “The cold snap’s over,” says Junior Rennie. And, to bring it all home, Rebecca Pine, high school science teacher, “The Dome stopped spinning and inverting the atmosphere, that’s why the temperatures warmed up.” So guys, THE DOME IS WARM NOW OKAY? THE DOME IS WARM AND IT IS SHRINKING ALL RIGHT DID EVERYONE HEAR THAT? Good? Then let us begin.
Over at the Shumway residence, Julia Shumway and her beautiful hair are packing up before the Dome crushes her house (DID I MENTION THE DOME IS SHRINKING, GUYS????) and she stops to look wistfully at a photo of her elderly husband. “You should take that,” Barbie says. Then, realizing she might need a reminder, he adds, “It’s your husband.” Doesn’t ring a bell for Julia. “That was my old life,” she says, tossing it aside and not mentioning that it was her old life that Barbie murdered. Julia doesn’t have time for the past, especially that femur piercing she got last week. Limping is for losers. She’s got an ace bandage around one leg and that’s all she needs.
Over at the high school triage center, Rebecca Pine, high school science teacher, and Julia Shumway squabble like a couple of moody hens over whether the Dome is a Fact of Science or Their New Dark God. Fortunately, Barbie’s there to be all, “Settle, ladies, settle,” and they go clucking off, searching for dried corn to peck. But something seems off. Then it’s revealed that Computer Hacker Guy is a traitor working for Barbie’s dad and Barbie is all “You don’t get to talk!!!!!!!” and slams him up against the wall, but there’s no escaping the fact that something is really, really wrong here. Barbie loves to slam people up against walls, it’s his way of saying hello. He’s slammed Big Jim up against a wall, and Sheriff DJ Phil, and Creepy Lyle, and Trevor, the Other Computer Gentleman, but when he slams Computer Hacker Guy up against the wall his heart isn’t in it. He’s just slamming him up against the wall by the numbers.
Clearly, everyone’s exhausted, and I don’t simply mean they all need a nap. I mean, their souls have been harrowed in the fields of Canaan and yea their limbs move as if fashioned of lead and they barely have the strength to lift their heads up and cry out to the Lord, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” Junior Rennie has toned down his Brando-isms to a dull roar (he only strips down to his undershirt once this episode), and Big Jim is barely trying, coming across as a tube of roll-on deodorant with animated lips. Skater Ben makes a cameo, and those of us who knew and loved him from Season 1 are shocked to see that here he’s a mere shadow of his former gnarly self.
Even the crew are exhausted. Melanie is sick this episode because she’s psychically linked to the Egg, and with the Egg in Zenith thanks to Big Jim’s Leeroy Jenkins maneuver “Her body’s falling apart,” in the words of Rebecca Pine, high school science teacher. What does a falling apart body look like? I would guess Gary Busey, but on Under the Dome it looks like a girl who coughs up half a tablespoon of Hershey’s chocolate syrup and whose hair extensions come off in someone’s hand. Later, it becomes apparent that even the writers have thrown their hands up in the air when it comes to character motivation. As Scarecrow Joe convinces Fivehead Norrie to stalk Barbie with him, he says, “He’s probably got a plan to stop what’s happening [editor’s note: the Dome is shrinking, that’s what’s happening]. Don’t you want to see what he’s up to?” From a writer’s point of view, that’s a total surrender.
No one even bothers to remember their characterizations from one episode to the next. Now I’m not asking for Shakespeare (or AM I? Because a Chester’s Mill Little Theater production of Hamlet might be the greatest thing ever) but can’t we think about what’s going on here for a minute. Uncle Sam, who admitted to straight-up putting an axe through the skull of Joe’s sister and Junior’s old, dead girlfriend, is administering health care to Junior’s new, dead girlfriend. Dale Barbie, another murderer of a longtime Chester’s Mill resident, is the town hero. Big Jim, yet another confessed murderer, is folding quilts and beaming beatifically in the triage center. It’s like murdering someone in cold blood qualifies you for a rebate on your Chester’s Mill real estate taxes.
Rebecca Pine tells Big Jim to “do what you do best” which, confusingly, is not having wild mood swings, staging public executions, or trying to murder everyone with a virus inside an egg, but is instead to fall in love all over again with Pauline, the wife who hated him so much that she faked her own suicide to escape his clutches. Desperate for Pauline to paint more terrible art, Big Jim takes her to her studio where they both act like they’re on LSD. “You were chosen to lead Chester’s Mill,” she whispers. “You were chosen to show me the way,” he croons back, then he holds her from behind and guides her hands, Patrick Swayze-Demi Moore style, and helps her “Unchained Melody” herself all the way to a new painting.
This does not sit well with Creepy Lyle who has put on his Murderin’ Suit for a time-out with Junior Rennie to help him interpret Pauline’s awful paintings. See, Melanie’s body is still falling apart because the perverts in Zenith are licking and stroking her Egg and no one can stop them. Rebecca Pine, high school science teacher, is at a loss for how to save Melanie without a hose or a windmill, but then she realizes LIMA BEANS and a half dozen cans of the delicious green miracle later she transfuses her science blood into Melanie who kind of feels better, but not really. Junior’s desperate for a ray of hope, so he begs Lyle to interpret Pauline’s lousy art for him, but Lyle only has one thing on his mind:
“Is that me and Melanie and she’s healthy?” Junior asks.
“No, that’s your mother and I entering heaven together,” says Lyle.
“What about that? Is that Melanie looking at a bowl of fruit?” asks Junior.
“Nope, again, it’s your mother and I entering heaven together,” smiles Lyle.
“What about that? She’s wearing a shirt that says MELANIE and she’s smiling and kissing me.”
“Again, me and your mother, this time disguised as Melanie, entering heaven together, for real.”
But not even mighty lima beans can’t permanently cure Melanie, and Rebecca Pine is reluctant to throw any more of her precious, precious scientist blood into the gaping black hole that is Melanie’s circulatory system. Julia Shumway, remembering to limp, walks out to the Dome alone to have an “Are you there, Dome? It’s me, Julia Shumway” moment and beg it to save Melanie’s life. But the Dome hates Melanie just as much as we do and it contracts further (Hey everyone: in case you forgot, the dome is shrinking). But, glory be! Pauline has produced a new picture, this one so terrible it weeps tears of blood, and it tells her that they need to go to the woods and eight people need to touch Melanie. Rebecca Pine thinks this is not very sciencey at all, but then when nothing happens she yells at them to, well, here are my notes from the episode to give you a sense of the horror of this scene:
“Rebecca is using science to—quantum physics…what? No. Shut up. Someone has to take Melanie’s other hand. that is so ridiculous. But it makes M. glow pink and purple…they saved her by holding her hands correctly. PLEASE KILL ME.”
Then it turns out that instead of holding hands correctly saving Melanie, what holding hands correctly does is turn the earth beneath her into a sinkhole and it flushes Melanie away, there she goes, swirling down the drain like a stubborn turd. Now Melanie-less, everyone is very sad and listens to the whitest cover version of the whitest song ever written, “Turn, Turn, Turn” (sung here by Sara Niemietz who, according to her Wikipedia page, “maintained an ‘A’ level GPA through High School.”)
Finally, beat down, fed up, and at the end of their ropes, the actors sit in stunned silence because they were just told that there’s going to be a third season and they’re contractually obligated to appear. But Dean Norris is a real man, and he does his buddy, Dwight Yoakam, a solid, and stabs him right off the show with a knife we now call “Career Saver.” But who’s going to save us? We’ve got one episode left, and all the lima beans, hoses, and windmills in the world can’t bring back the parts of our souls that have curdled and died this season. Can they? There’s only one person who knows for sure, and she’s a high school science teacher.
We’re all counting on you, Rebecca Pine.
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.