By viv Mah
We’re back. This time with guns!
Under the Dome’s “Thicker than Water” kicks off with Big Jim prowling around his semi-lit house, gun in hand, having been woken by his own supernatural awareness of his son’s return. In respect to ominous sound cues, the score’s going all out with mournfully plucked harps and ratting cymbals to emphasise Big Jim’s big decision to kick his son out of house (with a speech on danger or responsibility or another big-ticket item), and Junior’s two-toned, passive-aggressive melancholy.
This now full-fledged tension remains like a thorn in our side. Big Jim turns to the police for their support when his attempts to bargain with Farmer Ollie fall sour. Ollie’s aggression is expected, given how Big Jim provided him with a fireworks show of propane last episode. Loading Barbie, Linda and even his psychotic son into his car, Big Ji’ms quartet gas on out to attempt a confrontation. Surprise, surprise: there’s little success. What success eventuates – both on a plot and personal scale – belongs to Junior, who jumps teams to work for Ollie and accordingly rebelling against his father.
Meanwhile, Joe and Julia go tramping off back to Under the dome-brain/psychosis egg. There, Julia is confronted by an apparition of Joe with a message. “The monarch will be crowned.”
To their credit, a few newer cinematic devices are employed in the episode as the team venture out in the paddocks of creativity they’ve been afforded: one particular shot pre-Julia and Joe adventure features Joe’s scrunched-up ball of paper skittering across the floor of the dinner, before it cuts to a view of the mini-dome. Just as we pause above that purportedly ominous curve of glass, the egg (seed? dome seed?) flickers into life. The same praise can be granted to the more fluid, over-the-shoulder shifting shots employed during Farmer Ollie and (the eternally angsting) Junior’s scenes.
Britt Robertson finally gets a chance to add some depth to Angie. Now free from Junior’s clutches, her reasonably-handled moment with Norrie that gets this reviewer’s kick of appoval. In a rare and light-hearted scene, she smashes her many snowglobes with Norrie, cutting loose from her previous drama. It’s a pleasant change, and it’s easy to see how Junior could have been drawn to the character we briefly glimpse: both grounded and wry, but sweet and almost maternal as well. Norrie too, gets a look-in, and it’s refreshing to see a show that grants it’s characters as much reality in their sorrow and abrupt moments of despair, as occurs in real life.
The primary action of the night is something relatively simple, and tied up in Junior and Jim’s current power tussles. While the pair duke it out, Barbie’s charged with blowing up Ollie’s well to prevent any kind of autocracy regarding resources. While his half of the plan succeeds, the action and tension in these moments are sketchy; again testament to how UtD’s divided plotlines and motivations can leach the fun out of an explosion. What precisely happens?, I’m unsure, but we know Barbie hits a man in the face, exhibiting a strength we’ve seen before, and we know Ollie’s resources are up, but what about the rest of the team?
Cut to: Big Jim on the ground in a rare position of vulnerability, and his son, seen half in shadow. Ollie has previously promised Junior his choice of death for his father, and he’s not going back on his word. Norris’ delivery of a man’s pitiable descent into guilt, and the depths of confusion and horror that surface in Koch’s expression work frighteningly well in this particular tableau of desperate figures bearing their souls.
And that last chord in Junior and Big Jim’s scene, of discordant notes and shuddering breaths, hits hard. It’s proof this show has punchy content to deliver, and serves as proof the kinks are slowly being ironed out.
Under the Dome airs Mondays at 10/9c on CBS.