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Under The Dome: “Exigent Circumstances”

Illustration for article titled Under The Dome: “Exigent Circumstances”
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Over the past several months we’ve been trapped under the dome together, I’ve sometimes wondered about the Showtime version of this series that never was. As you may recall, Under The Dome was originally announced as a Showtime project, but the cable outlet eventually passed it on to its sister network CBS. It’s a safe bet that the premium cable version of the show would have followed through on some of the darker implications of Stephen King’s premise. There would have been more violence, more sex, and probably an upgrade in acting talent; we might have been spared some of the more egregiously silly plot twists and dumbed-down exposition. One thing likely wouldn’t have changed, though, knowing what we know about Showtime programming: It still wouldn’t have been a miniseries with a clearly defined end-point. If it drew even half the audience the CBS version has attracted, Showtime would have milked it dry, just like Dexter.

This thought occurred to me again tonight, but for a surprising reason. For the first time since the pilot, Under The Dome didn’t seem to be stalling. The time-wasting subplots were stripped away, leaving something that resembled actual momentum. That’s not to say the dumb stuff we’ve come to love/hate was absent from “Exigent Circumstances”—no matter how good he’s been on Breaking Bad in recent weeks, Dean Norris still can’t sell the line “The military’s looking for an egg?”—but for the most part, the episode was actually exciting to watch.

As the episode opens, the search for Barbie is on. Big Jim declares a state of emergency and orders a search of all houses, and Linda goes along with it, because she is the most useless law enforcement officer in the history of television. Seriously, by the end of the hour, half the people in Chester’s Mill are onto Big Jim, but not our Linda! The show really owes her a hero moment in the finale. Carolyn Hill, who you may vaguely remember as Norrie’s not-dead mother, emerges from her mourning cave to protest this unconstitutional plan, but since Big Jim is judge, jury, and executioner these days, her words are for naught.

Fearing discovery by Big Jim’s troops, the Four Hands (well, minus Junior) decide to move the mini-dome. You know what that means, don’t you? The return of Sk8er Dude, that’s what! The kids stash the mini-dome in his bedroom, which it doesn’t seem very happy about, given the high-pitched squeals it is soon emitting. Over at the radio station, Dodee picks up some more exposition from the military and suddenly remembers she saw an egg that shocked her into unconsciousness. She decides to share all her newfound knowledge with Big Jim, which proves to be a mistake when another conveniently timed transmission from outside reveals the military knows he murdered the Rev. Alas, it’s curtains for Dodee, as Big Jim, who has gone from semi-bad guy to the most murderous murderer who ever murdered in the span of about two episodes, shoots her dead and burns down the radio station.

The whiplash pacing continues throughout the episode. Barbie recruits Angie, who dresses in her old candy striper garb to distract Junior long enough for Barbie to whisk Julia out of the hospital. (Angie seducing Junior and making out with him may have been the ickiest scene of the series yet.) Linda arrests Barbie, and Phil kicks him in the face. Big Jim pins Dodee’s murder on Barbie, locks up Joe and Norrie, and blackmails Barbie into confessing to all the crimes Big Jim actually committed. Julia wakes up and tells Angie a woman shot her. Linda follows the kids back to Sk8er Dude’s house and sees the screaming egg. And standing before a lynch mob screaming for his blood, Barbie pleads not guilty.

Given what we’ve endured to this point, “Exigent Circumstances” was probably the best we could have hoped for from the season’s penultimate episode. The series certainly seems to have pushed Big Jim past the point of no return, setting up the possibility that Dean Norris will set a new record by getting killed off on two different shows on subsequent nights next week. That probably won’t happen, though: If Under The Dome has a franchise character, it’s Big Jim. Even the Showtime version of the series would recognize and honor that.


Stray observations:

  • Linda’s latest brilliant piece of police work: Announcing on the radio that the ambulance with Julia in it was seen driving “away from the clinic.” Well… yeah. What was the other option?
  • “You taste like cigarettes.” So Angie only smokes when she’s with Barbie?
  • I thought Dodee was going to be the Hurley of this show, but it never really worked out that way. RIP, Dodee.
  • Finale predictions? The military knows about the egg, it seems. Maybe the dome is an experimental Star Wars-type missile shield? And Chester’s Mill is the test subject? And something has gone TERRIBLY WRONG?