Max Ehrich, Mackenzie Lintz/CBS

The good news is that even though everyone is now back under the dome after spending the season premiere in an alternate reality, the show hasn’t immediately reverted back to the crisis-of-the-week formula. The dome isn’t shrinking or freezing or turning into a giant cheese grater, and the population of Chester’s Mill appears to be down to a manageable number, although it’s never easy to tell. (At times it looks like there’s maybe 30 people left, but then what’s the deal with all the tents being set up? There should be plenty of empty houses to go around as long as people don’t keep burning them down.) Much is explained about what went down last week, although it isn’t explained in a particularly coherent or easy to follow manner. As always, Under The Dome’s primary narrative mode is confusion, but eventually the shape of this season’s arc emerges from the fog.

The Chester’s Millers who emerge from the cocoons remember their shared experiences in the alternate reality that never really happened. As Marg Helgenberger manages to exposit with a straight face, they were being prepared so that the egg could infuse them with a life force of some kind. It turns out Helgenberger’s character Christine and Kylie Bunbury’s Eva have been in Chester’s Mill the whole time even though we never saw them before last week. They’re anthropologists who were looking for the egg and they found it, but when Christine touched it, she got zapped and presumably taken over by an alien intelligence. When Big Jim destroyed the egg last week, he short-circuited the transformation of the cocoon people, which is the first good thing he’s done since…well, maybe ever. He’s also the only one to notice that the pod people who emerged from the cocoons are different somehow, maybe because he’s the only one who’s seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Or maybe it’s because Junior burns down his house and walks away whistling.

Even in the midst of introducing these new complications, “Redux” finds plenty of time for stuff we don’t care about, including not one but two ridiculous love triangles. Julia is jealous of Barbie’s love affair with Eva that didn’t really happen, which is definitely a good use of her time and energy. Granted, the Barbie/Eva relationship isn’t completely imaginary since they both share the same false memories of it, but this development only serves to remind us that this greatest love of all between Barbie and Julia has only been going on for three weeks, some of which he spent outside the dome in Zenith and some of which he spent in a slimy alien cocoon. Their actual time together can be measured in hours without the use of a calculator, and lest we forget, it all started with him killing her husband. Let’s hope these star-crossed lovers can overcome this latest threat to their lasting happiness.

That brings us to Chester’s Millennials: Joe, Norrie, and Hunter. Joe, somehow having retained his growth spurt from the alternate reality, finds himself in a predicament he probably would have had in any reality, dome or no dome: His girlfriend went off to college, got hot and popular, and is now too cool for his nerdy ass. Instead, she finds herself spending more time with the increasingly skeezy Hunter (“Hey, I don’t need my glasses anymore!”), dancing to the Ramones in a dead woman’s house after dragging her body to the porch and throwing a blanket over it. The good news for Joe is that if he continues aging at his current rate, he’ll be hooking up with Norrie’s mom by mid-season.

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If there was any remaining question that Christine is the season’s Big Bad, it’s answered when she stabs Melanie to death (if you can actually kill an already dead girl), ostensibly to save Julia’s life but undoubtedly for her own dome-related purposes. For once, we’re forced to concede that Big Jim might be right about something. How much the cocooned characters have changed and for what nefarious purpose are mysteries that may prove slightly more compelling than all the nonsense about the egg and pink stars and terrible paintings from last season, but Under The Dome has yet to prove it can sustain an interesting development for more than an episode or two. This time for sure?

Stray observations

  • Joe hangs a lantern on last week’s Matrix parallels by explicitly comparing their experience with The Matrix. Just in case anyone missed that. Next week I expect him to name-check Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
  • Sam is starting a support group, because who better to give life advice than the guy who murdered a young woman with an axe about a week and a half ago?
  • Keep your eye on the dog. There’s more to the dog than meets the eye, I can almost guarantee.
  • If Christine is the Queen, is Julia still the Monarch? Or are we pretending that never happened?

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