Well, they saved the worst for last.
Once it became clear that this version of Under The Dome was going to deviate wildly from its source material (about five minutes into episode two, as I recall), the least we could have hoped for was that there was some sort of plan in place. If you're going to go through the trouble of buying the rights to a Stephen King novel and then ignoring most of what happens in it, it must be because you have some really good ideas, right? Except it never worked out that way. Instead, this first season was an unfocused shambles, heading down blind alleys at every turn, and throwing just enough mystical mumbo-jumbo against the wall to keep us entertained in a "WTF?" kind of way.
So what were the odds that all of this stuff with the egg and the Monarch and the mini-dome was going to pay off in a satisfying way in this season finale? Not good, especially for those of us who have had the rug yanked out from under us too many times by Lost-like mystery-box contraptions. But somehow, "Curtains" was even worse than I imagined it could be, as arbitrary and unsatisfying a season finale as I can remember. My best guess is that it was written on a series of cocktail napkins very, very late at night.
We begin, as we must, with Linda being an idiot. Shortly after she barges into Skater Ben's bedroom, the monarch butterfly hatches and starts going crazy inside the mini-dome, slamming against it and covering it with dark spots. (Joe, whom I've decided was inserted into the show specifically to assist the visually impaired, tells us so.) These same black spots appear on the big dome, until Chester's Mill is plunged into darkness. Linda wants to confiscate the dome, but she is outwitted by teenagers who trick her into touching it, with predictable results. Junior was the early front-runner for the worst character on this show, and he remains a supreme annoyance, but I think Linda has surpassed him. She is just the worst.
Julia, who was shot and nearly killed two days earlier, is up and about with almost no ill effects. She and Angie rescue Barbie from his jail cell (after, of course, the obligatory smooch through the bars), Barbie kicks Phil in the face, Angie whacks another guy with a fire extinguisher, and they're off to meet the others in the cement factory. Big Jim gets on the police radio and announces that Julia is Barbie's accomplice, even though his story is that Barbie shot Julia, and Linda still can't figure out that Big Jim is a lying sack of shit.
At the cement factory, the mini-dome (which is actually a sphere, but whatever) lights up and crumbles. (Joe For The Visually Impaired: "It opened up!") The butterfly at first flutters over to Barbie, seemingly confirming Joe's theory that he's the Monarch, but then the egg starts to vibrate, causing an earthquake, and I can't believe I'm typing these words, oh God, what have I done with my life? Julia picks up the egg, the shaking stops, and the butterfly lands on it. She's the Monarch! At last, that question nobody cared about has been answered!
It just goes on like this, one nonsensical event after another, conjured out of thin air and satisfying no dramatic principle I'm familiar with. Big Jim tells Phil to build a gallows so they can publicly hang Barbie based on nothing but his word. (Linda, Law Enforcement Ace: "Derp!") Junior recaptures Barbie and brings him back to his cell. Big Jim shows Linda his wife's terrible paintings, including one of a black egg surrounded by pink falling stars. Norrie's dead mother appears, but it's not really her mother, but one of the beings who created the dome, taking on a familiar form. (So: aliens. They pretty much have to be aliens.) Julia decides the best way to save Barbie is to take the egg out to the lake and drop it in the water. Pink stars fall in lines, but they're falling upward, and that's what we generally call "rising." The dome turns from pitch black to sheer light just as Big Jim gives Junior the order to flip the switch that will hang Barbie. And... that's it.
Is there any way to not feel ripped off by this ending? Is this actually supposed to be a cliffhanger? Does anyone really believe there's a chance Barbie will be swinging from the noose when the show returns next summer? Does anyone believe Brian K. Vaughan and company will learn from their mistakes... or, given the high ratings, that they even think they made any mistakes? "Curtains" is a strange title for an episode that raised a lot more questions than it delivered answers.
- And another question: If CBS hadn't renewed the show, was there a contingency plan in place? Last fall, Last Resort was able to scramble and put together a semi-satisfying ending, but I seriously doubt this show could have pulled that off.
- So when the mini-dome goes black, the big dome goes black, but when the mini-dome opens... nothing? A little internal consistency would be appreciated.
- Ah, well. See you next summer, I guess.