CBS ended whatever suspense remained about the fate of Under The Dome earlier today when the network renewed the series for a second 13-episode season. CBS chairman Les Moonves made the announcement himself, adding, “Why can’t they be under the dome for a long period of time? This is television.” Not exactly encouraging words to anyone hoping for the series to rise above the mediocrity it’s been mired in for most of its run. If I interpret network exec-speak correctly, Moonves seems to be saying, “We’re going to milk this thing until it runs dry, and probably for eight or nine seasons after that.”
Given the show’s premise, an open-ended run presents a number of logistical problems. It’s one thing to expand the parameters of King’s novel from roughly a week to several months (as the creative team discussed before the show premièred), but if the characters are trapped for “a long period of time,” they’re going to run out of...well, everything, including fuel, food, water, medicine, and on and on. And most distressingly, for our purposes, they’re going to run out of story. (For example, there’s the problem of fresh blood. If no one else can get inside the dome, the only way to add new characters is through the ever-popular Nikki and Paulo method: They were here all along, but we just didn’t notice them until now.)
“The Endless Thirst” addresses one of the above dilemmas head-on, accelerating the impending water shortage when an appliance delivery truck swerves to avoid a delirious Alice and crashes into the water tower. (Why was an appliance delivery truck driving around Chester’s Mill? Did someone order a new dishwasher?) The tower draws its water from a lake within the town limits, but said lake is now contaminated with methane and full of dead fish.
Now that the bomb has failed to take down the dome, the people of Chester’s Mill at last seem to be taking their predicament seriously, and for the first time since the pilot, Under The Dome bears some resemblance to the show I thought we’d be getting. The water shortage is the most immediate problem, but it’s also a harbinger of things to come. “What happens when we run out of everything?” Julia asks, and...yes! Finally! Thank you for asking!
Panic hits Chester’s Mill, the populace starts looting, and it all seems to be more than Linda and a reluctantly deputized Barbie can handle. Even Norrie and goodie-two-shoes Joe turn to the dark side, raiding the houses of diabetes patients for insulin and finally stealing a bottle (but only one!) from a little boy in order to nurse Alice back to health. Big Jim is forced to cut a deal with crusty farmer Ollie in order to gain access to the well on his land. And for Angie, it’s another opportunity to run around screaming her head off. Is there no scenario in which she doesn’t end up the victim? Here she finally gets away from Junior (apparently her warmth towards him in the last episode was purely a function of thinking she was about to die, as she has no qualms about cracking him in the head with a snow globe) only to be attacked and nearly raped by a couple of yahoos in the diner.
This middle part of the episode is the closest Under The Dome has come to matching King’s vision of Chester’s Mill: It’s all tight-knit and neighborly until the shit hits the fan, and then it’s every man for himself. Of course, a handful of people are still trying to do the right thing, including Julia and Dodee, who set out to find the source of a signal that’s jamming all radio frequencies, only to find it’s Joe and Norrie. And since there’s no way the show can maintain this ratcheting up of intensity, there’s a convenient dues ex machina that solves all the episode’s problems: a rainstorm inside the dome. As super-genius Dodee explains, the dome has its own “eco-climate,” so they won't run out of water, and now everyone can calm down and just forget they were ready to kill each other over liters of Aquifina mere minutes earlier.
“The Endless Thirst” is a decent episode, but not necessarily an encouraging one. I expect we’ll soon be finding out about a miracle source of food inside the dome, as well as an endlessly regenerating electric power grid and a secret sub-basement in the hospital full of non-expiring medications. Les Moonves has spoken, and the message is clear: This is television.
- I forgot to thank Zack Handlen last week for filling in for me while I was trapped in a small (but domeless) Maine town. So thanks, Zack!
- RIP Rose. We hardly knew ye. Really.
- Oy, so now Angie is back with Junior and Big Jim. I just can’t even.