Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Under The Dome: “Let The Games Begin”

Illustration for article titled Under The Dome: “Let The Games Begin”

Seriously, they didn’t title this one “Under The Thunderdome”?

This may have been the silliest episode of Under The Dome yet, but at least this week the powers-that-be took their cues from Natalie Zea’s performance and decided to embrace the goofiness. Let’s start with the underdeveloped storyline involving the “two men enter, one man leaves” fight club in the basement of the cement factory. It turns out that Maxine, a character we had never seen before last week, has been spending her time setting up her own personal thunderdome with the help of a few hundred of her closest friends, in between food riots and farm shootouts. Participants in the bare-knuckle matches need only bring a household item (say, a canister of salt) in order to compete for the chance at trading up for a more valuable prize.

Somehow Max stands to profit from all of this, but such details are unimportant. What is important is that Junior gets punched in the face when he tries to gain entrance to the arena, and that’s something we can all rewind and enjoy at least five or six times. Barbie is forced to fight lest Max spill his secrets, and he thinks he’s outsmarted her by throwing the fight, but really she’s outsmarted him by betting on his opponent. Here’s my bet: This whole fight club thing will be forgotten by next week and no one will ever speak of it again.

Back at the mini-dome, a caterpillar that will one day become a Monarch butterfly is crawling around inside. While the kids are away, Dodee sneaks in to take a look, zaps herself on the mini-dome, and gets knocked halfway across the barn. When she wakes up, she’s forgotten the whole thing. So… not the fourth hand. As predicted by many of you in last week’s comments, that hand belongs to Junior, who once passed out at a high school dance. His mother’s painting proves prophetic (but still ugly) when all four hands are placed on the mini-dome, and it promptly explodes into a swirl of pink stars.

Oh, hey there, shiny palatial estate on an island in the middle of the lake! So you’ve been here the whole time too, huh? I guess nobody’s tried to ransack you until now because Mare Winningham is guarding you with a shotgun. In yet another rushed, barely developed plot, Big Jim takes a boat ride out to the island, hoping to find Maxine’s hiding place for Everybody’s Dark Secrets. He meets a kindly, middle-aged woman who claims to be the caretaker but turns out to be Maxine’s mother and also a high school classmate of Big Jim’s. She’s got some big sob story about her teenage pregnancy and mistreatment by the people of Chester’s Mill, but it hardly matters because five minutes later Big Jim is letting her drown in the lake.

As it turns out, though, Big Jim and Barbie both have their deep dark secrets revealed, not by Maxine, but by the solid police work of Linda. (Yeah, I can’t believe it either.) A key hidden in Duke’s hat leads to a safe deposit box containing a letter from the late sheriff implicating Big Jim in Maxine’s drug business. At the same time, Julia checks her own safe deposit box and finds a life insurance policy, tipping her off to the fact that her husband goaded Barbie into killing him. That Barbie killed Peter Shumway is a revelation the show has been building to all season, but when it arrives, it just kind of sits there. Julia doesn’t seem all that broken up about it, and apparently plans to continue allowing Barbie admittance to her bed.


Ridiculous as all this is, I couldn’t bring myself to hate this episode. I appreciated the accelerated pacing, if nothing else; it’s as if the writers finally realized some of their big mysteries were never all that interesting in the first place. Now that we have all the answers we could want about nonessential characters like Duke and Peter Shumway, the show can focus on the important things, like exploding mini-domes and mystery islands and bare-knuckle basement brawls. Maxine has the right idea: Are you not entertained?

Stray observations:

  • Linda, upon opening Duke’s safe deposit box: “There it is. Duke’s safe deposit box.” I’m not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work there, Linda!
  • Another night, another confession implicating a Dean Norris character.
  • “It’s actually a chrysalis.” Oh, shut up, Joe.