Under the Dome (Season 2)

Under the Dome is an American science fiction / mystery drama television series that premiered on CBS in June 2013. The series, based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, was developed by Brian K. Vaughan, who quit the show as its showrunner after the first season, citing a wish to focus on his comics roots (such as his ongoing science fantasy graphic novel Saga) as the reason, and was produced by Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, Brian K. Vaughan and Neal Baer, who took over as the showrunner of the series from the season two.

James ‘Big Jim’ Rennie, a former used-car dealer cum town’s unofficial mayor, is the main antagonist of the show…

The series tells the story of the residents of the small, regular American town of Chester’s Mill, where a huge transparent, indestructible dome suddenly extends above the entire town and cuts its inhabitants off from the rest of the world. With no Internet access and no mobile phone signal coming through, the people trapped inside the dome must find their own ways to survive with diminishing resources and amidst rising tensions. While the US government appears to be powerless, and military forces seem to have their own hidden agenda, a small group of disparate characters inside attempt to figure out what the dome is, where it came from, and when, if ever, it will come down.

The show’s main protagonists are Mike Vogel, portraying Dale ‘Barbie’ Barbara, an ex-soldier visiting Chester’s Mill, Rachelle Lefevre as Julia Shumway, an investigative reporter who becomes romantically involved with Barbie, Dean Norris as James ‘Big Jim’ Rennie, an used-car dealer cum town’s unofficial mayor, Alexander Koch as James ‘Junior’ Rennie, Big Jim’s son and deputy sheriff, Colin Ford as Joe McAlister, one of the group of four teenagers somehow connected with the mysterious dome, Britt Robertson as Angie McAlister, Joe’s older sister and Junior’s love interest, who works as a waitress in the local diner, and Mackenzie Lintz as Elinore ‘Norrie’ Calvert-Hill, Joe’s girlfriend.

The season 2 picks up on the cliffhanger from the last episode of the first season, with Barbie’s life left in the hands of power-hungry Big Jim and his manipulated son Junior, after being falsely accused of several murders and the arson of the radio station.

…while Dale ‘Barbie’ Barbara – an ex-soldier, and a stunning redhead Julia Shumway – a reporter romantically involved with Barbie, are here to save the day.

Big Jim, the primary antagonist of the series, a power-monger who sees Chester’s Mill’s isolation by the dome as an opportunity to further his status as the town’s unofficial mayor, sentences Barbie to death by hanging in a public execution. However, the dome gives out a strange sound, which causes sheriff Linda Esquivel (Natalie Martinez) to halt the execution at the very last moment.

The dome then becomes magnetised, causing the townsfolk to pass out and pulling all the metal objects towards its wall. Linda dies in a freak accident after being crushed against the dome’s wall by a vehicle. Meanwhile, Julia meets Big Jim’s brother-in-law Sam Verdreaux (Eddie Cahill), while rescuing a mysterious girl from drowning in the lake. Big Jim becomes convinced (why?) that the dome is telling him to sacrifice himself and puts a noose around his neck. Julia is at first eager to help, but then prevents Big Jim’s death by cutting the rope, when she becomes certain that the dome instead wants the townspeople to stop killing each other. She may have a point, as soon after, the dome releases all the metal objects and the people begin to wake up. Later that night, Angie sees the girl who was rescued by Julia and follows her into the school, where she is murdered by an unseen assailant.

Over the course of the next few days, the town becomes afflicted by a series of biblical-like plagues. First, the joy of observing hundreds of Monarch butterflies, which thrive under the dome, changes into horror, when it becomes apparent that a caterpillar infestation threatens to destroy the town’s crops, leaving people to starve. Then, Chester’s Mill is faced with red acid rain, forcing everyone to stay indoors, and leaving those caught in the downpour with nasty burn wounds. Next, the local farmers’ livestock is decimated by the swine flu outbreak.

James ‘Junior’ Rennie, Big Jim’s son and deputy sheriff, came to believe that his mum is dead, when in fact she only faked her death.

Junior learns from Lyle Chumley (Dwight Yoakam), the local barber, who shows him postcards he had been receiving from Junior’s mother Pauline Rennie (Sherry Stringfield), that his mum is in fact alive, and only faked her death to get away from her abusive husband, Big Jim.

Meanwhile Joe, Norrie and the girl rescued by Julia come across an old yearbook with a photo of a girl from the 80s named Melanie, who is a spitting image of the mysterious girl pulled out of the lake. Intrigued, they begin looking through old newspapers on microfiches, and surely enough, soon find an article about the disappearance of Melanie Cross. After that they follow Melanie (Grace Victoria Cox) to a spot in the forest, where the tragedy happened many years ago and her memories come back. She recalls as in 1988 she, and her three friends, Pauline, Lyle, and Sam found a meteorite with a strange glowing ‘egg’ inside. In an ensuing argument about what to do with the ‘egg’, Melanie was pushed, fell and died in a freak accident.

Rebecca Pine (Karla Crome), a high school science teacher, persuades Big Jim that they would have to ‘cull’ the population of Chester’s Mill, using the swine flu virus, as the dwindling food supplies cannot sustain all its inhabitants. But when Rebecca is about to empty the vial containing the virus into the holy water basin in the local church, she has a change of heart and can’t go through with the plan.

The town becomes afflicted by a series of biblical-like plagues, a downpour of red acid rain being one of them.

While investigating circumstances of Angie’s death, Junior, Rebecca and Sam find a mysterious tunnel leading from Melanie’s school locker. Barbie and Sam set out to investigate the tunnel behind the locker, but there is a cave-in that cuts them off from the outside. They see that the only way is to go deeper and start exploring the cave system, eventually reaching a seemingly bottomless chasm, with no way around it. The two are considering their options, and suddenly, Barbie sees scratch marks on Sam’s shoulder and realises that it was he who murdered Angie (as the autopsy found blood and skin under Angie’s fingernails). Sam explains to Barbie that he came to believe that the dome will come down when the ‘four hands’ (reference to the four youth: Joe, Norrie, Junior and Angie, who seem to be having a special connection with the dome) are dead, and then leaps into the chasm. Julia and Rebecca, using some home-made explosives, blast through the cave-in, rescuing Barbie.

In the meantime, Joe, Norrie, Junior and Melanie hide from Lyle, who is in their pursuit, and recover the ‘egg’ from the lake (where it was thrown by Julia at the end of season 1).

Barbie attempts to recover Sam’s body, but falls into the chasm himself in the process. To his shock, instead of splatting at the bottom of the abyss, he finds himself outside of the dome, in ZenithMelanie’s hometown, where he reunites with his father Don Barbara (Brett Cullen).

Melanie Cross, a girl who died in a tragic accident many years ago, reappears in Chester’s Mill, having seemingly not aged a day.

Also in Zenith, Sam meets Pauline, tells her about his experiences under the dome, and learns why she faked her death.

Julia cannot accept that Barbie is dead and returns to the cliff edge with Melanie, Norrie, and Joe, who flies a remotely-controlled drone with a camera down the chasm. The drone disappears, but not before transmitting an image of a playground, which leads them to believe that Barbie may be still alive and that the chasm is in fact a passage to the outside world.

Barbie enlists the help of his father, who has contacts high in the government, to send an e-mail to Julia. After he finds out that his father doctored the message to his own ends, he sends another message, telling Julia to meet him at the dome’s boundary. Barbie then manages to fool the troops guarding the perimeter of the dome, and briefly sees Julia at the dome’s wall to give her a warning message not to jump into the chasm, but then is arrested by armed men and handed over to the security forces of Don Barbara’s company Aktion Energy where he is tortured and interrogated about the ‘egg’.

Back in Chester’s Mill, Big Jim makes a dastardly deal with the military guarding the dome’s wall, that guarantees – in exchange for the ‘egg’ – a safe passage out only for himself and Junior, leaving everybody else to their fate.

The tunnel behind Melanie’s old locker leads to a cave system and eventually to a seemingly bottomless abyss, that is in fact a one-way passage to the outside world.

Barbie, using his commando skills, knocks out the guards, escapes, and reunites with Sam, Lyle and Pauline. Using a ‘red door’ clue in Pauline’s vision painting, they find an outdoor cellar door at Barbie’s former home, that, as they soon discover, leads to a one-way passage back into the dome. While returning to Chester’s Mill, Barbie has a vision – that of him as a boy and a red door and a strangely familiar girl – and he finally realises that Melanie is in fact his sister.

Once back inside the dome, Pauline reunites with Big Jim, while Barbie and Julia start preparing the residents for an evacuation through the chasm. Julia believes that she should go first and negotiate with the military, but Barbie deems it to be too risky. In the meanwhile, Big Jim manages to get hold of Joe and Norrie who have the ‘egg’, and forces them to throw it over the cliff edge into the chasm. With the ‘egg’ gone, the exit passage at the bottom of the abyss closes and the townspeople are, once more, trapped inside.

Shortly after, the dome starts contracting inwards, condemning the people inside to a grim fate of being squashed into a pulp. Junior and Lyle browse through Pauline’s old notebook, looking for any clues, but they are helpless, as only three out of the ‘four hands’ are now available (since Angie was murdered). Big Jim encourages Pauline to paint again, but there is no use, as her visions have all but stopped by now. Suddenly, the youngsters realise that Melanie could hold the answer. When they hold both of her hands, the earth opens up and Melanie is sucked in, leaving a gaping hole – possible new passage out – in the ground. Just as everybody sees a glimpse of new hope, crazed Lyle stabs Pauline in the back, and goads Big Jim into stabbing him, so he and his unrequited love object can enter heaven together. Big Jim duly obliges and stabs Lyle to death in a fit of revenge.

When ‘the hands’ touch the ‘egg’ they often trigger various, rather spectacular, responses from the dome (clearly, its colour of choice is pink).

Even as Pauline passes away from her injuries, and grief-stricken Big Jim demands from the dome to bring her back to life or otherwise he will kill all ‘the hands’, the townsfolk start heading towards the pit.

Barbie, Julia and ‘the hands’ don’t know what is waiting for them in the cave system at the bottom of the pit, but, with the dome’s wall coming crushing on them, they have a little choice but to lead the townspeople into the cavern and, hopefully, towards the exit from the dome…

The appeal pattern of the second season could be best described as a sinusoid: Starting at the bottom, with unconvincing, passionless performances of the main actors, then rising steeply up and building up some momentum of suspense and drama, and eventually, by the end of the season, falling down again, boring you half to death with the silly plotline and improbable scenarios. Especially the last couple of episodes were just absurd – it is hard to imagine where will the creators of the series take the show from here.

Under the Dome was renewed for a 13-episode third season, returning in June 2015.

TRIVIA: Dwight Yoakam, who portrays Lyle Chumley, the local barber, is also a popular country singer who has recorded over 20 albums and sold more than 25 million records.