No time for preamble this week; let's get straight to it (he said, unaware that saying so was itself preamble).
We begin with Big Jim sitting at his desk, reviewing a stack of the census forms he and Rebecca collected last week.
Hey! Look! You can see a photo of Carolyn under Joe's form! Get a good look: that's all you'll see of Carolyn this week, which makes this the third consecutive episode that Aisha Hinds has been absent. This is not exactly unprecedented: Hinds' Carolyn was missing from four straight episodes during the first season. So clearly, this show's producers have no problem being Hinds-less for extended periods of time.
Which begs a question: why not simply kill Carolyn off? Wouldn't doing that be preferable to having her disappear for several episodes at a time? I don't know if it's some sort of scheduling issue with Hinds, or a failure on the producers' part to find anything for the character to do, or what, but it's weird, and it's very noticeable, and it seems like writing the character out would be preferable.
I suspect that Carolyn is going to end up playing a more important role than the show has indicated. What the nature of that role might end up being is a mystery to me, but I'll make a prediction (something I generally hate doing with shows): we will find out that Carolyn has some sort of connection to the origin of the dome, and that it was no mistake that she, Alice, and Norrie were in Chester's Mill when the thing descended. There ya go, that's my crackpot theory of the week. I think I'll send that one in to Under The Dome Radio and see if I can get Wayne and Troy to discuss it.
Anyways, Rebecca shows up and is all gung-ho about Big Jim using the census data to figure out who in town should live and who should die.
Julia shows up at Sam's cabin, wanting to talk. Sam wants to known if Phil has IDed Angie's killer from what was found under her fingernails. Julia says no, because there is no way to run a DNA test. I would have been thrilled if she had instead said, "No, because Phil is a fucking deejay." No such luck, so consider me un-thrilled. Julia wants Sam's help figuring out what Jim and Rebecca -- and, by implication, Barbie -- are planning.
Speaking of Barbie, he finds out about the emails Joe received, and he and the kids go to the high school to try and replicate the signal. He is, to say the least, surprised to hear the thing about how Melanie is from 1988.
Rebecca has apparently been summoned to a pig farm, where a piglet has died of what I guess would be the swine flu. She surreptitiously draws a blood sample.
Julia and Sam break into Rebecca's house. (Do they discuss Julia being The Monarch while they are there? They do not. Has Julia being The Monarch been mentioned one single time this season? Nosir, unless I blanked out and missed it. Which, granted, is a slim possibility.) They determine that Rebecca must be doing something with pigs and go looking for her.
Barbie and company visit Julia's office at the newspaper, which in and of itself is a HOLY SHIT! moment. This show's producers remembered that Julia works for a newspaper?!? Holy moly. Anyways, our gang uses microfiche to search the newspaper's archives for any clues about Melanie Cross circa 1988, and this leads to a couple of amusingly snarky lines from Norrie about how stone-age the microfiche machine seems in the era of Google. It's a fair point, Norrie. Nevertheless, with the sort of lightning speed to be found when a screenwriter has decided to embrace the idea of convenience, they find an article about Melanie's disappearance. Here's a screencap of it:
Whoops. Lemme try that again:
Melanie, as it turns out, was never found. The article says that her family had moved to Chester's Mill from Zenith. "That's the town I'm from," Barbie tells Melanie, as if that fact had not already been established in last week's episode.
Meanwhile, Junior has broken Lyle out of jail -- or freed him, depending on how you look at it -- so that he can show him what's up with his mother. Junior wants to know how she is still alive, and Lyle admits to having helped fake it by way of "severed brake lines, pilfered corpses, that idiot Reverend Coggins..." He says that Pauline abandoned Junior to protect him, that she knew the dome was coming, but that -- the way Lyle has it figured, at least -- she thought it would follow her to wherever she went.
Whoah! Okay, well, that's certainly a bit of an information dump.
There's more. Pauline kept in contact with Lyle via postcards, which she sent from all over the place -- she evidently kept on the move -- but which Junior complains about because they say nothing. Au contraire, points out Lyle; check out the paintings on the fronts of the postcards.
"This is all the stuff that's happened since the dome came down," pronounces Junior after looking at a whopping two of the postcards. Is Junior incredibly perceptive, or has the screenplay taken a bit of a shortcut? You be the judge.
Barbie, Joe, Norrie, and Melanie go to the house where Melanie lived in 1988 to see if it jogs any memories. Norrie is jealous because Joe obviously has taken a shine to Melanie. "How am I supposed to compete with a girl he thinks is from a galaxy far, far away?" she asks Barbie with a winning mixture of desperation and annoyance. You kind of want Barbie to say, "Well, don't bother, because Joe is a complete loser." Or, " I dunno, kid, go see if you can climb on Junior or something." Instead, he just sort of shrugs, and she asks him what's up with him and Julia. He just sort of shrugs some more, but defensively. It's a pretty cute scene, to be honest; there should be more scenes between Barbie and Norrie, because there's something amusing about his sincerity mixing with her snarkiness.
Sadly, this scene is interrupted by Melanie finding something beneath the wallpaper, which leads to a memory of seeing pink stars falling outside her window. This in turn leads them group to the woods, to the spot where they found the minidome last season. Melanie stands on the spot, and begins having flashbacks to 1988; a meteorite had landed, and she investigated along with Pauline and their boyfriends (Lyle and Sam). None of them learned a thing from Creepshow, I guess. This leads to Melanie finding the egg inside the meteorite, which had cracked open when the four of them put their hands on it.
Melanie apparently felt intensely protective of the egg, and tried to run away with it. This lead to her being pushed -- by whom, she does not know -- back into the crater and cracking her head and dying. The egg had been glowing with pink stars, but when Melanie dies and her blood runs onto it, it turns black. Back in 2014, Melanie tells everyone that she thinks this is where she died.
Elsewhere, Big Jim finds Rebecca monkeying around with some blood and some eggs and wants to know what's going on. She admits that she is breeding a powerful flu virus that will wipe out a quarter of the town's population. "You want to release it?" Jim asks, furious. "No," she clarifies; "I want you to."
"You want me to play God?" Jim asks. "It's not God," Rebecca replies, "it's Darwin; it's survival of the fittest." Jim takes this in, and correctly susses out the fact that it would mean they, too, would be fighting for survival. "A virus is nature's way of leveling the playing field," Rebecca says.
There is something interesting going on here. I suppose it would be easy to accuse the show of suddenly becoming vehemently anti-science, and I imagine a lot of people will take it that way; some may even be cheered by it. I'm less sure that's how to read it. Rebecca is intense, but she's also somewhat objective and dispassionate; she isn't favoring herself; she's come up with a plan that might actually be the best way to control the town's population.
If you pay attention to what I just typed, I believe you might successfully be able to accuse me of being pro-genocide. And it gets worse: in a theoretical sense, I think I might actually support Rebecca's idea. However, in practical terms, I would be unable and unwilling to do so, because there would be too many variables. After all, there is no way of knowing whether the dome would stay in place long enough for the impending resource crisis to even become an issue. There would also be no way to ensure that the virus did not escape into the outside world. So for me, such a move would be a no-go. But in theoretical terms, it has an appeal; Big Jim seems even more persuaded than I am, and agrees to the plot.
Later, he tells Rebecca about having to make a similar call once upon a time: his wife was mentally ill, and he allowed her to talk him out of having her put in a mental hospital. "Because I loved her," he explains, in one of Dean Norris's best moments on the series to date. But if he had been able to make the tough decision, he continues, she might still be alive. Assuming we can believe what Big Jim is telling Rebecca here -- and I think we can -- then a picture of what happened back then begins to take fully-formed shape: Pauline's "psychosis" was almost certainly the result of what happened to Melanie, and for whatever reason she kept this information from Jim. As her "illness" progressed, she feared that Jim would -- despite her successful pleas -- eventually have her committed, so she persuaded Lyle to help her fake her own suicide. She did not trust Sam, for some reason we do not yet know, and she had reason to both suspect that the dome would eventually descend, and that it would descend upon her location.
This is all fairly intriguing stuff. Knowing as we do that Stephen King had a hand in shaping the overall course of this second season, I wonder how much of this came from him?
In any case, Rebecca tells Jim her own sob story, about her mother dropping dead one day when she was eight and her father telling her that there was no answer to the question of "why." This, she says, is when and why she turned to science: because in science, if you look deep enough, there is always a "why."
|There's Dean Norris, doing more acting with a single eye than some guys can manage with a whole body.|
Rebecca gives Jim a vial of the flu, and he's off to deliver it unto the general populace via the drinking water at Sweetbriar Rose. Rebecca and Sam, who have somehow figured out what he's up to, show up and stop him, and he's placed under arrest. But -- oh, ho! -- it turns out he doesn't even have any virus, that Rebecca has it, and that he's just a decoy! He doesn't seem to know it, though, and later Rebecca will confirm this; she didn't feel he would go through with it. He seemed pretty determined, though, so joke's on her.
Meanwhile, Junior and Lyle are in Sam's cabin, tearing it apart in search of Pauline's journal. Lyle seems determined to take it, and knocks Junior the fuck out in order to make his escape with it. In leafing through it, Lyle gives us a glimpse of the following page:
That, friends and neighbors, is clearly a door of some sort; possibly Melanie's locker. I would point out that if you add "18" and "21" and divide by two, you do NOT get "19." Initially, I thought that this was indeed a sly "19" reference, and therefore potentially a Dark Tower reference, but instead it's less proof of King-canon connectivity than proof of my inability to do simple mathematics. Still, it obviously means something.
Rebecca shows up at a prayer meeting, intending to release the virus in the water there. But she has a change of heart due to hearing the pig farmer talking about how the virus has mutated; she won't go through with it, which does not prevent Julia and Sam from arresting her.
Later, at her house, Julia thanks Sam for his help. He tries to kiss her, and she rebuffs him, placing a hand on his shoulder; he grimaces, and we later see that she's got some gnarly scratches there. Does this mean he killed Angie? Yeah, probably. It might be a fakeout of some sort, but since we've seen nothing to explain the scratches otherwise, it'd be less a fakeout than an outright cheat. Such is not beneath this show's writers, but I don't think that's the route they're taking here. At least, I hope not.
So, overall, I think I've decided this was a pretty strong episode. It might be one of the best episode of the series to date, in fact. There is a satisfying amount of new info about the show's central mysteries, and the to-virus-or-not-to-virus angle is also pretty good. Some of it doesn't work, but a surprising amount of it does, and some of the new actor combinations are effective. For example, Dwight Yoakam seems to be getting something out of Alexander Koch that nobody else has been able to. Mike Vogel and Mackenzie Lintz have good chemistry in their short scene together, and Dean Norris paired with Karla Crome seems to be working, too. I'm less persuaded by the Rachelle Lefevre/Eddie Cahill duo, but that's possibly working for the show rather than against it; we'll see how that develops.
All in all, a good week for the show. It got an injection of new behind-the-camera talent in the form of first-time series director Holly Dale and first-time series writer Alexandra McNally, so it's entirely possible that one or both of them deserve a goodly portion of the credit.
Let's hope the momentum continues. I've been optimistic before with this show and been burned, though, so only time will tell.
See you next week!