[This is a review of Under the Dome season 3, episode 13. There will be SPOILERS.]
There has never been a series quite like Under the Dome. And by that I mean there has never been a series where the audience’s experience viewing a program has so closely mirrored the plight of the characters on-screen. Trapped in a ridiculous situation that makes absolutely no sense and seems to have gone on for much longer than it actually has, the series’ legacy may ultimately prove to be the remarkable similarities between the four weeks Chester’s Mill spent under the dome and the act of watching the narrative unfold from your living room.
As far as series finales go, ‘The Enemy Within’ serves as a pleasant reminder just how easily this show could toss aside one plotline to make room for another. When season 3 began, the residents of Chester’s Mill found themselves cocooned beneath the dome, their minds living inside a virtual world. A handful of episodes later, Joe and Norrie are bringing down a rapidly calcifying dome by transmitting a signal from some busted radio equipment under the orders of Dawn – Barbie’s rapidly aged daughter who looks just like her mother, albeit in a cheesy blonde wig.
As it’s done all along, the show does its level best to present things, like alien queens of the Kinship, a Resistance made up of the few remaining stars of the series, and a dog with a key to the jail in his collar, as seriously as possible. And for the most part it succeeds. One of the more commendable aspects of Under the Dome was, through all the ridiculous moments – the caterpillar infestations, the murderous DJs, and psychotic high-school teachers – the show never once winked at itself; it just kept right on telling its story, despite all the eyes rolling in its direction. That’s either a sign of deep, profound dedication to seeing even the most dismal storyline through to its end, or it’s a sign troubling obliviousness. Either way, in the most commendable act of the episode – and, perhaps, in all of its 39 episodes – the series maintains a straight face, even when the story hinges on people whistling at purple rocks.
Again, there’s a high level of dedication to the nonsense that has likely kept most people watching for three seasons. It’s the kind of dedication you see in Mike Vogel’s face as he strains to lift and carry a fake giant amethyst before placing it on an upturned log in a circle, effectively assembling a purple, bargain-basement version of Stonehenge. It’s the sort of thing that doesn’t just add to the ridiculousness of the series; it defiantly underlines it in a way that explains why, in its final hour, Under the Dome in no way resembles the show it was when it first began. Sure, both ends are both unfathomably dumb, but that’s beside the point; what matters is that, despite a few scrambling efforts to shoehorn in a few references to pink stars and the Four Hands, this could essentially have been an episode from an entirely different show.
This isn’t the same as watching a series progress and develop its story naturally; it’s more like, at a certain point, Under the Dome just forgot (or stopped caring) what it was about and started venturing down entirely new paths, because purple rocks definitely go with pink stars and black eggs. The show started off as a mystery of how a group of people would survive in a confined space with rapidly depleting supplies and a power-hungry leader at its core, but it quickly abandoned that in favor of increasingly absurd storylines that made the extraterrestrial revelation even more groan inducing than it otherwise would have been.
To its credit, ‘The Enemy Within’ is one of the most fleet-footed episodes the series has ever produced (perhaps because, like those still watching, the show itself was anticipating the sweet release of the series’ demise). By the halfway mark, the finale manages to see Junior skewer Sam with a piece of rebar, in a battle to see who gets to mate with Queen Dawn; Joe sacrifice himself and his bizarre whistling technique to save Norrie; and Dawn plummet into a chasm with her…uh, dad just after the dome puts on a pink and purple light show and is suddenly gone. Jim also kills Junior after the dome falls and somehow the moment barely feels worth mentioning.
Perhaps that’s because, after the survivors are picked up by the military and the members of the Kinship are put into some fancy military installation, Barbie, Julia, Jim, and whoever else are forced to sign a false statement blaming Aktaion Energy for the mishap (which becomes the one time a giant corporation wasn’t entirely to blame, the government chooses to hold them accountable). For reasons that are still not clear, the false statements allow Dann Florek of Law & Order: SVU fame the chance to summarize the entire series – in case someone was just now tuning in, apparently.
That could have been the end of it, but instead the show jumps ahead one year, to a world where Big Jim has been elected to congress and helped get Hunter a job at the NSA, so he and his key-toting dog could spoil Barbie’s marriage proposal to Julia at just the right moment. But Jim doesn’t crash proposals in the middle of nowhere lightly. No, Jim has assembled the Chester’s Mill Five once more because Dawn has inexplicably survived her fall and is now a teacher, surreptitiously instructing her students to find dome-producing black eggs.
Like the show itself, the conclusion feels comprised of half-formed thoughts scribbled out on a cocktail napkin. It leaves the door open for more dome-centered madness, pitting Big Jim and his Agents of D.O.M.E. (which could presumably include sharpshooter Norrie and Joe, once he’s set free from broom closet the military has him locked away in) against Dawn and the black egg she just leaves sitting there in the sand.
It seems preposterous to think the series could ever return, but the way television refuses to let anything truly die anymore, the threat of Beyond the Dome one day becoming a reality is no more ludicrous than the idea of this series somehow lasting three seasons.
Previous seasons of Under the Dome are available to stream on Amazon.