With the announcement that Under the Dome would not be limited to just 13 episodes this summer, but would, in fact, become an ongoing series potentially spanning several seasons, 'The Endless Thirst' became the ideal episode to demonstrate just how that sort of thing might be feasible, considering the relatively cramped and restricted arena in which the series is set.
In that regard, the episode manages to be a part of the overall narrative, while working overtime to provide an explanation of the rules that the series (or, more specifically, the dome over Chester's Mill) will play by, which may or may not necessarily be something that was depicted in the novel. At any rate, addressing a pressing need of those trapped in the town serves a dual purpose: It allows the writers some breathing room with the whole plausibility thing, and it affords them the opportunity to show that residents aren't taking the whole trapped-inside-an-invisible-force-field thing completely in stride. Instead of heading over to the diner, wondering how long the bacon will last, they are finally concerned about actual survival over the long term.
This is the kind of response that was sorely lacking from episodes like 'The Fire' and the utterly dismal 'Manhunt.' While those episodes had larger problems that are still on display, even in the recently improved offerings of 'Blue on Blue' and here in 'The Endless Thirst,' any sort of acknowledgement from the townsfolk that suggests they're actually aware of the predicament Chester's Mill is in makes a considerable difference.
In fact, one of the things this episode excels in is capturing the shift in mood of the townspeople, as the realization begins to set in that things they once took for granted are now in short supply, and some of them stand a real chance of dying should a solution to the problem not be found. But with a minimum of 13 more episodes after the conclusion of this season still ahead, 'The Endless Thirst' doesn't go full bore in tackling all the needs at once. No, as the episode's title suggests this is an issue of one of the most basic elements that humans need in order to survive: water.
The set up is a bit contrived, as a delivery truck almost wipes out a delirious Alice, but instead swerves directly into the Chester's Mill water tower. Never mind why the driver was out making deliveries several days into the dome encasing the town – I guess it is business as usual for King's Appliances, regardless the weather conditions or presence of unearthly, indestructible domes. If you ordered a convection oven, well, by golly, they'll get it to you! – the incident ties the two most basic needs of the episode together by setting Barbie and Linda to discover that the lake feeding the town's water supply is contaminated with methane and that there is no insulin left in the town's provisions.
Establishing the needs of the characters early on, the episode manages to tie those needs together in a more satisfying (albeit convenient) manner than the show has previously demonstrated. Big Jim tackles the water issue by dealing with the cantankerous Ollie (Leon Rippy), whose civic-mindedness is directly proportional to the amount of propane Jim is willing to part with. Meanwhile, Joe and Norrie go off in search of some insulin for Alice, which, according to Norrie's thinking means breaking into people's houses and nearly absconding with a young boy's entire supply – though she winds up just takes one bottle. Soon after, the teens' wind up being the bizarre energy source Julia and Dodee the tech-whiz were searching for, allowing for an expedient solution to the water crisis, as somehow the dome and the kids bring about a miraculous rainstorm.
The dome's "micro-climate" not only answers the question of how people will get water, it also quells a riot Barbie, Linda and Deputy Junior find themselves attempting to deal with rather unsuccessfully. Although it disperses just as quickly as it manifested, there is liveliness in the violent unrest that helps Under the Dome feel more active in its own storyline, and some of the more tragic events – i.e., the death of poor Rose and continued victimization of Angie – helps color some of the townsfolk and points toward an increasingly desperate and brutal future for those trapped inside the dome.
It's not a complete reversal of the middling fare that's come before it, but 'The Endless Thirst' is a mild improvement in terms of quality nonetheless. It's always a struggle when a series has to spend time patching holes in its own conceit to ensure an uncertain longevity, and since CBS seems confident the Under the Dome will be around for a while, we can probably expect more episodes just like this one.
Under the Dome continues next Monday with 'Imperfect Circles' @10pm on CBS. Check out a preview below: