[This is a review of Under the Dome season 2, episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]
One of the more adverse side effects of being trapped Under the Dome is the increased likelihood that any given conversation between two or more characters will somehow devolve into a long winded opportunity for some unnecessary exposition. This has been well documented throughout the series' run, and after 23 episodes it becomes clear the residents of Chester's Mill have been stricken with some ailment rendering them unable to talk with one another without also explaining everything that has recently happened, even if the event in question occurred while the other party was present.
Among the other frequently ludicrous happenings on the show, like the personality inconsistencies, and the convenient appearances of people right where the plot needs them to be, the strange, unnecessary exposition being dished out by characters like Joe and Norrie has become a rich source of entertainment. And for a series in need of such a thing, it seems like 'The Fall' is Under the Dome's way of doubling down on the inadvertently entertaining formula.
While Big Jim and Junior enjoy a fairly dispassionate reunion with Pauline, Barbie is back in Chester's Mill, and his big plan for getting everyone out of the dome is to shuffle the residents off a cliff - like a desperate documentary filmmaker with a pack of lemmings - and to give his dad the screaming egg.
As far as plans go, it's not so bad; it certainly speaks to the desperation of the situation that the ostensible hero figure of the series would offer up the ultimate prize to a clear cut, so long as the people he's trying to protect were ushered to safety. But instead of focusing on why Barbie would think to do this, how he can convince Professional Dome Apologist Julia to see it as a viable option, and what the possible ramifications of that action will be, the show decides to go a different route. That is, let Big Jim toss the egg into the abyss and seal off the only means of egress from the dome, effectively nixing any potentially compelling story threads in favor of locking characters in a situation that hasn't worked in weeks.
And to demonstrate the solidity of that return to the status quo, the show doesn't just afford Barbie and Julia a glimpse of the new stalagmite-rich bottom to the once bottomless pit, it also impales DJ Phil on a rocky protuberance, just in case someone else thinks it would be a good idea to jump, apparently. While the abandonment of a storyline that would give characters some sense of agency is quite frustrating, at least the artlessness of the episode's script reaches a benchmark previously thought inaccessible, even by Under the Dome standards.
The benchmark isn't set when Barbie pieces together that he and Melanie share a father, or when the Rennies decide that they'd rather play policeman instead of spending time with the mother and wife they'd believed was dead for nine years. It's not even the contractually obligated appearance of Angie's ghost, the sudden cold front on its way, or when Hunter, the Dollar Store version of Matthew Fox, confirms his credentials by showing Joe the mobile version of his Hounds of Diana website. It's when the show absolutely must use the seemingly invincible DJ Phil to explain why the bottomless pit isn't so bottomless anymore.
"Then how would he know that there's a locker at the school that leads to a cliff that's a way out of Chester's Mill, and all you have to do is jump?" Norrie asks Joe, demonstrating once again the incredible grasp of the subtleties of human interaction that this show has cultivated over nearly two seasons.
And so, after a somewhat decent episode last week, 'The Fall' is not just a return to business as usual for Under the Dome; it's the series' attempt to hit a new low. And considering DJ Phil's ultimate resting place, let's just say hitting a new low was the point and just leave it as that.
Under the Dome continues next Monday with 'Black Ice' @10pm on CBS.