[This is a review of Under the Dome season 2, episode 8. There will be SPOILERS.]
As a title, 'Awakening' is a rather apt one for this particular installment of Under the Dome. Coming off last week's semi-lucid trip to Zenith in 'Going Home', this week's episode seems on the verge of maintaining or possibly even increasing the level of lucidity that was granted the storyline through Barbie's escape from Chester's Mill and the tyranny of the dome. That is until events shift in such a way that any possible advancement of the story is sidelined in favor characters once again acting inconsistently for the purpose of having something to do.
So far, Barbie's adventures in Zenith – while no less silly than anything else that's happened in the show – have at least been mostly straightforward, and have provided Under the Dome with a story engine capable of pushing the series along at a brisker pace than usual. That is, something other than wondering what biblical plague will be unleashed inside the dome and then summarily squashed by the might of Rebecca's science. This fact is apparently not lost on anyone working behind the scenes on the show, as the events inside the titular dome have been relegated to C-plot material, while Barbie's dealings with his father and the continuing adventures of Sam, Pauline, and Lyle comprise the majority of the episode's story.
That means Big Jim is once again asked to shift his priorities, claim to be a new man and take the law into his own hands. This time, however, Jim isn't gunning for some political appointment; he's named himself the new sheriff in the wake of Barbie's supposed death. Jim has announced his new purpose so many times this season, it's really no wonder he's been relegated to putting up windmills in a sandstorm and trying to spread swine flu through a water pitcher at the local diner.
This time around, though, someone's been messing with Chester's Mill, and if anyone is going to take that personal, it's Jim. After all, no one has been working harder to make life in Chester's Mill more miserable than Jim, and he is not about to let upstart take that title away from him. The plot is intended to get Jim, Rebecca, and Junior reunited and working together. Frankly, it's surprising that the show would go so far as to give a reason for these characters to work together, since the people of Chester's Mill can have their allegiances swayed just by talking to the person who recently tried to commit genocide. And it's not just ancillary characters like Hoyt's mom, either. All Rebecca needed to jump onboard Jim's quest for justice was a free walkie-talkie and she all but forgot Jim broke into her house and growled at her the day before.
As it turns out, the culprit behind the mystery of the windmill and the burning car is none other than DJ Phil – who not only survived being shot in the chest a few days earlier, but is also physically capable of getting into a skirmish with Jim and Junior and, well, dismantling a giant windmill made of scrap metal without anyone noticing. If there's one definite plus to being under the dome, it's that getting shot is about as life threatening and physically debilitating as popping a medium-sized zit.
So, while the mystery of why DJ Phil is back trumps the mystery of how he's up and around and in such find physical condition, the mystery of Zenith's obelisk and Aktaion Energy's involvement with the dome is intended to trump the mystery of how Barbie, Lyle, and Sam got out of the dome in the first place. Most of the Zenith storyline is spent getting Barbie a new sidekick by the name of Hunter – a super-hacker, by the looks of it – and then putting him close enough to the dome that he can use it as a whiteboard and tell Julia "Don't J." At this point, the only thing more worrisome than Julia jumping into the bottomless pit is how long it will take her and the Teenage Hand Club to figure out what the "j" actually stands for.
On the bright side, there seems to be some legitimate story potential in Barbie's dad knowing more than he's letting on, and whatever the Hounds of Diana group is up to. The chances of that developing into something really compelling are slim, however. It will likely prove to be that anything happening outside the dome just seems interesting because it doesn't involve, you know, the people trapped inside the titular dome.
Besides, considering the show revealed Barbie's dad was acting dastardly with a modified email, now is probably not the time to get excited about any direction Under the Dome is headed.
Under the Dome will continue next Monday with 'The Red Door' @10pm on CBS. Check out a preview below:
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