[This is a review of Under the Dome season 2, episode 9. There will be SPOILERS.]
Due in large part to the fact that the series was developed by former Lost writer Brian K. Vaughan, Under the Dome has been seen as having similar storytelling aspirations. Both series feature a group of people trapped in a mystifying location with plenty of supernatural undertones, and a plume of smoke that moves with a purpose. At a certain point, both series also featured a plotline in which characters attempt to return to the show's primary setting, despite having previously fought to get away from it (or out from under it, as the case may be).
That has largely been the premise behind the most recent spate of episodes working to develop for Under the Dome an equally complex and compelling mythology that made Lost the television touchstone that it was. By and large, the ingredients seem to be the same, but throwing swirling vortexes of smoke, rich and powerful father figures, and a host of prophetic dreams or omens into the proverbial pot doesn't necessarily mean you'll end up with the same stew, as most viewers of this program are well aware.
And yet, despite all the shortcomings inherent in the series, 'The Red Door' managed to somehow rise above them to become a somewhat straightforward episode of Under the Dome that seemed impossible for the show to achieve. There were still plenty of the same problems that have plagued the series from the get go, like townspeople's vacillating allegiance to Big Jim depending on whether or not they're talking to him or someone else, or the overabundance of expository dialogue suggesting the writers are under the impression the show is far more complicated than it actually is. Still, there were moments where the story was actually entertaining for reasons other than its innate silliness.
With the egg on everyone's must-have list, Julia and Big Jim finally had something to do other than respond to whatever hackneyed crisis of the week they're normally saddled with. Barbie's adventures in Zenith have managed to liven things up to the point where the story seems like it could go somewhere. Sure, the final moments where Barbie, Pauline, Sam, Lyle, and Hunter are all whisked away by a vortex of white smoke reestablishes how the series has never seen an uncomplicated plotline it can't find a way to trip over, but up to that point, 'The Red Door' managed to run fairly smoothly.
Unsurprisingly, the problems with the episode take place inside the dome – a fact that certainly doesn't bode well for the rest of the season, since the episode places nearly everyone back inside Chester's Mill. For whatever reason, Junior's all about believing in his dad this week, so he and Melanie decide it's best that, while Big Jim and Junior work on their trust issues, the egg is locked away inside the Rennie family bomb shelter. How that plan or either character's motivation makes any sense is not remotely clear, but since Big Jim was reunited with Pauline at the end of the episode, positioning Junior to potentially be between them is at least understandable. Maybe now that there are three Rennies in Chester's Mill, there can be a little more consistency with regard to where certain loyalties lie.
But things in Under the Dome don't stand a chance of staying consistent when an opportunity to layer prophecy and destiny on an already troublesome storyline presents itself. Everyone traveling back to Chester's Mill via the Smoke Monster Express (save for Hunter and Lyle) is treated to a vision or a memory that suggests the seeds for the dome and certain parties' involvement in it were planted decades ago. For his part, Barbie seems to have been introduced to Melanie at a very young age, and told they would one day meet again. This sort of convenient addition to Barbie's past gives the show even more of a making-it-up-as-we-go-along feeling than Pauline's awful artwork. But at least the series has made an attempt to liven things up beyond figuring out what crisis can possibly happen inside the dome this week.
With almost all the characters back in the same place, the show will have to choose between moving forward with the mythology deepening suggestions it made in 'The Red Door' and returning to the crisis-centric storylines that've plagued much of the second season. And when you stop to consider the show's track record, the choice is sadly obvious.
Under the Dome continues next Monday with 'The Fall' @10pm on CBS. Check out a preview below: