On one hand, you have to hand it to any show that'll pack the two most typically overwrought plot devices into a single episode and not bat an eye at the utter contrivance of it all. Thankfully, 'Imperfect Circles' continues to support the notion that purpose, meaning and connection has been ascribed to the events that have transpired to this point in Under the Dome, suggesting any sense of artificiality or unnatural arrangement in the proceedings is deliberate – by whom or what, however, is another question.
That element of mystery, plus the idea that some otherworldly, seemingly inanimate device (i.e., a black egg chilling inside a miniature dome in the middle of the forest) is somehow behind all of this is another reminder just how closely this series can sometimes resemble Lost. And when characters start seeing dead (or soon to be dead) people wandering in the forest, then the similarities tend to increase dramatically. Right now, the series is only occasionally co-opting the vibe from one of the most significant shows in the last 10 years, and has yet to pull off any legitimate notion of intrigue beyond the arrival of the dome, but, seven episodes in, some signs of interest have finally begun to present themselves.
Again, as with the past few episodes, this specific, dome-centric development feels as though it should have manifested much earlier. The audience (especially those who haven't read the book) would have benefited greatly from an earlier development of the mystery of the dome – something that would have engaged the plot in a more appealing way than watching the townsfolk shrug their shoulders and simply wait for the barrier to come down. That's not to say 'Imperfect Circles' is a game-changer for the series, or that its basic plot and delivery (sorry) illustrates a marked improvement in the otherwise arid landscape that is Under the Dome's dramatic tension, but, at this point, any time a character – even the series' otherwise grating teen characters like Joe, Norrie and the infuriating Ben – acknowledges the dome in some fashion, as to try and understand it or their circumstances better, it feels like an improvement of the series.
Acknowledging whatever positives can be wrung out of an episode like this helps pave the way for a discussion of the aforementioned overwrought elements and their mysterious connection to one another that take up the majority of the narrative this week. This time around, we are introduced to Julia's pregnant, yogurt-craving neighbor Harriet, when she comes calling for some semisolid foodstuffs just in time to ensure Barbie's dash for the door is only slightly less uncomfortable than telling the woman he just slept with she's a widow because of him. Still, whenever a pregnant character is introduced, said pregnancy is probably going to be the focal point of the entire episode. As luck would have it, Harriet only manages to make it just past Julia's driveway before she sees a vision of her husband (dressed in what looks like the CBS prop department's finest sailor's outfit) and mistakenly touches the dome, which, naturally, induces labor.
Elsewhere, Joe and Norrie discover the dome's "nucleus" and attempt to communicate with the structure, while Big Jim drunkenly handles Ollie's theft of his massive propane supply by killing Boomer and blowing up a significant portion of the propane in question. Both elements seem far more relevant to the series' narrative than a heretofore-unknown pregnant woman, making any departure from them as exasperating an experience as listening to Ben try and mourn Rose.
Meanwhile, Harriet's dilemma is paired with yet another Chester's Mill manhunt (where do these fugitives think they're going to hide out?). This time Linda, Barbie and Deputy Junior are all on the prowl for the Dundee brothers, following Rose's murder and Angie's assault. Because the dome-influenced circles of life wouldn't be complete without a wild coincidence, Julia and Harriet wind up being "gas jacked" (yes, that's an actual term used by a pregnant woman) by the brothers Dundee, which sets into motion the demise of the Dundees and the delivery of Harriet's child by Alice.
As mentioned above, 'Imperfect Circles' fits both a frantic childbirth and an overly telegraphed death of a character into the same episode, suggesting it is somehow all part of the dome's grand scheme of making sure Chester's Mill has at least one individual named Alice on hand at all times…or something like that.
All in all, focusing the episode's attention on something as ubiquitous on television as a child's birth was an ineffective way of addressing the larger forces at work, when that time could have been better used examining important, series-wide issues like the Big Jim/Ollie power struggle and what (if anything) is actually powering the dome. Under the Dome seems to have finally recognized the series' important elements, now we'll just have to wait and see if it can make them the focal point of an episode.
Under the Dome continues next Monday with 'Thicker Than Water' @10pm on CBS. Check out a preview below: