CBS‘ Under the Dome Reconciliation TV Show Review. Under the Dome: Season 1, Episode 5: ‘Reconciliation’ doubled down on a lot of the show’s plot & character characteristics, as it attempts to expand beyond the season 1 reveal. Unfortunately, these have not been very good characteristics. For all the good qualities, that came out of the inaugural season, there were some troublesome moments, regarding plot points & character developments, that started to become endemic. I referred to those as ‘Under the Dumb’ moments. ‘Reconciliation’ was an ‘Under the Dumb’ episode.
Since the season 1 reveal (that the Dome was of alien origin, and meant to protect the town from… something), there had been a lot of changes around Chester’s Mill. The most noticeable was likely some cast changes. Nothing like an influx of new faces to immediately usher in the deaths of old ones. That makes the fun game of guessing who-replaces-who possible. I wouldn’t say the new resident science wiz, Rebecca (Karla Crome), or the new heart-throb with a dark past, Sam (Eddie Cahill), have panned out all that well; but new pretty face, Melanie (Grace Victoria Cox), at least has secured a place in the evolving series mythology. Her story, even if fairly obvious (she popped out of a lake after the Egg was dumped into it – c’mon!), did provide most of the second season’s mystery. It also lent itself to some post-honeymoon drama, as both Melanie, and Sam have been given wedge roles, regarding the happy couples of Joe (Colin Ford) & Norrie (Mackenzie Lintz), and Barbie (Mike Vogel) & Julia (Rachelle Lefevre), respectively. The two newbies actually have more in common than that, but I’ll let it ride, for now.
There was also a new foil to Big Jim (Dean Norris), in the form of Lyle (Dwight Yoakam), who seemed to fill the roles left vacant by both Ollie, and Reverend Lester. This instantly put him at odds with Rebecca, who wasn’t just Dodee’s replacement, she was every bit a zealot of science as Lyle was of religion. As a heartless numbers cruncher, she took to Big Jim’s political strongman image, and the pair hatched a population control scheme that sort of collapsed on them. A trial was in order, with Carolyn (Aisha Hinds) to represent Jim & Rebecca. With three of the Four Hands members convinced that the Dome wanted Big Jim dead, Carolyn had to remind her daughter that everyone deserves legal representation (never mind that they were staying in Jim’s house). The holdout Hand, Jim Junior (Alexander Koch) was too busy chasing after Angie; but that distraction was violently taken from him in. So it was with the question of the Big-becca comeuppance, and the intrigues involving Angie’s death & the motives of some of our newbies, that ‘Reconciliation’ started on. So which of the new faces did do away with Angie?
Well, it wasn’t Rebecca, since she was busy getting Jim & herself in hot water with the town. Most of them, anyway. Townies still loyal to Jim were getting vocal about it; and since there are never any half-measures taken in Chester’s Mill, name calling invariably leads to shoving, which leads to shooting. One dead would-be Big Jim executioner later, and the trial was suspended, while Jim appointed Sheriff (and shooter), Phil (Nicholas Strong) was fired by Julia.
After the revelation of Sam’s relation to Junior (his uncle, on his mother’s side), and even stranger relation to Melanie, the focus shifted to Melanie’s prospects of replacing Angie, as the fourth Hand, a previous generation’s role in the appearance of the Dome, and just how far back does the mantra of “The Pink Stars” really go. Frankly, I’ve been getting a little sick of it, myself. I can understand if the creative team was going for a “save the cheerleader, save the world” sort of deal; but there’s a real self-consciousness about it (someone adding “yellow moons, green clovers, and blue diamonds” will redeem a lot of sins committed by this show).
Back at the jail, even as Big Jim was blaming Rebecca for leading him along with cold scientific logic, he set about manipulating the disgruntled ex-Sheriff into a scheme to discredit Julia, and restore the Big Jim role of town savior (now with less science).
Big Jim should really just shoot old acquaintances on sight. Every one of his old friends have turned on him – or tried to kill him; so no one should have been surprised when the new faces started to get on his bad side. Rebecca was a disappointment, Sam was considerably worse than just the estranged brother-in-law, and Lyle harbored a very old grudge – providing Junior with the latest of his father hating father-figures. That is, before Lyle turned on Junior – leaving his uncle to fill that role.
How do I put this delicately…? Jim ‘ don’t call me Junior’ Junior has been a total waste of screen time & character interaction. Every facet of his being has been devoted to two obsessions. If everyone else has been running hot & cold, Junior’s switch went from securing Angie’s love to gaining Big Jim’s approval. They haven’t been healthy obsessions, either (to put it lightly). The series began with his obsession over Angie turning into an abduction & forced imprisonment. That was Misery level suspense, and set the tone for much of what was to come – including the de-evolution of Big Jim. The effort to rehabilitate Junior, beyond that arc, however, has left me baffled. There’s no ‘there’ there. Making Junior a deputy seemed appropriately ominous, but wound up becoming part of the redemption narrative; his induction into the Four Hands performance troop only confirming his importance to the series. Basically, we were stuck with him.
With Hand member Angie’s murder, however, it was made clear that no one in the cast is entirely indispensable; so it was only with some reservation that I noted her passing as a hopeful sign that we might be rid of Junior, at some point. That just means having to get through his post-Angie angst (now with new mommy/ daddy issues flavor). It will not be an easy road. His wild-eyed persecution complex kicked into high gear, again, he had already convinced himself that Big Jim killed Angie, then came away from the Dome’s last tantrum with news about his dead mother.
It turned out that Pauline (Sherry Stringfield) staged her suicide, and has since made her condition known to Junior. As one of the first to run with the “Pink Stars” line, Pauline had apparently foreseen the key events of the series, so far, but still couldn’t figure the future roles her brother & childhood sweetheart (Lyle) would assume. She had directed Junior to trust only Lyle (for some reason), but with Lyle going full… well, Lyle on him, Junior data dumped to uncle Sam. There have been a number of reasons why this was a fumble moment, prompting many viewers to cradle their heads into the back of their seats; but where the Angie obsession was concerned, it was a real nugget from the Junior mint.
See, Junior exemplifies the sheepishness – the disregard for discretion & the compartmental dissemination of information – that just seems so rampant across this town. A need to buy into – then share – everything that comes their way, that keeps making the bad actors’ job so much easier. When I first heard about the show, I jokingly remarked to myself that Stephen King might’ve drawn some inspiration from The Simpsons Movie. Between the gullibility of of its residents, and the ease with which they can be incited to mob mentality (every other week, it has seemed), Chester’s Mill keeps looking a lot like Springfield. Unfortunately, we’re meant to take such moments seriously.
Mystery Science Theater could have some fun with episodes like ‘Reconciliation,’ as I’ve often found myself adding lines, to the dialogue onscreen, that I figured cut to the heart of what the writers were going for.
Random diner patron calls out Julia for smearing Big Jim as part of a power grab: “You’re no Big Jim… and you’ll never be my new daddy!”
Norrie goes ‘mean girl’ on Melanie (again), prompting her to run off – triggering Joe’s chase reflex, and an impromptu consolation session: “I have taken you a few feet away from your girlfriend, and played every damsel in distress card supplied to me, this week. Kiss me, you fool.” The panel would have also accepted “I’m your sister’s replacement, not your sister. Let’s make out.”
Carolyn stumbles across Phil’s ‘hearts & minds’ scheme, and couldn’t help but give herself away: “Well, clearly I saw everything, and know what you’re up to. Wait here; I’m gonna go tell everybody.”
Rebecca loses what little conviction she had left, about getting blood on her hands to save the useful town folk: “Yeah, but then I got actual blood on my hands – yick!”
They went on like that. That, and I couldn’t have been the only viewer who got ideas when Joe declared he had one, regarding what the new girl meant to him & Norrie. C’mon, someone back me up.
In any case, with a handful of characters leading everyone else around by the nose (among other places), there was no way the good people of Chester’s Mill could resist the combined might of Julia & Big Jim – reconciled (hence title) for politically expedient reasons (also good for tying up messy conflict plotting). One townie’s paranoia actually paid off, and a big communal meal was just what the town needed to make up & not tear itself apart (this week).
Under the Dome has a lot of potential, and even some of its more familiar elements come across as throwbacks to certain Stephen King conventions (small town residents turn on & offer each other up, when trapped: Storm of the Century & The Mist. A seeming low regard for the stability of local piety: again, The Mist & Salem’s Lot). It seems the second season is still in search of new footing, since the definitive steps taken towards the end of the first; so I may have to make some allowance for at least a few more stumbles, along the way. ‘Reconciliation,’ however, was a stand-out; probably the single biggest collection of ‘Under the Dumb’ moments of the series, so far. I’d like to think that things can only get better, moving forward; but in the event I’m proven wrong, I’m not sure I can look back at another full ‘Under the Dumb’ episode with just a pained grin.
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