Under The Dome Review: “The Fourth Hand” (Season 1, Episode 9)

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Since it could be revealed later that Max’s presence on D-Day wasn’t so accidental, my running backup theory through most of the episode was that she was another dome-induced apparition. As if to acknowledge both how silly a twist this would be (but not so silly as to believe UtD wouldn’t try to pull it off), and how much has already been explained away by the dome’s vaguely defined powers, a homeinvader desperate to get voices out of his head actually isn’t experiencing a Dome Disorder, just run-of-the-mill drug withdrawal. After the town’s resident gun nut, Mr. Utley, also turns out to be its worst shot, Jim starts thinking about getting his hands on the local firepower. With the food, water, and propane shortages apparently over for the conceivable future, “who’s got the guns?” is the next most important question to be answered.

So, while Max’s sudden appearance is the sort of thing you want to balk at from a logical standpoint, the payoff outweighs the absurdity, with the absurdity itself being its own kind of payoff. With Ollie out of the way, Jim is back to being the biggest swinging dick in town, but he’s made all the more intimidating this week for how deceptively reasonable his plan to disarm the population is. Putting a folksy, “we’re all in this together” spin on a Guns for Grub exchange program helps better establish Jim as both a smooth talker, and operator, which was questionable back when he was drunkenly blowing up propane tanks. Barbie, of course, doesn’t believe a word, keeping an eye on Jim as the guns start flowing in, and maybe giving thought to putting one in the back of the councilman’s dome when the two go to disarm the suicidal Utley. The testy nature of Barbie and Jim’s relationship hasn’t been explored much beyond idle threats and posturing, so having the two at least affect a partnership adds a little tension to the first half of their adventure.

But then that tension gets blown up and thrown out the window thanks to Max, in what’s got to be the best thing the show has done since all those shots of cars smashing into the dome. Zea, who had to keep her swagger in check when opposite Raylan Givens on Justified, ping pongs back and forth between Barbie and Jim at the diner, crotch-shotting each’s ego as she baldly lays out her romantic past with Barbie, her knowledge of what he did to Julia’s husband, and what she and Jim have planned for Chester’s Mill. It’s a scene that’s at once ridiculously unbelievable, given both the wealth of information Max has, and how willingly she divulges her plan to establish a New Sodom in Maine to Barbie, but also ridiculously fun to watch. Zea owns the material with absolute confidence, warts and all, gleefully transitioning from knocking Jim down a notch one moment, to planting one on Barbie the next. The dialogue between all parties has a liveliness heretofore unseen on Under the Dome, with a pulpy flavour even working its way into Barbie and Jim’s spatting for once.

Even better though, is that the two now have some ammunition to use against one another, even though each is now under Max’s heel. Jim’s not the type to take orders, as his menacing gun collection in the fallout shelter seems to indicate, and Barbie’s a big softie at heart, which is what makes it somewhat delightful that, while Julia’s investigating unknown phenomena, Barbie’s just trying to keep a handle on his crazy ex. The show continues to split itself pretty evenly across the Town side of things, and the dome investigation, with the brat pack and Julia in charge of the latter. Sadly, Max stays separated from the B-plot entirely, so instead of ridiculousness, the greatest Easter egg hunt Chester’s Mill has ever seen gets by on…surprising levels of competence?

Again, it’s easy to focus on the usual hangups, like Julia’s general uselessness, and another left field dome-related development, with Angie experiencing one of the prophetic seizures that Joe and Norrie have been enduring without so much as a hint as to why. But there are some nice little touches and signs of forethought throughout, like Joe and Norrie using the dog to track down the mini-dome after it vanishes from the nondescript patch of dirt they left it in. It’s also good to know that the connection between last week’s ramblings about a monarch, and Angie’s tattoo, is as blatantly obvious to Norrie as it is the viewer. And yes, while I still have no faith in the ultimate mysteries of the dome being at all worth the ballyhoo, I have to admit, the mini-mystery of who possesses the fourth hand needed to open the mini-dome is not half bad as a stinger.

The development of Angie and Junior’s “relationship” continues to be problematic, as her justifiably explicit disdain for being around him gets undercut by her spending most of the hour following him around, and Linda’s plodding investigation into the propane is buzz killer, but taken altogether, the good in “The Fourth Hand” does outweigh the bad. Your definition of what “good” for Under the Dome means will vary, and there’s no telling if this was a one-time fluke, or a turning point towards more outlandish, and bonkers things to come. Expecting Under the Dome to ever be a great show was a foolish thing to do, but maybe expecting it to be a sometimes inane, sometimes enjoyably insane one, won’t be asking too much at this point.

  • Stray Thoughts

-Favorite Dome-Related Dialogue: “Stop talking to me dome!”

-Money on the fourth hand would say it’s Beanie boy or Junior, seeing as they’re basically the only other young folks we’ve seen around Chester’s Mill. Except for bully kid from awhile back, who just sorta fell of the face of the earth I suppose.

-Speaking of disappearing: I guess it’s easy to save some money on the budget by locking Caroline in a room for two weeks straight, and have Bushie in the hospital all episode. The show may never get over how expansive, yet situationally-dependent the cast is.

-I’d be lying if I said the episode didn’t score extra points for use of the word “Yaggie,” which is apparently the name of the tracking device Dodee whipped up a few weeks back.

-Here’s the shortlist of places Angie could have followed Junior into, which would have been less creepy than his dead mother’s art studio: an active chainsaw factory, an abandoned amusement park, a portal to the seventh plane of hell, the actual bomb shelter where he had her chained up less than a week ago.