Under The Dome Review: “Speak Of The Devil” (Season 1, Episode 11)

Mackenzie Lintz in Under the Dome

Hey, Under the Dome. It’s me, how’ve you been? You still keeping those people trapped under a dome? Aw, that’s great, glad to hear it. Sorry we couldn’t chat last week, I was busy fighting the flu. But I see you got a little busy doing some fighting yourself too. Mad Max’s Thunderdome? Just terrific. And hey, we got to meet Max’s mom! And then you immediately got rid of Max’s mom ten minutes later by having her fall off a boat! Really, that’s some top-drawer crazypants material right there, and you know that’s what I love to see you do. Good work, good work. I feel like we’re in a really good place in our relationship right now. You’re continuing to be your wonderfully inconsistent and messy self, letting the ol’ freak flag fly in 40 knot dome-based headwinds. Me: I’ve been having way more fun ever since I realized there’s no point in trying to tear you apart each week, because it’s about as constructive a critical exercise as making fun of a clown’s wardrobe. You’re a bad show, and that’s okay.

It’s just – and I’m not judging-…did you have to kill Max so soon? I mean, Natalie Zea strutting around in all her campy glory has been so entertaining these last few weeks, it seems like a missed opportunity to be done with her already. Who else but Max had the right consistency of motivational inconsistency to make it so that an episode can start with Julia getting shot in the chest, in her own home, even before the opening credits? That’s the kind of storytelling nitrous you LOVE, don’t you? You always look so adorably awkward trying to justify the plot contrivances needed to keep everybody busy week-to-week –Linda’s gas problems, and Bushy having nothing better to do but drive her around can speak to that-, but Max presented no such problems. Girl was gonzo! She can do anything/be anything the plot requires!

Remember, we’re moving passed feeling ashamed, so I’m glad to see you becoming more and more accepting of your own brand of “logic.” You’re climbing further up Maslow’s hierarchy of self-actualization with each week, growing more confident and comfortable in your delivery of the kinds of storytelling, characters, and domes that only YOU can provide. That’s what I call progress! You used to bend over backwards trying to think of explanations for how the kids would make wild inferences about the dome’s powers, and it was boring as hell. Now, you’re able make it so Junior is the fourth palm needed for the mini-dome handscan without providing any hard evidence to suggest why that would be. You kept that efficiency up with “Speak of the Devil,” as you wasted no time having Joe come up with a theory about Barbie being the much-ballyhooed monarch from the Easter egg-dome riddle. I mean, most writers would tremble in fear at the task of getting a character from the Point A of looking at a barn-bound star map written in pigeon shit, to the Point B of declaring Mike Vogel as Butterfly King/Cosmic Jesus. But you found a way. Bless you for that.

And don’t think I didn’t notice you working in all that regal wordplay this week! People talking about thrones, and crowns, and ruling Chester’s Mill like a king –sounds to me like someone’s trying to work in a theme. It’s good you didn’t overdo it by actually having those words be reflected in the actual emotional and ideological underpinnings of the story – you don’t want to strain yourself. Believe me, the royal imagery earned its keep the more awkwardly and frequently Barbie and Jim used it when returning to their old distrustful dynamic, allying themselves to stop Max, while making it crystal clear between themselves that they’ll betray each other the second she’s dealt with.

And what a dealing with she got! I mean, the gal is unhinged enough to make Junior look like an upstanding guy, so maybe Jim has a point in suggesting he and Barbie kill her instead of dealing with that whole “due process” thing. But Barbie was always going to turn out to be the smartest guy in the concrete factory. Not initially, of course, when he and Jim bumble their way into getting captured by Max and the one goon she has left, having presumably killed all the other ones we saw last week in an awesome blaze of psycho rage, after ambling by her mom’s freshly washed up corpse (maybe show it in a flashback? Just a suggestion). No, Barbie’s little powerbox powerplay definitely got across that he’s one smart cookie. I mean, yeah, he turns his back on an armed Jim and a defenseless Max, and yeah, maybe he could have predicted Jim would do the exact thing he said he would do if put in that situation, shooting Max and then drawing on Barbie. But Barbie ultimately and unquestionably proved himself to be the craftier of the two, after cleverly realizing Jim’s real weakness isn’t Junior -it’s getting punched in the throat.

So yeah, Under the Dome, I suppose I am a little disappointed you decided to kill the insane genie you’ve been summoning out of the dome’s crevices whenever you needed your implausible desires met, but “Speak of the Devil” actually showed you know how to go bananas even without Max acting as a conduit for your craziness. Linda arriving  just in time to save Jim, and have Barbie take the fall for the murders? Brilliant! Linda’s in a very compromised position at that point, having to choose between a stranger who’s saved dozens of lives since coming to Chester’s Mill, and a councilman who only hours early confessed to being a corrupt drug runner, so you can understand why she might turn on Barbie. She can’t even check to make sure her gun has more than four bullets in it, so clearly her head’s in no place to see through a masterful web of deceit founded on a Three’s Company-style case of misunderstanding.

You gave 100% on the town plot, Under the Dome, but what really demonstrated you came to play tonight was how you’re getting just as devil/audience may care about the dome plot too. Some people have complained and said that Angie and Junior’s relationship too frequently elides over that little spell when she was being held prisoner in his bunker. But those haters are free to eat their words with a side of humble pie after this week, because now that we know the dome is like a mood ring, summoning tornadoes whenever Angie and Junior are fighting, it means they can’t hate each other anymore, or the town will be at risk.

You had so much nonsense to get to tonight, Under the Dome, that the storm didn’t even matter by the episode’s halfway point. It wasn’t long before we got right back to the kids intuiting what the dome wants them to do based on pure conjecture. As it turns out, what the dome wants is for the kids to get some cutlery, and stab the jam out of the jelly donut that is Big Jim. Crazy, right? So now you’ve got all the pieces in place for the final two episodes, with Jim back in control, Barbie on the run, and the kids looking to come at the king with a kitchen drawer’s worth of weaponry (et tu, Junior?). That’s a launchpad into a stratosphere of lunacy if I’ve ever seen one, and you managed it all while making the show’s approach to character growth, believable plotting, and delivering answers in a timely fashion look completely effortless. Really, it looks like you’ve made no effort to improve yourself since the pilot, Under the Dome! That’s what makes you one of a kind. Shine on, you crazy dome.

  • Stray Thoughts

-Favorite Dome Relate Dialogue: “It’s not just weather. It’s the dome! It’s angry at us!” “The Dome owes us some answers!”

-Truly, Max is the one who knocks. Or, doorbells, I think it was. Anyway, it was Angie doing the aggressive door-pounding this week.

-Sadly, no time to mention the spectacle of Barbie sucking the air out of Julia’s chest. “Ew,” is right, Norrie.

-“I almost died down there!” “But you didn’t!” That Junior, always a smooth customer when it comes to the ladies.

-“All I want is answers. Not a seizure, or a riddle. Just answers.” –Norrie, just about everyone still watching Under the Dome

-Catch Marvel’s “Guardians of Some Secret Cosmic Mystery,” in theaters next year.