Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
You know, if you ignore pretty much every episode that came before it, “Exigent Circumstances” could be considered a pretty decent hour of television. Its plots worked together and they moved well without too many glaringly nonsensical moments (which isn’t to say there weren’t any, but by Under the Dome‘s standards they were at least minimal), and it was probably the most exciting episode since the pilot. But if the only way a season’s penultimate episode can be seen in a positive light is by divorcing it from the rest of said season, is it really such an accomplishment? “Exigent Circumstances” does little more than demonstrate how much better Under the Dome would have been were it a much shorter miniseries rather than the thirteen episode crap-fest it’s been.
At this point we’ve finally reached the stage the pilot so desperately wanted audiences to see, it’s just a shame the set-up has been such a silly, convoluted mess. Barbie’s on the run as Big Jim rallies his minions against the scapegoat and even the one legitimate police officer left in Chester’s Mill is behind the would-be dictator. This brings us to my first issue with “Exigent Circumstances.” As I already discussed in my review of the previous episode, Linda has just as much reason to hold Jim under as much suspicion as Barbie – if not much more – yet she consistently follows Jim’s every order like a mindless lapdog. Even when she begins to protest Jim’s approach she immediately acquiesces. As the only actual, trained law enforcement officer in the community she should be much more mindful of avoiding mob mentality and its dangerous and slippery slope. But no, turns out Under the Dome actually means to convey that the police are merely the means by which corrupt politicians uphold a broken system, a message I can actually get behind, ironically. But Linda’s actions are so senseless they undercut the plot by preventing it from holding anything audiences can connect to.
At least there is a balance to Linda’s stupidity. Caroline has reappeared after hibernating mourning the loss of her wife and just in the nick of time to try defending the rights of her daughter and Joe as Jim and his goons search Joe’s barn for the egg and detain them for questioning. Jim’s interrogation of Joe and Norrie was probably my favorite scene (other than Dodie getting shot, but more on that in a minute). Not that I actually like any part of this show, but if I had to pick one, Norrie is probably my favorite character because she is the only one besides Barbie who seems to consistently see through Jim’s bullshit, and she stands up to bullies be they high school jocks or used car salesmen with illusions of grandeur.
Dodie also stood up to Jim, but only after she decided of her own free will to completely ignore the fact that Jim sabotaged the radio because the miitary witnessed him murder the reverend, and after he pulled a gun on her. I was happy when Jim shot Dodie not only because she was a weak character (in that she was poorly developed), but because it made sense and was consistent with what we know of Jim. Plus, it added the faintest sense of stakes to see just how out of control Jim is know that he has accepted he’ll do anything to make sure he remains the big fish in a small pond.
Like his scene with Dodie, and because of its conclusion, the exchange Norrie had with Jim carried real tension. Both scenes where Jim intimidates women who suspect him of his malicious intent were adequately written which, again, by this show’s standards is practically Oscar worthy in comparison to the rest of the show. I liked these scenes because their dialogues illustrated just how slimy and greedy Jim is in his quest for power.
As much as “Exigent Circumstances” worked to illustrate Jim as the villain he’s gradually revealed himself to be, his status as an actual threat to the lives of those in his way and the rights of the citizens of Chester’s Mill is tenuous at best and undercut by its lack of credibility. Where does Jim seem to get his endless supply of goons? (I cracked up when that nameless dude in the glasses at the town hall meeting kept conveniently demanding Jim to do more because “It’s been two weeks,” since they’ve been trapped. He means to communicate how dire their circumstances are, but the exclamation only emphasized how laughably ridiculous the situation is. ) Why is Junior constantly flip-flopping between wanting to kill his dad and protect him? I understand patricide isn’t exactly a light decision to wrestle with even for a psycho who’s harbored aggression against his father for years, but Junior’s gone back and forth on this issue more than a ping pong ball at Forrest Gump’s house, which doesn’t exactly help audiences take his dilemma seriously since he’s just as likely to change his mind six more times before the end of the next episode. Why does Linda follow his orders when she knows he’s manipulating people to secure his own position of authority? I guess one could argue she may only be following his lead to get answers, but there’s nothing to suggest she wouldn’t literally jump off a cliff if Jim told her “answers” were at the bottom.
While I appreciate the momentum in “Exigent Circumstances” it doesn’t come close to compensating for a whole season’s worth of stupidity. By the end of the episode it looks like the mini-dome’s about to blow and Babrie’s plea of “not guilty” at his impromptu trial/hearing/death of due process is meant to be a cliffhanger of epic proportions, but it just falls as flat as this season’s collective character development. I half expect Barbie to convince the entire flock of sheep gathering of denizens in one Jeff Winger speech that Big Jim’s the Big Bad and they should probably just hang him right then and there. I know that won’t happen though. Instead I bet the military will show up again to somehow get Barbie to black ops the egg (yeah, I just used “black ops” as a verb and no, I don’t know exactly what I mean by that, but I picture Doakes from Dexter and Mac from It’s Always Sunny doing karate when I think of it). The strength of the episode would have gone a lot further in being effective if it weren’t buried under such poor execution up until this point.
Come back next week when I’ll use io9 s Charlie Jane Anders’ test to examine whether Under the Dome can redeem itself after the domest dumbest first season I’ve ever witnessed.
The post TV Review: Under the Dome 1.12, “Exigent Circumstances” appeared first on WhatCulture!.