Under the Dome "Thicker Than Water" Review: It's Family, Duh

By Tim Surette

Aug 13, 2013

Under the Dome S01E08: "Thicker Than Water"

At this point in Under the Dome's first season (there will be another, for better worse or much, much worse), it's pointless and repetitive to compare the show to the rest of television because it will never leave the kids' table. All we can really do is put it side by side with itself and judge it on its own. And you know what? In that context, "Thicker Than Water" deserved an "Atta boy!" and a pat on the back, because it was a much more tolerable episode than what we saw earlier in the season, continuing the momentum I started to feel last week.

We've arrived at a place where episodes don't just center on some made-up catastrophe (goodbye, meningitis!), and the ongoing problems the townspeople are facing are building up instead of being swept off the shelf at the end of each week so the show can reset itself and move on to the next problem (hello, meningitis!). What's more, the idea that the dome may be a permanent fixture is truly starting to sink in for the residents of Chester's Mill, which is finally closing the gap between their mentality and ours because we all know the dome isn't going anywhere until the show's ad revenue dries up. These tiny adjustments are making Under the Dome a much more competent show that's not nearly as embarrassing as it used to be, so now all we have to make fun of with a wink and a poke is the dialogue, acting, the character actions, and the overall writing. This is what crawling out of a hole feels like, people! But now I'm wondering if I even want the series to improve, because I've been enjoying its ridiculousness as a passable way to spend Monday nights. For me, bad TV is more fun to watch than mediocre TV.

Three major plots moved forward in "Thicker Than Water": the attack on Farmer Ollie's water hole, the mourning of dead Dr. Alice, and whatever the F that egg was. We'll start with Big Jim assaulting Rancho de Ollie, because that's the story that had the most guns. It's interesting that Under the Dome revisited a problem that it'd already addressed—a water shortage—only eight episodes into its maiden voyage, but there we were again, talkin' 'bout being thirsty. 

You'll recall that in "The Endless Thirst," the town's collective pair of panties rode up real high and grandmas were clubbing each other over the head for a few Snickers bars and Aquafinas, and then the dome intervened with a rain storm, sending everybody home happy with a garbage can full of the dome's tears. At that point it wasn't clear whether the water shortage was fixed; the episode sure made it seem like the drought was over, but common sense, the natural enemy of Under the Dome, told us that the rainwater wouldn't last too long. So it was logical for "Thicker Than Water" to bring back the parched throats and dried-up veggies. But really, it was all an excuse to kill Farmer Ollie and put the black hat back on Big Jim's dome. Where it belongs! And also it was an excuse to give Junior some wacky shit to do because that guy is crazytown banana pants to the maxx.

Big Jim's initial chat with Farmer Ollie went something like, "Fuck you, Jim," because Farmer Ollie had it in his head that he who controls the water also controls the town, and Farmer Ollie wanted a slice of that pie. But my question is, WHY? Who really wants to be in charge of a mess of a town like Chester's Mill? Even Game of Thrones' Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish was like, "Ummm, thanks but..." concerning a lordship at Harrenhal, and that place had a cool spooky castle! Chester's Mill has an abandoned cement factory, a population full of jittery, hungry, gun-toting hicks, and half the police force is Junior! Even the mayor of Detroit is laughing at Big Jim and Farmer Ollie fighting over control of a place with no food, no water, and no hope. But yeah, these boys both wanted power and their battle wouldn't end until Junior shot one of them dead. 

A second round of chit-chat between Big Jim and Farmer Ollie involved more guns and one poor rent-a-cop sap named Carter, who was so obviously going to end up getting shot by the farmers that he may as well have been wearing a bullseye or an Obama/Biden 2012 campaign sign. See, the farmers countered Big Jim's idea of "eminent domain" and the town's right to seize property with a better solution: lots of dudes with guns. Junior—who was on the scene unarmed because Linda finally figured out that providing a mentally ill maniac with a weapon was a bad idea—totally switched sides and betrayed his dad because he was still sad that Big Jim had kicked him out of the house earlier in the episode. Bad Junior! And totally embarrassing for Big Jim, who had to run home with his tail between his legs.

When talking with Ollie didn't work, Big Jim decided that his best option was to come back with even more guys and have an old-fashioned shootout, because more is always better and what could go wrong? Barbie had a more subtle idea: Blow up the well with lots of homemade explosives, and hope that the water diverted to other accessible water supplies. Sound plans all around, guys. Great job. So Big Jim went back to Farmer Ollie's crib, with DJ Phil (remember him?) as part of the posse. It'd been a long time since we'd seen Phil and he needed something to do, so why not hand him a gun and ask him to fight some farmers? Well, Phil got shot during the clumsy assault on Farmer Ollie's ranch, but Barbie destroyed the well and then everyone decided to cease fire immediately. However, that didn't stop Junior from crackin' his dad's face with the butt of his GIANT shotgun (yes, someone—Farmer Ollie—handed Junior another huge gun in this episode) and taking Jim prisoner so they could work out some issues. 

Now's probably a good time to mention that Big Jim had lied to Junior about how Junior's mother died, even though it means nothing. Big Jim said she died in a car accident, but Farmer Ollie hit Junior with the truth: It was suicide! Admit it, if Junior was your son, you'd off yourself, too. The details aren't important because the story was just a way to put Junior between Ollie and Jim, and after Big Jim cried his eyes out, peed his pants, and admitted the truth while his son held him at gunpoint, the title of the episode finally made sense. Family! It's family that's "Thicker Than Water"! Mind exploded (from the gun I stuck in my mouth). Junior chose family over water and shot Farmer Ollie dead because Farmer Ollie was going to shoot Big Jim dead. And that, kids, is why you don't give Junior a gun.

Anyway, the water was restored and the water crisis was averted again, this time thanks to guns and bombs and not the divine intervention of the dome. But all was not well between Big Jim and regular-sized Barbie! Barbie accused Big Jim of wanting Ollie's well for power, and the two said macho things to each other along the lines of, "I don't like you!" There's your conflict for the rest of the season.

Much less exciting was Norrie's sadness over her mom's death. Over the course of the episode, she blamed Joe, she blamed her mom, and then she blamed herself as she moped around the house and made herself feel right at home. She kicked Joe out of his own living room and laid around Angie's room like it was her own. What a rude guest! And where was Carolyn this week? According to Angie, she just plopped down in the room next to Alice's corpse, waiting to bury it. That left Norrie to process her mom's death all by herself, and of course she was going to lash out against everyone. Looks like Carolyn is already saying, "Not my kid, not my problem." There's a point for conservative groups. 

Fortunately, Angie can be a pretty cool chick when she isn't locked in an underground bunker. Angie cared for Norrie and the two connected over a slightly corny but also slightly charming scene in which they threw Angie's snowglobes-from-around-the-world collection at the dome in an overload of metaphors. Angie won't be going to those places anymore, Norrie's home of Los Angeles is but a shattered and wet memory, and snowglobes = domes. Hey, this show has done a lot worse, and for once Angie smiled! (By the way, nice arms on both of those girls! Let's get that Chester's Mill Women's Baseball League started up now!)

Okay enough about relationships! Let's get to the dome! While Norrie was mad at Joe, Joe decided to put some moves on Julia (not really, but he had to have been thinking about it because he's hornier than a young buck), and he had an in because he's the worst secret-keeper in the world. Joe's diarrhea mouth accidentally slipped the news about the egg to Julia for no goddamn reason, and then both of them went out into the woods to look at it and poke it. Julia put her hands on the egg and saw a Joe-ghost saying, "The monarch will be crowned." And it was only after Julia touched the dome that Joe told Julia how, the last time he'd touched the dome, someone died. Nice timing, Joe! Despite his awesome math skills, sometimes I think Joe might have been kicked in the head a few times when he was a baby. If he and Norrie have a kid, it should be able to tie its own shoes by the time it's 37 years old.

Anyway, for the episode's grand finale, people pondered what "The monarch will be crowned" meant and the camera swooped around to show that Angie had a Monarch Butterfly tattoo on her shoulder. I guess Angie is going to be the queen of all dome aliens or something? Or Chester's Mill Water Festival Princess? Or Miss Dome 2013? I'm not sure. And from what I understand, this marks a big departure from what happened in the book, where Angie's character takes a much different path. 

"Thicker Than Water" may have been one of Under the Dome's better episodes, but it wasn't as fun or exciting as last week's "Imperfect Circles" and that worries me. I might sound crazy, but the better the show gets, the less enjoyable it will be. For me, at least. The show has too far to go to actually be any good, and there's no way it'll ever get there, but if it plays its cards right it can be an entertaining guilty pleasure with goofy teen stories to make fun of, a central mystery that keeps us coming back each week, and ridiculous power struggles for a town that's a total mess. The needle has moved all over the place in the series' first eight episodes but I think the best we can hope for is mindless fun that we can laugh at. That's what I want from the show. More episodes like "Thicker Than Water," which was decent but not that interesting, and we'll be dangerously close to just another forgettable summer series. 


– One problem with the show getting better is that it doesn't provide as much fodder for .GIFs and captions. I'm seriously disappointed.

– Why didn't everyone just bow down or perform a rain dance before the Dome God to get another sprinkle? Have we already lost faith in the dome as a supreme being that's worthy of worship? Where is my dome cult!?!? I would have started a dome cult so fast, I already had purple robes picked out and everything.

– Junior said it was his plan all along to be a Trojan Horse and destroy Farmer Ollie's gang from the inside. Now, on the surface, that sounds really dumb and obviously it isn't true. But isn't that exactly what an idiot like Junior would say? I would have also accepted, "I meant to do that." That might be the show's best character-defining moment to date.

– Big Jim's big idea to keep Angie safe from Junior was to kick the kid out of the house, where Jim couldn't keep an eye on him? If I were a hormone-powered lunatic and I had an obsession with some blonde and I got kicked out of the house, guess what I'd do? Yep, be that blonde's worst nightmare. 

– Joe, just admit that Norrie is your girlfriend. You wanted to dome-bone her, that's true love.

– Why would Joe be drawing the mini-dome and the egg? Seriously. That's like me drawing a picture of the dead hooker I buried in the des—NEVER MIND!

– It's really great that Angie wants to honor Rose by reopening the diner, but what is she going to sell? Homemade conversation?

– Farmer Ollie: "They're gonna drum you out faster than a knife fight in a phone booth." YES! More of these fake-sounding-but-true rural colloquialisms please!

– Now that Phil's hurt, is Dodee in charge of the radio station? She's probably getting the town all depressed by playing Sarah MacLachlan or something boring instead of spinning mind-melting psych jamz.

– One big problem with this episode: No Ben! Another big problem: No Dodee! And now we'll never have Reverend Arson or Farmer Ollie back! Thankfully, Junior carries enough weight, and he isn't going anywhere. But bring back BEN, PLEASE!

  • Comments (275)
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  • Indru_mai Aug 20, 2013

    Honestly, all in all I agree with your review, but for the love of God I hope they don't bring Ben back! He's the most frustrating character ever! Only thing he does is messes with everybody else's business. He's the plus one to the plus one, he has no place anywhere. Plus he acts like he's retarded. At least the other ones give the impression they try to think their every move, but this guy is plain stupid.
    Sorry, I don't mean to be offensive towards you or your review, I like your articles, but I simply can't see any reason for which someone would want that bastard Ben back.

  • gmanBegins Aug 18, 2013

    The monarch will be crowned!!.....My response....... *DOMEFACE!!!! (That's my copyright*) The last 2 episodes have shown an improved sense of mystery.Focus on what the dome is and this show becomes interesting.Go back to the Dome Opera and you get characters throwing snow globes at the damn thing!! Yes i continue to watch (why... i ask myself!!) Something to make you say hmmm *If they continue to kill off characters at this rate they will have no majors ones left for S2.. Maybe they will pull a Lost and have 5 background characters come forward act like they've been at every major EVENT!!..(don't get me started) Later Domers!!

  • Kerkesh Aug 17, 2013

    Monarch butterflies are pissed off at the Dome, too!

  • Kerkesh Aug 17, 2013

    By virtue of its development from larva to caterpillar to butterfly, the Monarch butterfly with its delicate beauty has been a universal symbol of reincarnation and transcendent transformation.
    This is similar to the symbolic meanings of eggs, as representation of the cycle of life, and in ancient eastern religions, the renewal of nature in Spring- references to Easter, Passover and Ramadan are clearly along those lines.
    If we accept that perspective, then whoever is behind the placement of the Dome; aliens or otherwise, the aims are clearly to examine whether the transformation of humanity is possible, into an elevated form of itself. If we want to be more optimistic , maybe it is the actually such transformation that is under way. If I were a superior alien civilization; with enough advancement to have the Black egg technology, I would want to submit an average specimen of humanity to some rite of passage if it should even be included in a Galactic Federation.
    Clearly, the dome did not travel light years from wherever in the galaxy as is; it would be easier to consider the Black Egg as the its origin, a kind of "solidified hologram". Also, it would be interesting to consider if the similarity between Dome and Black Egg could mean that in effect the Dome is the iceberg top of an egg structure that goes deep into the soil.
    Clearly, if that is the case, then the implication is transformation is first a political one. It means that individually, human beings cannot change by themselves and this change can only be forced upon by the social environment. All that talk of "we're all in it together" sounds like common sense but in effect it describes a society that has to be persuaded that evolution and common well-fare is a necessity in spite of the inherent impulse to look after number one. This is a terrible conclusion of what we are worth as a species, that survival is not a natural derivative of altruism.
    In science fiction terms, what we have here lies within the tradition of the generational spaceship.The idea is as old as the conception of spaceships as it was already described its founding father, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. The view is that a spaceship in a situation of the limitations of the speed of light has to consider an environment whereas a succession of generations would follow, living within the limited confines it defines until the final destitnation is reached. To alleviate this problem cryonics was envisioned, but clearly this is not the case here.
    We are here in exactly what the first famous story published by Robert Heinlein in 1941 titled "Universe" describes. The crew of a generational spaceship have forgotten their environment and a rigid, highly stratified political/social organization, until the hero has a conceptual breakthrough and discovers the truth. The concept also examined the idea of the spaceship as a surrogate mother figure, and Philip K Dick examined the possibilities of false realities bestowed upon suspended animated astronauts linked to a vast computer.
    If we choose to see the Dome under that light, the path towards the conceptual breakthrough, then this might turn out to be a very interesting journey.

  • ben45tpy Aug 17, 2013

    I'm surprised the show's improving, maybe there's hope.

  • MsSheryl Aug 16, 2013

    I lasted 4 episodes. Terrible show. The two mommies made me gag.

  • CHrollCHum Aug 19, 2013

    Because of the mediocrity and clichés, or because they were two mommies?

  • Blindpew2 Aug 15, 2013

    I think this is one of the best shows ever shown on TV. All the characters are totally believable and behave much like any small town folk would if a dome came down on them. I hope this show runs forever and if I could get in I would go and live amongst them in Chester's Mill.

  • MsSheryl Aug 16, 2013


  • 377221 Aug 15, 2013

    The "monarch" will actually turn out to be Stephen King. He'll be crowned after he mysteriously shows up and makes everything make more sense.

  • cowboy2831 Aug 15, 2013

    I worked on a farm for a few years, but that was over a quarter century ago, so maybe farming techniques have changed over the years. But, can someone please explain to me why farmer Ollie would need to use blasting caps during planting season? That's the most ridiculous line I've heard on TV in a while.

  • LaurenLS Aug 16, 2013

    In some places the ground can be really hard or not deep enough for crops so the places where they want to plant will be blown up to break up the soil. Its usually done for trees or deep root plants in new fields and I don't think it wouldn't normally be used every year in fields that are regularly sown.

    They could probably have used something more realistic though like a fuse.

  • MichaelCurran1 Aug 16, 2013

    Thank you! I was like WTF ... ammonium nitrate sure... but "oh he's a farmer, he should have BLASTING CAPS?!?!?" does he plant his crops in granite or something. I felt like they just said "say that line really fast and the majority of our audience will take it at face value ... cause hey, they're watching this show, they cant be THAT smart"

  • gizma1982 Aug 15, 2013

    One of my favourite episode so far. Monarch ? I think is Angie. With her tatto is like butterflies were looking up for her.

  • LaurenLS Aug 16, 2013

    We can only hope they crown the butterfly as the ruler of Chester's Mill, it would be an improvement.

  • MichaelCurran1 Aug 16, 2013

    Gee the fact they opened the episode with a close-up and camera follow on a monarch butterfly couldn't relate at all either I bet ... I guess someone writing for this show remembered their 8th grade English lesson about foreshadowing ... sigh, just sigh.

  • wrecker2005 Aug 15, 2013

    yup that's the monarch butterfly tattooed at the back of her shoulder

  • Gislef Aug 15, 2013

    It seemed kind of rainbowy for a Monarch.

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