This is a little more like it. After two somewhat lackluster episodes I feel like this series got its legs back with this episode. The good citizens of Chester’s Mill are afflicted with a rain of blood that burns. Rebecca and town barber Lyle (Dwight Yoakam) are the contestants on the Science Vs. Religion game show that results. Meanwhile, Joe, Nonnie, and the mystery girl from the lake investigate end up at the school, where strange things are afoot. Barbie and Julia are beginning to realize they may not be particularly compatible.
I think Rebecca is going to end up as the new, manipulative town baddie, and they’ve set things up for her to butt heads with Julia, who is becoming a true believer like Lyle. Rebecca knows an awful lot of stuff, and manages to collect and analyze an inordinate amount of data in a ridiculously short period of time. But, that’s TV science for you. It’s how she’s using the data that’s interesting. Naturally, she’s convinced that the rain has a perfectly natural cause, and if she can figure it out, she can stop it. And she does. So she’s got some credibility, particularly with Big Jim, who she butters up like crazy (he thinks she likes him). It’s at the end of the episode that Rebecca becomes interesting, because she tells Big Jim that they don’t have enough food to feed everyone in town, and suggests a lottery to decrease their numbers. TV likes to vilify religion and science and given that this show is about as subtle as a boot to the head, I’m not expecting much here. But, the dilemma is an interesting one. How do you, in a closed system with limited resources, figure out how to maximize survival? It’s the old lifeboat problem.
The title of the episode is a legal term, “force majeure,” in which the parties involved in a contract are not held liable during some extraordinary and unavoidable circumstance. Such as, oh I don’t know, I giant dome that cuts your town off from the rest of the world. According to my brief google fu, liability is suspended in most cases, which basically means that when the dire circumstances are over, the normal terms of the contract are expected to resume. So, in this case, Rebecca and Lyle are free to exercise their various perspectives to their logical and potentially deathly conclusion because of the dome. This means I can still hope for some rational cannibalism, right?
Naturally, Big Jim and Barbie at least listen to Rebecca’s suggestion. Julia is horrified. The battle lines are being drawn, you see. Big Jim and Rebecca against Lyle and Julia, with Barbie trying to play the reasonable guy in the middle who listens to both sides then finds his own solution. Both ends are being presented as extremes, which is unfortunate, but as I said, subtly is not really this show’s strong suit. I’m glad to see Barbie and Julia having problems based on different temperaments and ideas about the dome, rather than over another person hovering over the relationship. I’m certain Barbie will emerge the hero over all of this in the end, but it should be fun to watch as it plays out.
The other side of this is Lyle, the town barber. There’s a kind of cringey scene at the beginning of the episode when he gives Big Jim a shave, mainly because you can already see that Lyle isn’t playing with a completely full deck. Dwight Yoakam, with his slightly off look is perfect for a role like this, since he does a creepy jailhouse rendition of CCR’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain.” He kidnaps Rebecca and tortures her in an attempt to get her to put her faith in the dome. Rebecca tries to fool him but it doesn’t work, of course. Lyle’s eventually stopped by Barbie and Julia, and that gives us an opportunity to find out that Lyle and Junior’s mother used to date each other, and Pauline gets a message to Junior to talk to Lyle. So Lyle knows a lot more about what’s happening. Also, gosh, isn’t it great that a mysterious internet signal managed to get through the dome just in time for the kids at the school to be on their product placement tablets to check it out!
Speaking of the kids, Joe is back. I really like that kid, and I was so happy to see him back in charming problem-solving mode this week. He’s really better as a quieter, cerebral character as last week demonstrated. Nonnie, on the other hand, was still completely annoying. She should get together with Junior, they’re both petulant. We also find out more about the girl from the lake, whose name is Melanie (Grace Victoria Cox, she’s very pretty).
There seems to be something with handprints. It’s probably just an effective visual motif, but we see a bloody handprint in the first episode against the dome, and one in these early episodes where Angie was killed. It’s an effective visual as always, don’t know if it means anything else.
Like I said, I liked this one, mostly for the overblown and ruthless science vs. religion game. If they keep it this bombastic it should be entertaining. I definitely think Rebecca is setting herself up to be the major player in the town, but she’ll use Big Jim as a shield to get things done. There may be hard decisions that have to be made, but as always, I expect the dome to provide a solution before things get too bad. If the dome has an intelligence, and there were indications last season that it did, it seems interested in how the people of the town solve problems. For all we know, this could be some big experiment. That would be fun.