The primary purpose of order in societies is security. People join communities and create rules, norms, and power structures that govern social interactions and prescribe acceptable behavior because they are seeking to provide their day-to-day experiences with some kind of structure and security. The rules and norms created by a community provide a framework through which people can understand their encounters with other people. If someone should transgress, it’s nice knowing that there are rules in place that will ensure that said person will be punished for breaking the rules of society. Watching Under the Dome this season, it seems as though the show is concerned with how the people of Chester’s Mill attempt to find and maintain order. Living under the dome, our characters are constantly seeking to create some kind of order that would make the situation more livable and less hostile. Religious fanatic Lyle looks to religion to provide order, Rebecca thinks order will come from cold and misguided application of the scientific method (mass murder), and Big Jim thinks order will come from putting himself in power/the Dome. Yet, at every turn the characters’ attempts are undermined by some incident that causes a dramatic shift in who’s in charge, who’s sheriff etc…
This lack of order is also evident in the overall show. Television is a highly ordered environment. There are rules put in place, which limit what characters can and cannot do, and what story line options are available to writers. What’s evident from this season of Under the Dome is that this show lacks order. There is relatively little stability in the storytelling because the writers have done a poor job of establishing the rules of this show. (Or maybe the one rule is that there are no rules?) Whenever some semblance of order has been found on the show, however, it is quickly destroyed. Alliances, character relationships, and the balance of power are all constantly in flux and seem to change faster than the speed of light. In reference to the Community quote, Under the Dome is an the example of the “this” to which Abed refers—disorder.
Tonight’s episode made it abundantly clear just how little structure and stability there is in Under the Dome as we said goodbye to yet another sheriff (goodbye Phil, no one will miss you because you were even more incompetent than the FBI agents on The Following) and saw the townspeople forget what happened just a day earlier.
It was Julia’s boring story line this week that really made the order v. disorder debate relevant. Following Big Jim and Rebecca’s arrest last week, Julia has assumed the role of town leader. Naturally, she encounters some opposition from townspeople who preferred Big Jim and don’t believe he tried to kill half of them. Her first order of business as town leader is ensuring that there’s enough food for everyone. She proposes the creation of a voluntary food share program. Seeking resource security, the people decide to enroll in the food share program because they would be safer working with the rest of the town than on their own. When people enter society seeking community, they willingly give up some rights in exchange for the protection that comes with a set of rules and norms. This may be over-reading into this show—but, hey the show doesn’t give us very much to work with—but this process is mirrored in the people willingly donating food (comparable to giving up some rights) in order to ensure the safety of the community and thus themselves.
The community that is Chester’s Mill, however, is failing to provide it’s inhabitants with the security they so dearly desire. For one, making Julia the new town leader is probably the worst decision ever. Second, it’s clear that none of the town’s leaders have done a good job of establishing a code of conduct for the town as some of the townspeople still think that rioting and brandishing guns are acceptable responses to decisions they don’t agree with.
NEXT: Julia, you are no Jack Shephard