Exigent is defined as pressing; demanding. And there are plenty of exigent circumstances in this past episode of Under the Dome.
Let’s start with the most significant – the manhunt for Barbie. Big Jim has become the master controller, manipulating information for his own evil deeds. He is now overtly calling all the shots by declaring a state of emergency. He’s imposed house sweeps, illegal detentions, and created his own militia with eerily familiar colored arm bands. With Barbie being falsely accused of shooting Julia, as well as numerous other transgressions, he has very few friends left in Chester’s Mill. Luckily, he’s a hit with the teenagers, namely Angie. She helps Barbie, as exigent circumstances take hold when he makes a bold move to save Julia and move her from the hospital. If Big Jim finds Julia, should she awaken, she’s the only one who can threaten his web of lies and could find herself the next in his wake of murders.
It’s Big Jim versus Barbie in the second to last episode of Under the Dome’s first season and neither disappoint. They fit perfect stereotypes and are great foils for one another. Big Jim – the lying murderous politician, hell bent on not only keeping his stranglehold over the citizens of Chester’s Mill but assuming ultimate power. Big Jim is easy to hate. He’s your typical politician who’s been corrupted by power. He not only twists the truth with a white, crooked smile, he gives information that he knows will fan others fears. Giving the right bit of information, no matter how much of a lie, at the most opportune time leads average citizens to forgo their rights and let Big Jim do the dirty work. But they’ve handed over the reigns to a crazed man. He’s willing to murder anyone who gets in his way.
Speaking of which, standing stoic and noble in his path is Barbie. As Big Jim fits one stereotype, so too does Barbie. He’s the antihero we all love and fits all the requirements – good hair, ruggedly handsome, lives by his own rules, reluctantly stands up for those who can’t, and when push comes to shove, he does the right thing. At episode’s end, Barbie is faced with a choice. With Big Jim looking on, pressuring him from all angles, Barbie does what we all want him to do. He resists.
The Big Jim/Barbie standoff is well crafted throughout the season, coming to a head in “Exigent Circumstances.” When characters who are polar opposites collide, especially with morals involved, there needs to be an emotional charge in the audience. At least with this reviewer, there is. Although Barbie isn’t my favorite antihero, he is likeable enough. More importantly, Big Jim is so sinister he creates an anxiety within me. Deep down, I know he’ll be stopped, but I can’t help but be pulled into the story, falling when the heroes fall, and angered when Big Jim triumphs. This is good storytelling. I want to keep watching.
All this talk of Barbie makes me wonder what it is about the antihero that is so darn appealing? There is something truly inspiring witnessing someone stand up to tyranny, someone unwilling to let fear get the best of him or her. Is that because it’s easier to watch someone else doing it, than actually doing it ourselves? Sure it is. But those antiheroes hold onto a freedom that is also attractive. They aren’t held by the same rules which confine most of society. They aren’t as afraid to lose what they have. Maybe, in essence, that is because they don’t hold onto what most do as tightly (money, status, family). In many instances, they really have nothing to lose. Antiheroes like Wolverine, Han Solo, the Punisher, Snake Plissken are favorites because they have, in one way or another, flipped the bird to the powers that be. And deep down, we like that. Maybe we can’t do it ourselves, but a great sense of pride and fulfillment occurs, at least in me, when the antihero stands in the face of fear, draws a line in the sand and holds firm on the right ideals during exigent circumstances. It makes Under the Dome fun to watch, especially when the one who’s holding the power acts like a little child when he can’t break the antihero.