'Under the Dome's' Brian K. Vaughan Previews New Side to Junior, Detour for Big Jim

The executive producer responds to burning questions from the second episode and warns that the CBS summer drama will veer away from Stephen King's book and avoid a meth-related storyline.
"Under the Dome's" Natalie Martinez

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the second episode of CBS' Under the Dome.]

It's official: The residents of Chester's Mill are trapped inside a real-life snow globe. During the second episode of CBS' Under the Dome, the unfortunate community learned that they can't dig out from under what is in fact a dome and that the military didn't create the mysterious barrier sealing them off from the rest of the world. 

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As word spreads within the small town, new details emerge about the 10-mile-wide dome, among them: Digging out is impossible, it only affects nearby things with batteries (i.e. Duke's pacemaker) and bullets bounce off it like a ball.

Meanwhile, Big Jim (Dean Norris) is working overtime to ensure that Deputy Linda (Natalie Martinez) doesn't learn anything about why Duke was working with the town councilman to stockpile propane and sends Lester (Ned Bellamy), the worst reverend ever, in to search the late sheriff's home.

Below, executive producer Brian K. Vaughan responds to the burning questions from the episode as part of The Hollywood Reporter's weekly Inside the Dome feature.

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The Hollywood Reporter: The creepiest minister ever, Lester, was working with Big Jim to manufacture something with propane that would have helped save Chester's Mill. What are they trying to save the town from? Who else knows about the why of the propane?

Brian K. Vaughan: When you're both the reverend and running a mortuary, you're not dealing with a typical bird. (Laughs.) We did get a first look at a conspiracy that clearly involved Duke, Lester and Big Jim. If you believe the reverend, each of them were involved with this conspiracy for a very different reason. Duke was doing this for the good of the town, but perhaps Coggins and Big Jim were doing it to line their own pockets. What they were up to we'll have to wait and see.

THR: Was Big Jim making meth?

Vaughan: It seems that drugs are involved. Meth was a big part of Stephen King's novel, but we felt Breaking Bad has covered meth better than anyone possibly could, especially with Dean Norris having come from that world, that we might have to do something a little bit different. It's not meth, whatever they're up to.

THR: How long can the sheriff's department hold on to its authority? How will we see Chester's Mill create a new democracy as people begin to panic?

Vaughan: They're dropping like flies! We've already lost Duke and now we lose another member of the ever-dwindling Chester's Mill police force. It's a problem. We wanted to start the season by picking away at these figures of authority to really put the residents of Chester's Mill behind the eight ball. They're losing the people they need most. For the first part of the season, we always thought of this as the time of hope. That the gift and the curse of Chester's Mill is that people really do believe that, "Whatever is going on, it's only a matter of time before we get out of here." The military might not be acknowledging us, but they're only inches away and they're clearly working on something. People haven't yet totally collapsed to the thinking that they'll have to start over from scratch, but it does seem like we're very much headed in that direction.

THR: Barbie (Mike Vogel) was trying to collect money from Peter (R. Keith Harris). Might Barbie's boss begin looking for him?

Vaughan: For some people, the dome is the best thing that's ever happened to them. If you're underwater in your house and you owe the bank but it's outside of Chester's Mill, you're very grateful for that dome. Barbie may be in a similar circumstance. He's clearly working for some not-great people, but that is a question: Are they out there or are they in there with him? Stay tuned.

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THR: Will Julia (Rachelle Lefevre) begin to suspect that there's more to Barbie than the hero he's become after he says he found his dog tags where she'd already searched?

Vaughan: That's very much begun in this episode; her Spidey Sense is tingling. If she's not fully aware that her husband is no more, she's beginning to sense that there's more to Barbie than he first acknowledged. The sexual tension between them is palpable. The more time these two spend together, the more they're going to start to fall for each other; and yet the more they get to know each other, the more likelihood that the dangerous secrets between them will all come out. It's a tricky situation to say the least.

THR: If the dome only affects things with batteries, why didn't Lester's hearing aid malfunction when he was at Duke's house near the barrier?

Vaughan: You can get very close to the barrier and have nothing happen. It's touching it and interacting with it that it seems to only then have an effect on electrical objects. We'll continue to explore what the rules of the dome are and how it can hurt you.

THR: Joe (Colin Ford) is mapping the dome and recording the events that take place. How will that come into play down the road?

Vaughan: Joe is going to become really important to the town. The adults are all obsessed with the grown-up drama that's happening in the heart of Chester's Mill and it's really Joe and his friend Ben who decide that this thing is what we need to be coming to understand and make sense of. He's mapped out the dimensions so we know it's a perfect circle that cuts off just about all of Chester's Mill and we started to learn it's at least semipermeable and seems to let a little water and air through. Joe is finding out some facts about the dome, but we still have the question of his seizures. Does he have some connection to the dome beyond just being a really bright, curious kid? And what about Norrie [Mackenzie Lintz], who Joe got his first glimpse of? She's the other young person who had a seizure; what connection do these two have? We'll find out more about that next week.

THR: The dome only admits a small amount of water inside. Is that proving that the air supply won't run out or is there more to that?

Vaughan: Water is going to become a very important part of this season: Where is it coming from? How much do they have inside? We knew that the dome should be completely impenetrable to people and things, but if it were truly airtight, our show would only be a few days long and people [would] die very quickly. It is one of the things that the dome provides: some sort of ability for clean air to get through. We'll be finding out more about than in the coming episodes.

THR: We see the military trying to permeate the dome and residents trying to dig their way out. How much more attention will be given to attempts to break through the dome?

Vaughan: It's the question we're asked most often. Next week we're going to learn how far deep this dome goes. People will realize if the military hasn't gotten them out yet, maybe it's up to us to find a way out. We'll be going down deep next week.

THR: The military isn't responsible for creating the dome. Is the source of it inside or outside the dome?

Vaughan: That's a very interesting question and one I'm not ready to answer yet. But before the end of this season you will get the answer to this question.

THR: Will the smoke from the fire begin to play a role in the town's living conditions?

Vaughan: Definitely. Living here in Los Angeles, it's something we all thing about frequently: We're all polluting our own dome as we're driving around in our gas-guzzling cars. Whether you think global warming is hypothetical or an actuality, people of Chester's Mill won't have the luxury of that debate; they'll be able to see what the effects of what they're doing to their environment are having on the dome, and it will have a definite impact on Chester's Mill.

THR: Linda has lost her mentor and father figure, Duke, as well as her brother-in-law -- and her husband is outside of the dome. How will she continue to make her mark on the town?

Vaughan: We wanted to start with someone in pilot who isn't the conventionally strong police character that you're used to seeing. She's a deputy -- and a good one -- but not terribly experienced. She's used to small-town crime and has never been to a shooting, to a homicide before, yet we really get to see the dome bring out the best of Linda. For a lot of characters, the dome breaks them down; but Linda is a character who gets stronger with each episode. The dome becomes this blast furnace that forges her into something new.

THR: With their ranks dwindling, could we see them bulk up the department?

Vaughan: That's coming up very soon. This idea that we'll need some auxiliary police force to augment their numbers. But first, we need a new sheriff. That will be happening first: deciding who exactly is in charge of the police. Is it Big Jim? Is it someone else? Once a new sheriff has been named, then we're going to start adding police officers. Spoiler alert: They might not all be as good as Linda. 

THR: Could we see Junior (Alexander Koch) follow in his father's footsteps and take a larger role in the town?

Vaughan: He has some involvement with the police in King's novel, and you'll have to wait to see if it's one of the things we steal from his novel or if we butcher his work again and go in an entirely different direction. Stay tuned! (Laughs.)

THR: Angie (Britt Robertson) is now not only trapped there but now chained to a bed. Will it get worse for her before it gets better?

Vaughan: She's like a Russian nesting doll, we can't trap her any more unless the fallout shelter has a basement and we take her down lower. I'm afraid things will only get worse for poor Angie, at least next week. We'll see if she's ever going to get out of there or if what Junior is suggesting this week is right: Is Angie sick? Is the dome making people crazy? Is being down here the safest place for Angie to be or is Junior truly a lunatic? All signs point to lunacy and yet next week we're really going to see a somewhat different side of Junior. Hopefully people's perceptions of him will start to change.

What did you think of Under the Dome's developments? Hit the comments below with your theories. Under the Dome airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on CBS.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com