This episode was actually decent, dare I say, good? I'm legitimately shocked. The improvement in writing and acting are drastic as the characters' actions make sense, they act intelligently, and there is genuine tension as secrets are revealed.
I suppose it's fitting that an episode that features a B-plot about the how the town could suffocate as a result of a dust storm clogging up the semi-permeable dome would act as a breath of fresh air for the season.
It turns out that my speculation about Melanie's return was correct as she was brought back to keep the "4 hands" intact. It does lead to a bit of fridge horror, however. At one point, Joe posits that death is the only escape, but she points out that her existence proves that it isn't the case.
I was initially skeptical of Joe's attempts to win Norrie back, but by the episode's end, she seems to have mellowed out and we get a sense that she is returning to her earlier, and far more likable, persona.
A lot of characters seem to be returning to their normal selves. Big Jim starts working the town to regain his power after deeming Julia unfit to lead. Her idea of putting things to a vote isn't a bad one per se; her heart is in the right place, but Jim does bring up a good point. They need a leader and, while he labels them as panic stricken, I called them stupid, so putting major decisions up to them may not be the wisest choice.
Even the egg makes a comeback. I had honestly forgotten that Julia threw it in the lake and figured that after the magic butterfly thing that its role in the story was done. That doesn't seem to be the case as the hands go bring it back in an effort to find more answers.
I think the real highlight though is the stuff between Sam and Barbie. The butting of heads felt natural and it was nice to see Barbie pick up on things and put the pieces together as the episode progresses. It all culminates with an effective monologue by Sam as he reveals the motive for his actions. While his actions were far from noble, you do feel bad for the guy and, based on what he had seen, you could see why he would go down the path he did.
As far as the apparent void that lies at the end of that tunnel? I'm guessing it's some sort of Last Crusade-esque "leap of faith" type of thing. Granted, that still doesn't answer what's on the other end, but considering Sam fell and it looks like Barbie's going to as well, I doubt that death is what lies there.
I really hope that the rest of the episodes this season are more like this one. It would be a shame to waste this momentum, but just as quickly as this episode turned the tide, so too could it turn back the other way. In any event, this episode ranks as the best of the season so far (low bar, but still). If future episodes take their cue from this one, the season could still be saved yet.