<em>Under the Dome</em> Under the Dome

The wait is over, Under the Dome fans: Finally, some answers are coming our way.

"We'll understand much more than we have the first two seasons," showrunner Neal Baer promises, adding that the pieces will start to fall into place starting with Thursday's two-hour premiere. "The first two hours launches us into a whole new sort of reset of the show."

The first question that will be dealt with in Season 3, according to Baer? "Why did thedome come down and who's behind it, or what's behind it?" he tells TVGuide.com. "We'll answer those two questions, and go deep into that question and talk about who is responsible in Chester's Mill, who's not, and what this knowledge does to the citizens who are trapped under the dome."

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In the meantime, Baer is willing to definitively rule out some fan theories about the domethat he's come across. "It's not the U.S. military testing a new weapon," he promises. And, he adds, it's not due to Barbie's father, Don (Brett Cullen) - although Don may have an indirect connection to the origins of the dome. (More on that later.)

Like Seasons 1 and 2, Season 3 will encompass a time period of about two weeks - and will continue to forge its own narrative path, while still drawing some influence from Stephen King's novel of the same name. "We're always inspired by Stephen King's more character-driven approach," Baer tells TVGuide.com. "I would say that we're definitely inspired by the book, but we don't specifically draw from it. We're off on our own track now. The book takes place over about a week, so we're way past that."

Here are five more burning questions we already have about Season 3.

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1. Why are Julia and Big Jim working together? We already know that Julia (Rachelle Lefevre) and Big Jim (Dean Norris) form an unlikely alliance in the third season. But what prompts them to put aside their differences and consider the whole attempted murder/foot-stabbing thing water under the bridge? "They unite against the enemy within," Baer explains. "[Big Jim] and Julia really come to terms where he says, 'You've always said thedome was here to protect us. You've always had faith in the dome. You're wrong.' And Julia comes to see that maybe Big Jim is right."

2. So ... who is the enemy? "The theme of last season was the dome, struggling to live under the dome," Baer explains. "This season is struggling to live under the dome and fight the enemy within - and it's not Big Jim." Along the way, Baer says, we'll discover what each character's "emotional Achilles' heel" is. "That's really what this season is about, the individual versus the group, and how our individual emotions like fear, anger, hate, shame affect us, and they prevent us from being fully integrated into the group."

3. Which new characters will be introduced? Eriq La Salle comes aboard as a man named Martin who is Don's superior at Aktaion Energy, and Marg Helgenberger is joining the cast as Christine Pike, an anthropologist who was looking for the egg with her assistant, Eva (Kylie Bunbury), before the dome came down. "They hold the key to why the dome is down, and we'll come to understand through them the mystery of the egg and the dome," Baer says. Also being introduced is Patrick (Paul McCrane), a scientist who will play a major role in Aktaion-related flashbacks involving La Salle's character.

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4. Who's falling in love? Who's breaking up? Expect some strange love connections this season, including a love triangle among Joe (Colin Ford), Norrie (MacKenzie Lintz) and Hunter (Max Ehrich). There's also plenty of tension between Barbie (Mike Vogel) and Julia, thanks in no small part to her new alliance with Big Jim and the introduction of Bunbury's character Eva. "Julia and Big Jim become - I wouldn't say bosom buddies, but they certainly become allies against everyone, and that brings up the issue of Barbie and Julia," Baer hints. "And a strikingly unusual love triangle forms between Barbie, Julia and Eva." Another newcomer who stirs things up? Helgenberger's character Christine. "Christine is kind of the pivotal character this season who has new alliances form," Baer says. "She becomes very close with Junior, in very interesting ways. Junior makes a complete break from Big Jim and aligns himself with Christine ... in a highly sexually charged way."

5. What's the significance of Melanie's return? If you thought Melanie's (Grace Victoria Cox) appearance at the end of the Season 2 finale was shocking, you ain't seen nothing yet, according to Baer. And she holds the answers to some big questions, both old and new. "We see some shocking events occur with Melanie in the first three episodes. Very shocking," he teases. "Through Melanie, we understand the significance of the egg, and also we understand the significance of [Marg Helgenberger's character] Christine."

Season 3 of Under the Dome premieres Thursday at 9/8c on CBS. Which questions do you need answered?

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)