I started this season of “Big Love” the way I do most HBO series runs in the post-“Wire,” post-“Sopranos” age — hopeful but prepared to be disappointed. And, to be sure, this chronicle of polygamy-on-the-DL-in-the-suburbs hasn’t been all that. The ratio of soap opera-like plot developments to the less flashy, more interesting glimpses of the human heart has been a bit lopsided, but OK, it’s television. And there’s a reason soap operas run for years and years — it’s always fun to check in on others’ action-packed lives.
But beyond the soapy stuff (writers, I saw Sarah’s miscarriage coming like a brass band), the show is still finding the sorts of stories that make HBO’s native series so much better than Showtime’s. Things are building to a climax in the world of Bill Henrickson and his extended family, and it’s fun to watch.
At this point I should probably note some spoilers are coming. You’ve been warned.
One theme, this season, has been how Bill’s choice to take additional wives has affected and compromised those women, as well as others who come in contact with them. His life is a wreck. All three of his wives are miserable and coping in their own ways. A fourth entered and left the family in a matter of hours. His business partner, also multiply wed, saw two of his brides run off together, a payoff we’ve been waiting for since season one, when a single shot of them playing footsie under a card table suggested they had their own special bond. And the poison is seeping into his children — a pregnant teenage daughter, a son in love with wife No. 3, a tween girl up to various nefarious activities. The more recent children, those of wives two and three, are too young to raise much hell, but their day is surely coming.
The early season questions were mainly about how the sex stuff works. This season, Bill lost a whole bottle of Viagra down the bathroom sink drain, which left him suggesting an evening of cuddling to wife No. 2, but she’s already got his number — what really makes Bill’s dick hard are his various business interests, all of which seem to involve high-wire negotiations, slamming doors and blood oaths.
But this week was an emotional payoff of sorts. Bill, who has been groping toward an understanding that polygamy has a truly evil side (don’t expect him to grasp that he’s part of the problem, not for a few more seasons, anyway), will have to confront it directly, now that his sister-in-law-to-be has had her neck broken, fleeing a forced marriage to a truly insane FLDS “prophet” and his transgendered first wife, and…
I told you it got a little soapy from time to time.
Anyway, this episode was the best of the season, as each wife digs into her personal hell and shores up the bunker walls. First wife Barb is even more the bullying boss lady. Second wife Nikki finds, for the first time in her life, a man she actually wants to have sex with. Third wife Margene, the current baby factory, is overwhelmed by the cacophony of children’s voices she endures all day and dreams of trips to the grocery store. Meanwhile, back at the Juniper Creek compound, Hollis Green stirs his creepy stew, and caught in the middle is poor FLDS pawn Kathy, the bride-to-be, with her signature braid delivering the death blow after a brief flight to freedom. Will it dawn on Bill, the part he plays in all this female misery? Of course not. But that’s why it’s fun to watch.
Discuss, if you like.
Or, we can continue to talk about Rush Limbaugh. I wonder how much those Dominican prostitutes charged him. I figure he had to hide C-notes in his flab rolls and let them go exploring. Some things just cannot be expected at market prices.
I leave you with a joke I heard the other day: One of these things is not like the others: Herpes, AIDS, gonorrhea, a house in Detroit. Can you tell which one? The answer is: Gonorrhea, because you can get rid of that.
It’s important to keep a sense of humor in dark times. Remember that.