The ”Big Love” season finale: Opportunity knocks
Back when The Sopranos was in full swing, I detested the teasers that promised that some monumental twist would make the next week’s episode ”the most dramatic ever!” More often than not, it would turn out to be Tony’s newest fling, Christopher’s latest existential crisis, or another nonsensical gripe from Paulie, nothing that would warrant that kind of buildup. For the season 2 finale of Big Love, HBO did not overhype the action, and that was a good thing, because I found the episode disappointing. In fact, I’d venture to say that last week’s setup episode may have bested this week’s payoff. This is certainly not the way I envisioned starting a year-long break from my favorite show.
Or maybe I was just a bit confused by Bill’s latest shenanigans, which seemed like a endless string of missed opportunities. For one thing, Bill had Roman — frail, pushed aside by his own son, and nearly powerless — in the palm of his hand, yet he failed to make the most out of that situation. Sure, sheltering Roman was the right thing to do, since the alternative was allowing him to die by sedation at the hands of Alby and his creepy wife, Lura, but was there a plan? For someone who devotes so much time to plotting his family’s future through his business ventures, Bill didn’t really think ahead on this one.
So let me try and recap here. Bill held a council meeting at Juniper Creek, to which Alby was not invited, and urged the UEB members to vote in a trustee to oversee their investments and funds. Unbeknownst to him, mother Lois had launched a full-on election campaign on behalf of her son. Bill got voted in as trustee, but he wasn’t interested in the gig. Alby called for another vote a few days later and got himself elected. Meanwhile, Bill had gone back to his buddy at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, urging her to investigate Juniper Creek, or at least put a scare into them. The end result? A colossal mess as Roman got arrested (under the Mann Act, which bars the interstate transport of minors for ”immoral purposes”), with Alby, presumably, having made the call. Huh?
Well, we know one thing: Bill wants Alby ”brought down,” as he told the federal agent with that heinous Boston accent. But Roman’s really no better in his mind. Bill considers all the Grant men to be evil incarnate, deserving of suffocation by pillow, if not worse. With their long history, it’s no wonder. After all, it was Roman who banished Bill from the compound at 16, unseated his grandfather, and evicted the Henricksons from ”the big house.” So we finally have some context, but, still, few answers.
And then there’s Nicki’s role as an unknowingly subversive double agent. She was surprisingly astute in explaining to Barb that each wife really gets only one-third of the information. But what they do with it is an entirely different issue. I think what we’ve learned throughout this season is that Nicki needs to keep her mouth shut, because anything less than that jeopardizes the family’s very existence.
The fact that a mini-compound has come together in Sandy, Utah, where the Henricksons were at one point housing Joey, Wanda, Kathy, Adaleen, and Roman in various rooms and garages, certainly doesn’t bode well for the Henricksons’ stability. Isn’t that what Bill has always said he wanted? A comfortable, normal life for himself and his family? So why does he perpetually run back to the compound and meddle in their affairs? Revenge, as Barb finally said it.
And let’s hear it for the first wife. Since the last episode, when she stood up for herself in front of her ultra-judgmental mother and sister, it has seemed that Barb’s gotten her gumption back. At least enough to out herself — at long last — to Pam the neighbor (taking care of the surrogacy issue once and for all) and to insist to Bill that she does not, under any circumstances, want a fourth wife. Of course, she said this just before Bill and Ana went at it in the pantry.
We can at least give the writers props for bringing that story line back around, but it felt crammed in. What, Margene just had an impulse to drag this innocent waitress (whom Nicki hilariously called Bavarian) back into their family drama, revealing her deception in the process? Is there not enough going on at home? And although it was awfully kind of Barb to profess her love for Margene publicly despite having just learned about Ana, did Margene really deserve it? She doesn’t seem to offer Barb nearly the same respect.
Does anyone, for that matter? Sarah is disgusted by her surroundings, flat out calling her mom and dad cult members, while Ben is testing their beliefs from the opposite end of the spectrum, basically challenging Bill and Barb to prove their faith to him. Truthfully, were it not for the kids, this episode would have dragged into dullsville. Sarah, as usual, had the line of the night (”Church of Dad doesn’t count”) and offered a spot-on assessment: ”We’re freaks….We don’t have to be victims of Mom and Dad’s choices.” And it looks like she’s taking the plunge and throwing chastity out the window. (While I do still contend that Scott is a serious babe, I’ll admit it is unsettling to think that he’s a good 10 years older than Sarah.)
Ben, on the other hand, has taken to indoctrinating Wayne and anyone else who’ll listen, convinced that Bill is leading the family in the right direction. ”We’re pioneers, too,” he told his sister. ”My sons and daughters will be born into polygamy, and they won’t be unhappy.” Sarah may want to save him, but her crushed look of defeat as Ben started driving a float featuring the quintessential Mormon nuclear family and told her to follow him, pretty much said it all.
As did the last line of the show, when Don asked Bill what he’s thinking about. Bill’s reply: ”Business.” Ugh.
So what is there to look forward to? Thanks to Lois, Wanda’s continued insanity, I suppose, as well as how the strange threesome of Wanda, Joey, and Kathy will evolve, considering Wanda’s declaration that Kathy is ”smothering” her. Perhaps Ana will stay in the picture, causing more strain for the first wife, despite Bill’s assurance that Barb will always be heard. Here’s a thought: Maybe Ana should have Pam and Carl’s baby. And speaking of babies, could a pregnancy be on the horizon for Sarah? Or are we to assume that Scott would be responsible enough to at least have protection? And who’s gonna protect the 8,000-member (!) Juniper Creek community from the wrath of Alby? What will become of Roman, and is he, as Nicki wholeheartedly believes, the one true prophet? Discuss on the message board below.
Fortunately, so much of Big Love is based on real fundamentalist history, sometimes plucked from recent headlines, that perhaps we can predict some of the outcomes. I hope you guys got a chance to check out my interview with Salt Lake Tribune reporter Brooke Adams, who covers the polygamy beat and provided some insight into the Big Love backstory. If you find yourself craving a post-season fix, I highly recommend bookmarking her blog, which is updated almost daily. As for me, I’ll be heading back to my regular beat: rock & roll. It’s been fun and sometimes infuriating, but thank you all for reading.