Sunday was the Big Love season finale, finally.
I’ve watched Big Love religiously since it started (see what I did there?). I know many people, especially women, find the storyline hard to take, saying that it glorifies polygamy and a patriarchal subculture. But to me, the show does quite the opposite. I find that Big Love uses its outrageous plotlines to demonstrate the folly of trusting another person with your future, even if — especially if — that person claims to have a direct line to God.
This season, however, was kind of a mess. And the problems went well beyond the premise of the show. I’m not sure what happened to the writers of the excellent Season 3, but Season 4 was such a departure that I can’t imagine the same minds were behind it.
An AV Club reviewer went so far as to say that she wouldn’t mind if next season begins with Bill sitting up in bed, turning to Barb and saying, “I just had the weirdest dream…”
I totally agree — if it meant a return to the Big Love I knew and loved.
Looking back at the entire, cram-packed season, I think the problem was two fold: too much plot and too much Bill. I can’t explain that without spoilers, so proceed at your own risk.
The primary story arc of Season 4 was Bill’s run for state senate, much to the dismay of just about everyone. Even knowing that Bill is something of a stubborn jerk didn’t help us make sense of the run. Not until the finale did we have a clue that he wanted to pursue public office to bring The Principle (of plural marriage) out of “the dark.” I’m not sure knowing that earlier would’ve helped the season, but at least we would’ve understood why he was so driven.
In the process of being elected, however, he put the happiness of his family in jeopardy. First Wife Barb is ready to leave the marriage. Nicki has decided that she doesn’t want to share Bill with the other wives.
Margene is legally married to Ana-the-almost-fourth-wife’s boyfriend and seems happier with the two of them than with the Henricksons.
Ana is pregnant with Bill’s baby. Ben is more confused than ever, after returning home from a temporary exile for falling for Margene and Sarah has moved away with her new husband.
But we seemed to be little more than observers in Season 4. It feels like what happens when a friend moves away (or pulls away) — you may still know what she’s doing but you don’t really know her any more. The best part of Big Love is its characters, especially the wives, and we have been deprived of much of the intimacy we expect from the show.
That said, I still loved scenes like the one in the finale in which Barb, Nicki and Margene were trying on dresses for the after-election party. The interaction between the wives was priceless, and I hope to see more of that in Season 5.
To be sure, Season 4 ended with the perfect setup for moving from the external to the internal in telling the story. A newly elected Bill used his acceptance speech, as promised, to out himself as a polygamist and to introduce his wives. The looks on the faces of each of the four main characters as they stood on the platform holding hands provided the perfect snapshot of how clueless and narcissistic Bill is — and how uncertain the Henricksons’ future is.
What did you think of Season 4 of Big Love? Was the campaign story a good way bring the Henricksons’ lifestyle front and center? Do you expect the family to stay together?