After five seasons, Big Love ended with a bang Sunday night.
If you haven’t watched the finale and plan to, leave now or forever hold your peace. We can’t talk about the end of Big Love without big spoilers.
While those folks are getting their things together, let’s watch the Season 5 promotion accompanied by Natalie Maines’ version of God Only Knows, courtesy of HBO.
To be fair, I’m going to reveal my bias right away. Actually, I’m going to let Jezebel do it, since the headline of its review sums up my feelings after the finale: “Big Love Was About Feminism All Along.”
Of course, Big Love also was about gay marriage all along, albeit not always intentionally. In an enlightening interview with AfterElton.com, show creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer — gay men and RL partners — acknowledged the parallels while noting that gay marriage wasn’t in the national spotlight at the beginning of the series. But any minority struggling for equality under the law could see themselves in the Henricksons.
After a shaky Season 4, Big Love had a lot to accomplish in order to not only wrap up the series, but also redeem itself in the eyes of unhappy fans. Did Season 5 succeed? IMO, absolutely. And it did so by returning its focus to the heart of the series: the wives.
Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn) spent the season in something of a spiritual crisis, excommunicated from the LDS church of her youth but not able to take the leadership role she felt called to in Bill’s church. Bill took her struggle as a personal betrayal and didn’t provide the support she needed.
In the finale, she was about to be baptized into a reformed branch of the church led by women, but she couldn’t go through with it. My take on it is that Barb realized that her inner calling didn’t require validation by a church authority. In any case, she joined the rest of her family at Bill’s church for Easter — and Bill’s final service. When Bill lay dying and asked Barb for a blessing, he acknowledged her right to hold the priesthood and opened the way for her to lead his church. Her calling was fulfilled because she stayed true to herself.
For Nicki (Chloë Sevigny), the season was about facing her past. Raised on the Juniper Creek compound and the daughter of Prophet Roman Grant, Nicki didn’t struggle with patriarchy or plural marriage. She did, however, have a lot of emotional baggage from an abusive marriage when she was 14. Despite her acceptance of the Principle, she really wanted Bill all to herself, to be sure that he loved her.
Faced with a mirror of herself in daughter Cara Lynn (Cassi Thompson), Nicki overcame many of her demons. She became less desperate and tried to open up. The scene where Barb made Nicki accept a long hug was pitch perfect. Still, I think that the only way Nicki could really let her sister wives in was for Bill to be out of the picture.
And Margene! Ginnifer Goodwin was marvelous this year, coming of age as a mother, wife and woman. Her revelation that she was just 16 when she married Bill, unbeknown to him, prompted his arrest for statutory rape — but also caused him to force the Senate into a public debate of polygamy sooner than he might have if not faced with prison.
Margene got involved in a pyramid scheme selling Goji berries, but despite the iffy nature of the organization, the founder’s charity projects sparked a spiritual awakening and desire to help to the less fortunate. We know that Bill would never have allowed her to go on medical relief cruises (which Nikki called “Margene without borders”), but his death freed her to find fulfillment.
Many other sites have detailed recaps of the finale that I won’t duplicate here. What it all means is different to every person who watched. Here’s what the cast and creators have to say.
I never expected Big Love to make me bawl, but that end really got me. I will miss the Henricksons and their motley crew. But what I want to remember is the women — Barb, Margene and Nicki — and the love that they had for each other, even when the man who brought them together was gone.
I like to think that this — my favorite scene from the finale — was the first of many Thelma & Louise moments of freedom. Minus the cliff part, of course.
What did you think of the Big Love finale? Was it a satisfying finish? Do you agree with the creators that the show was always about feminism? Who will you miss the most?