Monday, March 21, 2011

Quick Thoughts on Big Love

Big Love spent its first season convincing the audience that polygamy could actually be a viable lifestyle, then spent the following four seasons convincing the audience that maybe this particular family wasn't a very good example of that idea. Spoilers for the series finale lurk below, so be warned.

I don't think I've ever been so glad to see a character get shot as I was when Bill got it in the end of the season. What an annoying character. There's a lot about this show that I love, but I had to actually quit a few episodes into Season 4 because I just couldn't stand that guy. It's not that he consistently made bad, idiotic decisions, like believing he could run for office while keeping his polygamy a secret in 2010 (seriously!), but the way he blamed all his stupid ideas on God. When his wives question him, he's just like "Hey, I don't like it any more than you do, but I have to do what God tells me to."* Seriously, own your stupid ideas, you dolt.

And this final episode was proof of that. I mean, yeah, it's nice that, in the end, he conferred priesthood on Barb, if you ignore the fact that this was a ridiculously obvious thing for him to have done a long time ago. He says it's against the teachings of his church, but he founded his own church. The teachings of his church are whatever he says they are! I mean, if you're going to live your life by some made up bullshit, why not just live by the made up bullshit that will work for your family? Considering that this issue was literally tearing his relationship with his wife apart, his stubborn refusal to take responsibility is just head smackingly dumb.

So yeah, I wasn't exactly upset to see him shot. The show has always been mostly about the relationship between the sister wives, and Bill always seemed to me to be getting in the way (I was never quite sure why these women put up with him). I'd probably be happier if the series were starting from his death. But they even fucked up this ending, making Bill's assassination the result of a completely random nervous breakdown instead of a consequence of any of the many stupid things he did.

I'm focusing on the negative here. Big Love is, overall, a good show, with plenty of high soap opera drama, three excellent female leads, and provided some great roles for older actors Bruce Dern, Mary Kay Place, Harry Dean Stanton and Grace Zabriskie, all of whom do great, great work. It's also thematically interesting in that the central characters are both religious fundamentalists and sexual revolutionaries, which sometimes makes it a little hard to read (not a negative!). In fact, the acceptance of a lot of things that probably shouldn't be accepted (patriarchy and fundamentalism are kind of like organized crime in The Sopranos--you just have to accept that it's a part of these characters' lives) makes it a more interesting show.

*When I was writing about Ricky Bobby, and talking about characters that seemed to be stand ins for G.W. Bush, I felt like there was one I was forgetting. Of course, it was Bill Henrickson.


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