Monday, March 23, 2009

'Big Love' Finale: Lots o' Surprises

Watched the Big Love finale on Sunday night and was really surprised by how UNpredictable it was. Normally I find season premieres and finales to be huge let-downs. They're so built up, the expectations for the ratings so high, that they can't help but disappoint. (Lost being an exception to that rule.)

Here's how I figured the finale would go:

Nicki would team up with Alby to wage war against Roman and Adaleen, to keep them off the compound and assume power for themselves. (There's always been a weird vibe between the siblings that could've made for good TV.) I figured that Bill's niece would be liberated from the barbaric Greens on the first attempt but that Roman would continue to evade the long arm of the law. I thought Barb had written off Nicki and that we'd be seeing a season of the polygamist-family-gets-divorced. Or quasi-divorced. A third divorced?

Finale plot turns that I didn't anticipate:

-- Nicki brought her 14-year-old daughter Cara Lynn -- born during Nicki's first, forced underaged marriage to the man who seems to be doing cameos everywhere on TV lately (including Heroes) -- back to the Henricksons'. With Barb's blessing. I get that Barb would want to save Cara Lynn from being placed into the "Joy Book," being forced to give up her schooling and be placed into a marriage, but to have her existence suddenly wipe Nicki's odious slate clean? What gives? Barb has put up with a great deal since entering into polygamy seven years ago, most recently losing her church membership, and Nicki's belligerent betrayal seemed like a deal breaker.

-- I did not expect that Margene would become an instant QVC star. How classic Margene was the scene where she went on air while holding her baby because she couldn't get a sitter? I had imagined that she'd be having jewelry parties a la Silpada or something along those lines. However while everyone else in the Henrickson clan seems to have come unhinged (Barb suggesting she and Bill "rent a womb"?), Margene, usually perceived as the flake, has been grounded and forward-looking since her mom died mid-way through the season. Margene has forged ahead, asserted herself and taken care of business, without asking for permission. It was quite the reversal to see Bill freak out in the finale after he learned she'd sold her car in order to buy clothing, while she remained calm, confidence unshaken. (Had it been Nicki, Nicki would've just charged everything, instead of raising the money her purchases.)

-- Poor, confused, wide-eyed Sarah proposed to Scott? I figured she'd run off with him and live in a city someplace and become hipsters while she went to college. She's been longing to break out on her own and get away from what she saw as her family's suffocating lifestyle, that having her take a pass on college and remain in the Henrickson home seems almost unbelievable. To have her get married at 18? Sounds like Juniper Creek.

-- Speaking of suffocating . . . Joey "smothered" Roman with a pillow, though the chances that Roman is actually dead are extremely low. Roman's too delicious of a rival for the Henricksons for the show's writers to kill off. Without him, we wouldn't have had such a creepy scene like the one where Roman kissed Bill in the finale. Betcha didn't see that one coming. And besides, last season Roman was mortally wounded. This seemed like a redux.

-- Bill declared himself a prophet, okay, he didn't use the word "prophet," but he declared himself the head of his own church. This, to me, proved that the character has spiraled far away from the guy he was in the Big Love pilot, and not for the better. At the beginning of the show, Bill was portrayed as a decent, responsible businessman who just so happened to be a polygamist, who just so happened to have added the family babysitter, 25 years his junior, to his marriage. Since then, Bill's become an almost power-mad, manic presence, darting from place to place, putting out fires and trying to fix things without even asking others what they think. Bill's no longer the nice guy next door with three wives. He's a new, 21st century, suburbanized Roman, only without a Joy Book, prairie-like duds, underaged wives and the lingering threat of violence hovering over anyone who doesn't follow his will . . . yet.

Big Love fans, what was your take on the finale? On the Church of Bill?

Image credit: HBO.


Zoe said...

Is there going to be another season of Big Love? The last two episodes seem to have undone all the plot elements. But maybe as you suggest, Roman is not really dead and with Bill appointing himself the "prophet, new battles could ensue. I wonder what practicing Mormons think of the series. The writers seem to have a long list of old Mormon news that they draw from without ever really following through on any of it. I think it creates some confusion and definitely a lot of questions in the minds of non-Mormons. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I've just published a novel which delves into the line between mainstream Mormon polygamy and fundamentalist polygamy. I find when I do a reading I become a stand-in spokesperson for the Mormon Church and the fundamentalist offshoots, not because I am any kind of expert, but because there are so many pent-up questions.

The thing that worries me is that it is very difficult to have a discussion about religion without it turning into an argument. I've been thinking it's because of the fragility of faith. Any belief based on faith is tenuous and must be defended, lest the world start shaking beneath the feet of the believer. How can there ever be an end to religious-based conflict when in order for one groups' religion to be "true" all the others have to be wrong?

Zoe Murdock
Torn by God: A Family's Struggle with Polygamy

Meredith said...


Thanks for writing. I think the next season has already been green-lit.

As for the way Mormonism is depicted on the show, the writers are going to have their work cut out for them next season with The Church of Bill if they're going to try to avoid offending folks whose lives bear absolutely no resemblance to those on the compound and those in the Henrickson houses.

I'm hoping they focus more on Barb's sister and mother's families to provide a glimpse of more mainstream Mormon life as a counter-weight . . . we'll see.

Zoe said...

That's right. It will be interesting to see where they take it. Do you know of a lot of mainstream Mormons who are watching the show? If so, what do they think of it. I was raised in SLC, but I'm in California now and I'm not sure what happens in Utah these days? Guess you don't either if you are in Massachusetts.