Monday, March 1, 2010

'Big Love's' Short Season Making Every Episode Feel Like a Finale

*Warning, spoilers ahead from the recent episode of Big Love.*

The recent episode of Big Love, "Next Ticket Out" had way too much of everything. The storylines leapt all over the place so that you couldn't really absorb what had just happened before something else monumental occurred. Everything seemed important because every storyline seemed to have heft: The new weirdness on the compound, the senate campaign, Barb's scuffle over Marilyn, Marilyn's crusade against Bill, Margene's marriage, Sarah moving to Portland, etc. And when everything's important, nothing's important. It was all just too much.

"Next Ticket Out," like the "Blood Atonement" episode which preceded it, are examples of how the quality of this once incisive and intriguing HBO drama has suffered because of the decision to reduce the number of episodes. Last season I could accept the fact that there were only 10 episodes because there had been a writers' strike. Big Love's first two seasons consisted of a dozen episodes a piece. However this season, there will only be nine, meaning that 12 episodes worth of drama has been crammed into a paltry nine, so much so that there's no room for any of the characters or storylines to breathe.

Big Love characters are racing all over the place that I wonder how they have time to do it all. They're going from Mexico (where rogue, violent polygamists detained some of the Henricksons in an ostrich cage and they escaped by slicing off one of the bad guy's arms), to Washington, D.C. (where Bill was lobbying a congressman for political support), to the family's new casino (they're always driving off there and always getting back home in time for dinner), to state political conventions, to TV interviews and debates, to the Juniper Creek compound and from one campaign scandal to another. There's no time to contemplate, no time to see the impact of the events on the characters.

Remember how long it took Margene to deal with her mother's death last season? There were several episodes of her being unusually quiet and withdrawn, followed by her private grief manifesting itself with her decision to dye her hair blonde. Soon after that, she started getting aggressive selling her jewelry and making something of her life. It was a natural, gradual progression.

But this season Margene kissed her teenaged stepson, who's had a crush on her, and admitted to Bill that she had romantic feelings toward Ben. Under normal circumstances, this would be a revelation of nuclear proportions and its effects would be long lasting. But instead, characters talked about it for roughly two episodes and then, poof, all that was over in a snap, forgotten and we've moved on to the fact that Margene married Bill's ex-lover's fiance to keep him from being deported. Sure, Ben was asked to leave the house by his father, but after Bill put his life on the line for Ben in Mexico, it's all water under the bridge.

And how about Nicki's betrayal of Henrickson family last season, where, under orders from her parents, she got a job working in the DA's office for the purpose of sabotaging her father's prosecution. Then she dated the DA when she was supposedly married to Bill. Such treachery should've had Nicki in the dog house a whole lot longer than she was this season. It didn't take long for her shocking behavior to be trumped by something else, like her dead father, or her mother being married off to her ex-husband or her saving her teenaged daughter from becoming the latest bride for a Juniper Creek geezer.

I could go on and on with the storylines that haven't gotten the treatment they deserved or seem to have been abandoned altogether:

-- The Church of Bill that, in the season premiere that Bill and Don were building. It's now just collecting dust? Bill has replaced religion with politics I guess.

-- The "firing" of Don Embrey as Bill handed his closest friend over to the media and publically outed him as a polygamist. What happened to him, to his family? And who's taking care of Home Plus while Bill's busy with a campaign, a casino, a baby mama, a kidnapping in Mexico, the state take-over of the polygamist compound's books and three wives?

-- Alby who fell in love with the Juniper Creek trustee, was the happiest he'd ever been. Now he's grief stricken in the aftermath of his lover's suicide. This storyline needs much more time than it's been given as Alby has been vacillating between being desperately sad and trapped to being evil, like assigning Adaleen to J.J. which has resulted in an Adaleen pregnancy and denouncing his sister as a whore.

-- Joey, who's gone nutty, killing Roman and then going after Hollis Greene and putting the lives of the rest of his family in danger. One minute he's smiling at his brother's campaign kick off event, the next he's holding a gun to Hollis Greene.

I get the feeling that next week's season finale will be so overloaded that it'll be anticlimatic. Every episode has felt so much like a finale, because something shocking has occurred in nearly every one, that there's no way that the ninth installment will feel special, unless of course the Henricksons go public about their polygamy.

As for the most notable storyline in the recent episode, "Next Ticket Out," that belongs to Barb who's being broken, bit by bit, by Bill's single-minded pigheaded narcissism. I blogged about "The Compromises of Barb" over on CliqueClack TV.

What did you think of "Next Ticket Out?" Do you think this fourth season has been too short, the episodes, too packed?

1 comment:

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