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Monday, January 18, 2010

The Televangelist: 'Big Love' Season 4, Episode 2

click to enlarge "Don't you have any pills to take? You seem so cheerful today"
  • "Don't you have any pills to take? You seem so cheerful today"

Distancing itself from the chaos of the first episode, "Big Love" settled down this week back into its natural rhythm, nicely weaving together several story lines, and setting up some much-anticipated upheavals. As some seasons-long troubles came to an end (battling with Roman, the FBI, the DA's office), Bill, in typical fashion, refused to allow the peace to last long. As his daughter Sarah aptly put it, "oh, you know ... another day, another revelation."

With the compound drama at his back, Bill believes he has received a testimonial from God to run for State Senate. While his motivations are at first primarily angled to prevent a strong anti-polygamist from taking the office, Bill later finds conviction from his family's disapproval (oddly enough) to know "for certain" that this is the path he will take. For those of us scratching our heads and reminding Bill as his family did, "uh, Bill, you're a polygamist," Bill quickly explains, "polygamy is a misdemeanor. It won't cost me the office. I want to put a new face on The Principle ... that's what this has been about." He might as well have been talking about the entire series thus far. The Henricksen's life has sanitized the fundamentalist practice of polygamy for viewers, even though the dark side of The Principle is never far from view (does anyone else still get chills at the very mention of the "Joy Book"?)

Last week I mentioned how "Big Love" is at its best when it focuses primarily on the wives. As if hearing my call as a testament, this week's "The Greater Good" was full of drama for Barb, Nicki* and Margene, all of whom were asked to sacrifice personal gains for that of the fold.

Nicki, typically the most reviled of the wives (both within the family and throughout the viewership), is also the most likely to engender pathos from us toward her complicated character. I can't bring myself to simply love or hate Nicki - she's too fascinating for such conventions. This week, her bitter attitude, questioning of Bill, rummaging through Margene's trash to produce her monthly earnings, and jabs at ex-husband JJ (the fantastic but sometimes uncannily creepy Zeljko Ivanek), could all be forgiven as we bore witness to her pathetic attempts to win back the love of Ray-the-DA, who had just provided Bill with copies of all of his Bill-centric investigations, proving he had nothing on him in the end. Nicki, seeming to find love for the first time in her life, has struggled terribly with her growing feelings for Ray and her continuing lack of feelings for Bill. Her tears during Sarah's wedding to close the episode might confirm that Nicki will continue to fight a losing battle with her long-smothered emotions, likely providing some explosive results.

The same might be said for her brother Alby, as well. Alby provided some quality screentime last night with his Big Kiss of man-crush Dale. I love the repressed sparks between these two. Some might take issue with Dale leading the support group for men who are afraid they're homosexual as being too convenient, but I have to give credit to "Big Love" for continuing to deal with issues of homosexuality within the Mormon religion. (More generally, the Onion took a stab at the issue in their signature way with the recent headline "Gay Teen Worried He Might Be Christian")

Margene was relegated to the sidelines this week with a few quietly important scenes about just how much she's making with her home shopping appearances ($100k+ a year, projected). Who would have thought Margie would end up being a primary breadwinner? Though Bill did explicitly ask Margene to combine her earnings into "the family pot," her response was "let's think more about financial advisors ... and lawyers." Though Bill chose not to confront that defiance head-on, Margene has never been one to sacrifice her own happiness for that of the family (remember her smoking? her insistence on a house and a car? her pushing for Ana as fourth wife?). Sure, everybody loves Margene, but "greater good" to her tends to mean a better life for herself, with only a passing thought to her husband and sister-wives (and yet, at her young age, can't we forgive her impulses?)

Speaking of young - yes, by the way, Sarah did marry her pedobear boyfriend Scott (Aaron Paul is oddly more likable as Jesse Pinkman in "Breaking Bad" than he is on "Big Love"), in front of God, Bill, the state of Utah, and most importantly, Barb. Thank the blessings of Holy Father that Barb is getting some relief - she has been tiptoeing around meekly this season in a way we have never seen her before. Her brief crucifixion-esque pose in the new opening credits (which are growing on me) reminds us just how much she has sacrificed for her family and her beliefs. And so far, more than anyone else in the Henricksen household, or on the compound, she continues to be the only one.

Musings and Miscellanea:

  • * I used to read another "Big Love" blog for so long that spelled Nicolette's name "Nikki" that I picked it up myself. I think "Nicki" is probably more correct, so I plan to stick to that spelling from now on unless someone proves me wrong! (which is quite possible)
  • Let's add another plate for Bill to spin (for those keeping count): 3 wives, 9 children, 3 houses, Juniper Creek, Home Plus, Weber Gaming, the Casino, and now State Senate. I didn't get into Bill taking over the Prophet's place at Juniper Creek, but I have a feeling that option won't be going away any time soon; Bill's hubris won't let it!
  • Pssst .... JJ has no fingernails!
  • Best quotes this week:

  1. "I just want to put in a word for free enterprise here ... this is America!" - Margene
  2. (Sarah, at the fast-food drive thru) "Heather, I'm getting married." "Congratulations. Your total is $4.68."
  3. "We talked about public service together, that was a dream ... but that was 3 marriages ago!" - Barb

  • Small Moment, Big Laughs: Nicki slyly sneaking Margene's cash into her purse!
  • Anyone else think Dale greatly resembles Coach Eric Taylor from "Friday Night Lights"?
  • Joey said to Bill, in regards to him being Prophet of Juniper Creek, "those are 10,000 souls who need you!" What exactly is the Prophet's "jurisdiction," as it were?

(photo courtesy of HBO)

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