Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Big Love's Incredible Second Season

Last night's Big Love was toted by HBO as the most dramatic episode ever in the history of everything (!!!!), but it really wasn't.

Not to say it wasn't a great episode, it was. Every episode in this second season has been amazing, supremely interesting and full of exciting things: Barb had en existential crisis early in the season, Nicki has been excommunicated from her family, Margene had a brush of shocking truth with her mom and fell briefly in love with another woman. Bill's oldests, Ben and Sarah, have been going through their own relationship dramas; Ben reveling in sin and Sarah counting the days until she turns 18 and flees to college.

Bill, meanwhile, has been doing his reckless thing (again). Early in the season, he set out to discover who outed his family as polygamists (in last season's dramatic finale) and, failing that, decided to take out his frustration on Roman Grant and his Juniper Creek ruling council, the UEB. Bill pulled all kinds of hijanks to get a Hendrickson seat on the council, first for his brother and then for himself. All that amounted to getting tipped out that Roman was planning to buy a video-poker company called Weeber Gaming. Bill decided he wanted that company for himself.

Meanwhile, back in Juniper Creek, Bill's brother, Joey, spent some time in prison for a crime his wife committed (which set out Roman Grant's son, Albi, on a revenge pilgrimage that continues to threaten Bill and his family). Bill's mother and uncle have schemed to launder over a million dollars from a dying woman.

And then more bad guys showed up. The Greens. Apparently, a fearsome family of polygamists who had previously been at war with Roman and the UEB, then banished to Mexico, now returned to stake a claim, specifically on - you guessed it - Weeber Gaming. Hijinks have since ensued.

(Spoiler warning for last night's episode follows.)

So that brings us to the big episode, "Kingdom Come," which seeks to bring a lot of the disparate storylines of the season to a closing point so the writers can focus in a little more on individual character stories to finish off the season (sadly, only four episodes remain).

Does the episode succeed? Yes. Does the episode surprise? Not really.

Anytime shows - these days anyway - prophesies something "big" and "huge," it usually means a character getting shot. (Thanks Lost). Well, that's exactly what happened.

After a full hour of drama dealing with Ben's soul and in-fighting between the wives and Bill and an off-camera war between Roman Grant and the Greens, Roman is accosted on a streetcorner in front of his favorite diner and shot twice in the chest by two of Hollis Green's wives. It's pretty dramatic, sure, but it was also inevitable. As the season has progressed, Roman has become less and less the "big bad" and more a friendly character so without unteething the beast, he had to die. But the repercussions, especially in regards to Nicki's mental health, will be fascinating to watch.

As for the other storylines, the sex "thing" between Bill and Margene and Nicki was interesting and brought the show back to the first episodes (remember the Viagra?). But the most interesting storyline for me was Ben's. I had trouble buying all that "I'm not ruined!" type talk, I know they're religious and Mormon's, but any teenager growing up in today's world should not be that squeamish when it comes to sex. Don't they watch MTV? Seriously.

What was very interesting was seeing Ben prepare to live "The Principal" at sixteen, proposing marriage and pre-planning for a second wife. It drove home (to Bill and Barb especially) how absurd his life is and the wrongheadedness of some of his decisions.

Anyway, I think I prattled on enough. For anybody who doesn't watch this show, you can see from my rampant discussion of character motivations and subtleties that is a high quality show, extremely well-written, and well worth everyone's time.

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