Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Big Love finale: my heck, yes!

I know this is off-topic, but I can't help writing about it as a way of getting it out of my head. If you either don't care about Big Love or haven't seen the finale yet and don't want spoilers, you don't want to read this.

Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer have already discussed why they ended the series as they did, so this is just a few random bullets of reaction.
  • How early in this episode did you realize that something dire was going to happen to Bill? The Godfather-style smile with oranges was a big tip-off, of course, but really, every time Bill starts to get out from under his problems, he goes and invites another peck of trouble by angering the civil authorities, the church, his wives, the D.A., Juniper Creek, or someone else who's unimpressed with his pronouncements. See under "hubris": Bill Henrickson.
  • Bill is an Everyman with a vision, and although a lot of people disliked his character, it seemed to me that Bill Paxton did well at portraying an everyman who's misguided but has a strong set of beliefs, however wrongheaded we think those are. Also, he's handy with tools, and it was one of the many nice touches in the show that he'd head for something he could handle and fix in the material world when his spiritual world was going awry. Barb wants the priesthood? Salt the patio. Barb is pulling away? Put a towbar on Lois's car. (By the way, this season had far too little of Nicki's Handy Home Repairs and Appliance Hauling compared with previous years.)
  • Speaking of hubris, Spouse commented that he thought the whole series had been about hubris, which if you think about it, would make Bill a tragic hero of sorts. Does he achieve tragic status? With his vision of Emma Smith and family, Bill does achieve a kind of anagnorisis and is able to act on it just before he dies, explaining his revelation to Ben and Don and asking Barb for her blessing. Spouse pointed out that, like Joseph Smith, Bill never does get to the promised land but is murdered before he can get there.
  • The Emma Smith figure puzzled me last season and in the finale at first, since she was vehemently opposed to polygamy and was vocal about it, too. Olsen and Scheffer said somewhere that that was her function--to draw attention to the flaws and give voice to the dissent about it.
  • I didn't miss the characters who weren't brought back--not Joey, Wanda, and their baby (who creepily never grew to toddlerhood in 2-3 years) but were sent to the Big Mexican Compound in the Sky nor Teeny nor any of the multitude of Juniper Creekers. It was a finale, not a family reunion.
  • Speaking of children, all of the Henrickson brood was seen from time to time, but with the exception of Our Spokesman Wayne, they were pretty much seen and not heard (except for singing) and never seemed to need a babysitter. Think about it, though: if the show still focused on minor domestic dramas like who's going to drive the kids to school or who's going to pick up a costume for Teeny, which was the material of the early seasons, we wouldn't be watching it because the show is done with those logistical points--and so are we.
  • Nor did I think that some kind of dramatic justice demanded that Alby be the one to kill Bill. Having Carl do it--and after Bill had performed one of his rare unselfless acts and fulfilled one of his promises, for a change--made sense in that Bill was a repudiation of all that Carl stood for. Also, Bill doesn't lose to Juniper Creek, but he does lose to randomness, and for someone who mistakenly thinks he has life under control as much as Bill does, it's a perfect undercutting of his control one last time.
  • Lois and Frank. Frank's recollections about their early life together--living in the trailer--didn't mention one thing: he was already married to someone else at the time, and Lois was his second wife. Is there a setting-up-housekeeping period in polygamy when the husband and new wife go off together, or was Frank being tactful (Frank! tactful!), or did the writers forget that Lois wasn't the first wife?

Your thoughts?


Roxie Smith Lindemann said...

Love your "random" bullet points of reaction, now that my typist has finally had a chance to see the finale. Have to admit, WE had forgotten Lois was Frank's second wife, and it does seem that maybe the writers had, too! Question: Does Frank kill himself, too, or does he just nudge Lois off to the Celestial Family?

Thought it was a great finale. Tears were shed in Roxie's World as Bill lay dying and asked for Barb's blessing. In that moment, the show became as feminist as its narrative/ideological framework would allow. Kill the patriarch, and the women will be free and happy. In the end, even the patriarch recognizes that. What do you make of the Thelma and Louise-ish scene of the three women in Barb's convertible? Hmmm. Better to outlive the patriarchy than try to outrun it?

undine said...

Roxie SL, according to the writers (whose every interview I read, to my everlasting shame), Frank doesn't kill himself. They apparently had two syringes on the table at first until they realized that it would look as though Frank had killed himself, too.

That's a great point--"better to outlive the patriarchy than try to outrun it"! The show did take a feminist turn at the last. for me, the Thelma-and-Louise-ish scene was a little nervewracking at first exactly because it evoked that movie. It was clear that the trip wasn't going to end at Costco like the only other trip I can remember them taking together.

They looked so happy, or all of them except Nicki did, anyway.

Anonymous said...

"See under "hubris": Bill Henrickson." HA HA! Perfect.

undine said...

Thanks, Ink! Do you suppose there's a place for Big Love in the drama curriculum? He's like a decisive Hamlet or a Lear with too many wives instead of daughters.