I come at this season of Big Love as being pretty much the only person I know who is not completely skeeved out by polygamy and having used the first seasons of Big Love as an example of why modern polygamy doesn’t have to be so bad. Bill wasn’t too patriarchal and they presented a nice contrast to the fundamentalist polygamy of the compound. That all ended last season when Bill’s true colors shone through, it was clear that the women were forced to do his bidding and I spent every episode muttering “Ugh, Bill, you’re an asshole” every time he was on screen. So we’ll see where this season takes me in terms of my feelings about the Henrickson clan.
This first episode of the final season picks up a week after last season’s finale. You’ll recall that Bill ran for, and won, state senator and came out as a polygamist with a show of solidarity from his wives, who weren’t all in support of his plan. The family is now in some sort of camping exile, living like hobos on the lam. Some of the kids are there, but apparently Teeny has been sent to live with Barb’s sister (possibly the result of audience backlash against Tween Teeny).
Nicki looks like she’s sporting an even shorter haircut than in the season finale and seems to have discarded the fundie garb for good, but I am pleased to see she hasn’t gotten rid of her passive-aggressive, grudge-holding attitude. She faux-comforts Margene, who is reading the old press about her and wailing in her tent. Nicki tells Barb and Bill that she isn’t going to be able to pretend to care anymore and then snipes that Margene knew what she was getting into and was in support of the plan to come out in the end, even if not everyone was – a not-so-subtle jab at Barb. This is the last day of the family’s exile though and the next day brings them back to their homes, the media circus having departed.
Over at Henrickson Home Plus, the staff are revolting. The ones that haven’t left have made it clear that they’re only staying because they need the work. Bill is trying to do his whole smooth-talking spiel, but the employees aren’t buying it. Ugh Bill and your lines. As the family is helping Bill move his office stuff into the Capitol building, the little speechwriter that seems to always be working in Bill’s head says “100 years we’ve been asked to erase our history, now we’re making history instead.” He loves saying that kind of crap much, and it’s just an example of his megalomania. It looks like they won’t be the only drama at the Capitol, as the senate majority leader is resigning because he got pulled over for a DUI.
The whole family is dealing with the fallout. One of Nicki’s sons is being beat up for being a “plyg” and Margene has been fired from her Home Shopping Network job with no severance because her contract had a “morality” clause. Fortunately for her, there is some motivational speaker douchebag who gives her a free copy of his self-help book that he’s going to be hawking on the network. Margie gets all doe-eyed over his internal speech-writer’s line about no such thing as a bad day. I guess Margene is a sucker for that type of man. Barb looks like she’s thinking about hitting the bottle, and we see her sitting in her car outside a liquor store.
I don’t know why Bill keeps seeming surprised at all this backlash. He introduces himself to the new speaker who wants nothing to do with Bill – politically or personally. He tells Bill that the old speaker resigned because he was an embarrassment and he had lied to his constituents. Bill is persona non grata in the state Senate and I am wondering if this new speaker is going to be our Bad Guy this season.
Nicki is almost as deluded as Bill about what being public polygamists is going to mean for the family. As she is scrubbing the turpentine graffiti from her son’s face, Barb and Margie stand by and lament the consequences this has had for their children. But not Nicki. When Barb suggests Nicki speak to the principal of Wayne’s school, Nicki wants them all to go together. “We can be mothers together, and isn’t that wonderful?” Barb gets out of it by playing to Nicki’s ego, saying that she will go to the principal’s with her if Nicki “needs” her to. Nicki doesn’t want to rely on Barb for anything, so goes to the school on her own….and corners the kid, calling him names and threatening to write all over him in Sharpie. As the kid runs off, he smacks into a pole and knocks his teeth out. I love Nicki because she just runs off without saying anything.
Albie’s wife Lura has gone power-crazy, even more than she was before. While Albie has been off “purifying” himself in the desert, Lura has gone Buffalo Bill on Adaleen and has locked her in an underground shelter for getting pregnant (possibly with Cara Lynn’s eggs) in JJ’s weird Dr. Goebbel’s experiments. And also for killing JJ in the fire she set last season, which I had forgotten about. When Lura released Adaleen she told her to read Leviticus 20:14, which reads: “And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.” Since JJ has already been taken care of in that regard, Nicki and her mama, and maybe Cara Lynn, had better watch their backs.
It’s hard to tell if Bill is deliberately lying to his wives late in the episode when he tells them that he had a good town hall meeting. One of his constituents literally spit in Bill’s face, after telling him that it felt that Bill had spat upon them. Bill insists that there are people who still want him as state senator and have appreciated what the family has done. When the family attends a school board meeting, Bill speaks about the bullying that happened to his son, and believes that speaking to the schools about polygamy will bring people to more understanding. Again, does he genuinely believe that a public school would let them come to school to speak about their illegal lifestyle? Who knows. But at the school board meeting, the kid who Nicki yelled at points out that she “knocked his teeth out.” The family is forced to leave the meeting in shame, and can’t help but bicker and snipe at each other in the parking lot.
After learning that Nicki had accosted the young boy, Bill takes her over to apologize, which she does half-heartedly like a petulant child (but hasn’t Bill always treated Nicki and Margie like children anyway). Bill and Nicki are surprised to see that this little boy is actually in a polygamist family. Bill wants them to be on “his side” but the father says he doesn’t want to be with them at all and wants to live their life privately. This is more of Bill’s narcissism – just because he wants to live as an out polygamist, doesn’t mean everyone does and it seems like he doesn’t understand that others might have a different viewpoint than him.
The episode ended with an open house at the Henrickson Estates, predictably attended by a whopping 0 people. Until Don comes over and calls Bill out. It is only now that Bill finally admits that everything is falling apart – his business, his family, his senate seat. I don’t trust Bill anymore though, and the cynic in me feels that this was only more of Bill’s internal spin doctor; he knows what he needs to do to get his family and Don back on his side.
At the core of this episode is morality – Margie is accused of being immoral, Bill’s employees and constituents are accusing him of being a liar, Barb is toeing the line of Mormon morality by purchasing a bottle of wine for cooking and drinking a glass, Nicki has always viewed herself as the moral beacon, but has always had questionable ethics. I suspect we’ll see morality as a recurring theme this season. It looks like this season could be Barb’s to shine. I found her kind of insufferable last season. Well, to be honest, I found them all insufferable and a little one-dimensional. It looks like this season has brought back some of the complexities to each of the characters and now that they feel they have nothing to lose, they’re free to explore themselves more.
At the very end of the episode, three polygamist families showed up at the Henricksons’ door, thanking Bill for putting himself out there. The family welcomed them in, and we’re led to believe that Bill was right, maybe there is a “reservoir” of supporters. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I saw parallels to the early Christian movements. Church services were largely led in secret in individual homes, and with only a handful of believers at any meeting. We’ll see how that all plays out though.
At the end of last season, we saw Bill and his three wives (decked out in Red, White and Blue) holding hands in solidarity on a stage. I suspect that at the end of this season, at least one of those wives will have left.