The irony ran high on last night’s season premiere of Big Love. Kenny Rogers was scheduled to open the new ”family-friendly” casino that Bill Paxton’s Bill Henrickson worked so hard on all last season with the Blackfoot Indian tribe. But the family we’re most concerned about — the Henrickson clan, including Bill’s three wives: Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), Nicki (Chloë Sevigny), and Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) — is anything but friendly at the moment. They may smile at each other, hold hands and pray in a Mormon storefront church, but back at home(s), things are tense, as good drama must be. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the episode.

Harry Dean Stanton’s Roman Grant was killed at the end of last season by Bill’s brother Joey (Shawn Doyle), but “the prophet” still hovered over the fourth-season opener. “Where is Roman Grant?” is the headline on a TV news broadcast. “Where is Roman Grant?” was the question asked as the FBI bursts onto the dead man’s compound. His wife played by the vinegary Mary Kay Place pleads ignorance, but later, she’ll tell Nicki to go to the basement freezer for some bacon for a BLT sandwich and Nicki gets a load of a lot more than pig meat. Pretty soon, Roman’s corpse is being moved around with the abandon of some outtakes from Weekend at Bernie’s.

The Big Love producers could have gone one of two ways this season: They might have scaled back the series to re-focus on Bill and his three wives. (Lots of fans find the scenes of multi-family life the most interesting for the emotional and organizational complexity required.) Or the Love folks could expand the range of the series and follow through on all the inter-generational competition, back-stabbing and, in the case of Bill’s father Frank (goaty Bruce Dern), and mother, Lois (flinty Grace Zabriskie), front-stabbing.

It’s the latter path that’s been chosen. Whether this was the wisest decision remains to be seen. I like the idea of Bill running for political office in order to defend his polygamous lifestyle. So is anything to do with Alby Grant (Matt Ross), a devious son of Roman Grant hellbent on controlling dad’s empire but unable to resist cruising men in the park, a scandal in the making. (These two strands entwine artfully as well: Bill’s move into the political arena for a certain kind of sexual freedom can stand as a metaphor for gay-marriage rights, and the repression Alby suffers, no matter how much of a weasel he is in his other dealings, is rendered with stinging poignance.)

I open the floor to your discussion. Did the season premiere head off in directions you liked? Do you think Bill is stretching himself too thin as husband, father, and businessman? Which characters are you most interested in following this season?

Episode Recaps

Big Love
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