On ''Big Love,'' Barb spends some harrowing hours on the compound; meanwhile, Margene's mother causes trouble at home

”Big Love”: Extended family drama

If there was any doubt as to whether Big Love deserves to stand alongside HBO’s great serial dramas (The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and, I would say, Rome), then this episode — and, judging by the preview, next week’s — wipes it all away. There’s some serious set-up going on here. We’ve got mysterious characters engaging in all kinds of violence, emotions running high, sympathies divided and evolving, loyalties tested…. This is what drama is all about!

Okay, maybe I’m preaching to the choir, but I am just loving the show so far this season. Especially how it manages to cram so many different stories into an hour. And without completely abandoning plot lines, as The Sopranos was apt to do. Of course, it makes writing these TV Watches all the more challenging, but I signed up for this and, haters be damned, I’m going to do my best for you all! So let’s get started…

Off to Margene’s house we go, where an unexpected visit from her mom, Ginger, caused all kinds of havoc. Once again, we saw Margene’s inner struggle: to assert herself and define her place in the marriage. And we also learned a little more about where she comes from: Namely, that her mom is a hopeless alcoholic with a long history of failed relationships, a woman who always competed with her own daughter for attention. What a gal. Needless to say, religion wasn’t a big priority in Ginger’s life. Nicki chalks it up to being a ”victim of permissive culture,” but let’s just call it what it is: The woman’s an inconsiderate slut. Besides smoking in the nursery, insulting Margene and dismissing her beliefs as ”perverted,” she put the moves on Bill! Does it get more disrespectful than that?

Nicki disappointed as well. She’s so strained for love, admitting to Ginger that she was close to all the moms at the compound except her biological mother, Adaleen, but that doesn’t excuse her from the duty of supporting a sister wife. Of course, Nicki did see the light eventually, but getting there seemed like such a battle. Bill, on the other hand, really endeared himself through his one-on-one with Margene’s mom. It was a good reminder of how he is, at the core, humble and loyal, and that his love comes from a real place.

And I also have to give Bill props for beating Albie to a pulp, though it was surprising to later see both of them at the UEB meeting. But I guess when the compound goes into DEFCON 5, any and all family members must be called upon to defend their community and way of life.

What’s sending everyone into a tizzy is the arrest of polygamist fugitive Orlean Abbott, a character loosely based on Warren Jeffs, who, until last year, was also on the run and, like Abbott, got caught after a traffic stop with a boatload of cash stashed in his SUV (he goes to trial in September). This is the kind of guy who gives ”the Principle” a bad name. Though you have to wonder, is he really that much worse than the super-creepy Greens? And will all these fundamentalist factions physically clash, like rumble-style?

Speaking of the Greens, a couple of IMDB-savvy TV Watchers have pointed out that she-man Selma Green is played by Sandy Martin, who was the grandma in Napoleon Dynamite. Tina Majorino, a.k.a. Heather Tuttle, also had a supporting role in that movie as the geeky Deb. I take it creators Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer were also fans?

But back to the impending wrath of Roman, who threatened that any UEB member who has contact with his mortal enemy Hollis Green will be excommunicated and — gulp — justifiably killed. So basically, Bill’s dug an even deeper hole for himself and his family. How far can ”the good guy” shtick carry him? Don’s about ready to flip his flattop lid, and I reckon if Barb, Margene, or Nicki find out, they’re likely to do the same. Bill’s going to need all their prayers and then some to get past this latest business snafu.

With the compound on lockdown and Roman on the warpath, there’s no telling what will happen next. But one thing’s for sure: Joey and Wanda aren’t leaving Juniper Creek, to Barb’s dismay. In fact, it looks like Joey has finally come around to the plural life, since Kathy is still in the picture. And as weird as it seems to say it, having two wives kind of suits him. Maybe it’s just a thing about the Henrickson men.

Then again, Bill’s father, Frank, is just about the most despicable character on the show these days. The intense scene where he patronizes Barb and declares that God gave men all the power was just the tip of the iceberg (though he did speak the truth when he told her she married the compound). Frank continues to terrorize every woman that crosses his path, and it seems not even Lois’ rifle will stop him from continuing to do so. What exactly was he doing lurking behind Joey’s cabin late at night (was he behind the power outage, or was it just the wind)? What kind of vengeance is he looking to get from Wanda? And what does he have in mind for getting cash from his newly legal first wife, Lois? Though I have to admit, until they actually explain something, I’m kind of over the whole Laundromat story line. Lois’ brother Eddie obviously comes from a Canadian polygamist outpost (probably something akin to the community of Bountiful in British Columbia), is funneling money through a fake business, and is hated by Frank, but beyond that I don’t know much, nor am I all that interested anymore. Let’s bring it back around, people.

That aside, Barb’s post-breakdown confrontation with Roman was a highlight (even if it only drove home the point that Roman still considers all of the Henricksons family and thus under his control). I also loved the scene of Barb calling home from the compound and Nicki and Margie fighting over the phone like children in dire need of Ritalin. But ultimately, I was a sucker for the healthy dose of next week’s scenes, which promise another ultra-dramatic turn. Where is this all going, TV Watchers? Will Margene pull a power trip, as her mother suggested? Will Bill be able to manipulate the Weber Gaming situation? Is Frank about to hurt somebody? Any theories? Let’s hear ’em.

Episode Recaps

Big Love
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