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'Big Love' pulls its punches in finale

August 29, 2007|Patrick Day | Times Staff Writer

Let's call this the summer of HBO's head-scratching endings. We started in June with Tony Soprano's sudden cut-to-black, then continued with the impenetrable conclusion of "John From Cincinnati," and now, just in time for Labor Day, we have the season finale of "Big Love," which was firing on all cylinders for most of its second season but came to a sputtering, halfhearted close Sunday night.

The problem? By the end of a final episode filled with betrayals revealed, secrets unveiled, Bill's schemes against Alby thwarted and Roman jailed, the series somehow managed to steer itself back to the status quo. Not exactly the sort of stuff that leaves you breathless for more.

How, after so many episodes of Barb's increasing frustration with her place in the family, did she come to Bill and reaffirm her stance alongside him? This coming just moments after Bill (Bill Paxton) made out with Ana (Branka Katic) in the family's pantry. Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn) was already upset with Bill over the revelation that Bill had dated Ana, and Ana's lustful reappearance would have been the perfect capper for Barb's ever- increasing list of grievances with polygamist living.

But no, instead the tryst went unnoted, and Barb's increasing dissatisfaction seems to have been sated, at least until next season. Our last shot of the show in 2007 was of the three sister-wives, laughing and enjoying themselves as a family unit. Somehow that just didn't sit right.

All three wives developed as characters this year. Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) began to learn how to assert herself, if only through the same methods a teenage daughter would use to assert herself. Nicki (Chloƫ Sevigny) revealed herself as a character to be pitied, admittedly suppressing her own desires and filling the void through gambling. And then there was Barb, whose disapproving mother and sister have become haunting specters over her home and whose increasing inability to call the shots seemed to be the fatal bullet in her marriage.

Although Bill was moving forward with Weber Gaming against her wishes and courting a possible fourth wife against her wishes and encouraging their son Ben to pursue a polygamist lifestyle against her wishes, she continued to stand by him without much complaint. Will nothing make this woman pop?


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