TV Review: “Big Love”

Written by Television, TV Reviews

The season premiere of the fifth and final season of “Big Love” finds solace in returning its familial roots.

HBO’s polygamist drama is back for its fifth and final season. After a particularly rough season four, which featured outlandish plots, and was even publicly criticized by one of the stars, the show is getting back to its roots in family. Everything has changed for the Henricksons now that Bill (Bill Paxton) has been elected a State Senator, and promptly outed himself as a polygamist. Now, the family is facing harsh judgment from all sides.

Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) has lost her job as a jewelry TV saleswoman because of her public scandal and loss of credibility, and is mourning the loss of the only thing that she felt gave her purpose. Nicki (Chloe Sevigny) makes some questionable choices when she corners and bullies a little kid in response to the kid writing hateful words on her son, ultimately resulting in him chipping his tooth. Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn) is struggling with the changing dynamic in the family, thinking she doesn’t need her sisterwives anymore, and is tempted to start drinking.

Bill’s life is falling apart more than he would like to admit. Home Plus employees and his campaign volunteers are dropping like flies after his revelation. The few that have stuck around are disappointed, and poking fun at his religion and lifestyle choices. Bill and Don (Joel McKinnon Miller) are in a power struggle after Don feels used by Bill for taking the fall for the polygamist accusations last season, and the issues are carrying over into the workplace where Don wants to have more of a voice.

When the Senator who had supported Bill gets a DUI and promptly resigns, he suddenly has no one on his side, and is being pressured to leave as well. At a town hall meeting, Bill is spit on, to illustrate how his constituents felt after the truth came out. In one last ditch attempt at gathering some support, Bill hosts an open house. But no one comes, until very late in the evening when a few fellow polygamists show up at his doorstep in solidarity.

Everything comes to a head at a school board meeting when Bill, out in public with all three of his wives, speaks up to the alienation and bullying their family has experienced. Cameras show up, trying to get salacious scoop. Margene lashes out, swearing at the cameras and the resistant board members. It’s revealed that Nicki essentially beat up a child, instead of speaking to the principal like she claimed. And Nicki exposes Barb’s drinking to the rest of the family.

What it comes down to, in each confrontation one of the Henricksons has with an outsider, is trust. Rarely is religion, or morality, brought into the betrayals, it’s all about honesty. But of course the Henricksons themselves have more of a lesson to learn about honesty than they really think. There’s certainly tension coming from all sides of the family, and it will be interesting to see which loves can conquer all by the series’ end.

A few other plotlines from last season linger. Alby (Matt Ross) comes back from the desert, resolving to purify his faith, whatever that may entail. Adaleen (Mary Kay Place) has been punished for her involvement with Roman, and now has nowhere to turn. Nicki’s daughter Cara Lynn (Cassi Thomson) is asking questions about her father that Nicki refuses to answer, while Cara Lynn gets cozy with Don’s son, Gary (Cody Klop). Bill threatens Goran (Steve Bacic) to end his green card marriage to Margene and leave the country, possibly losing Ana (Branka Katic) and their unborn son to another country, as well.

There’s a lot of potential in this season premiere to get back on track, and go out strong. With the heart of the show back to what matters most, the family, and these new challenges they face, there’s no telling how the Henricksons will fare in the end. But it’s certainly worth watching to find out.