Big Love: Oh Pioneers (season finale)
For the entirety of the season, I have been predicting that Bill's plans included taking over the position of the prophet at Juniper Creek. So, when the U.E.B. voted for Bill to be the new Chairman of the board, I thought for certain that he had things right where he wanted them. So, I was very surprised when Bill told Joey that he didn't want the position, that he has his own life and his own path to follow. And I loved the fact that he included in that statement, "And I have three wives who would skin me alive!"
I was glad to have it confirmed that Alby and his wife were trying to kill Roman-- but I didn't suspect they were using a veterinary tranquilizer to do it. One of my favorite lines of the program was when Adaleen told Barb, "I walked over the backs of five timid women..." Adaleen was talking about the power she has as Roman's sixth wife, and how she might as well be the first wife. Heck, she might as well be Roman's ONLY wife. And I'll talk more about that line later, but it doesn't surprise me a bit that Adaleen was the one to save Roman's life (except for the fact that I thought/hoped Roman was a goner). A commenter said a few weeks ago that they weren't going to kill off Harry Dean Stanton, and that turned out to be a wise and true statement.
What I am curious about for next season is what is going to happen between Bill and Alby now that Roman is in jail. My husband and I were shouting when Nicki called Alby to brag that Roman was coming back to be re-instated-- why does she ALWAYS do that? She always tips Alby off! On one hand, it's a necessary plot device, but I think it is also consistent with their relationship. It was a great scene when Roman insisted that Nicki shave him, and said it was too bad that she wasn't born a boy. Roman hasn't quite figured out the power that the wives have, including his own.
Sarah has finally made her break with the family, even if only in the symbolic break of losing her virginity. In choosing to sleep with Scott, she has turned her back on both the values of her family and the LDS church both. It's interesting that Sarah refers to the "Church of Dad," and also fundamentalism. It is not entirely clear from the show what religion the Hendricksons practice. But I think it's strongly hinted at (through Sarah) that Bill isn't operating entirely from his fundametalist background: He is still tied to Juniper Creek, and Lois is probably right; he probably always will be. But he is also striking out on his own (a pioneer, so to speak).
Pioneer Day is indeed a big Utah holiday. It's actually held on July 24th, and marks the occasion that Brigham Young led the Mormon pioneers across the prairies from Nauvoo, Illinois, to the Salt Lake Valley and declared, "This is the place." And Brigham Young, perhaps even more than Joseph Smith, is known for his practice of polygamy. So, obviously the Hendrickson brand of polygamy includes the early days of the church in its history and practice, as evidenced by Teenie's brief words about Brigham Young.
Barb reclaimed her power from Margene in this episode, finally, and thank goodness. I really thought Barb was going to go. But I think she has decided to stay and stake her claim. Weber Gaming has become a symbol of accepting The Principle of polygamy, and beginning with leaving her mother's wedding with her family last week, Barb took a much more significant step in this episode by coming out to Pam. I had thought all of this time that the reason they hid their polygamy from the neighbors was because it was illegal and they feared going to jail, but it is clear from all of Bill's dealings with the ATF and the FBI that law enforcement is going to look the other way. The reason for their secrecy, then, was Barb's embarrassment and refusal to openly acknowledge their family.
It's very interesting that Adaleen told Barb that she was rendering herself powerless by resisting Bill at every turn and staying closeted. Nicki also recognized that because Margene was the youngest and most attractive wife that Margene couldn't also be equal in decision-making power with the other wives. Did you catch the look on Margene's face when Nicki told her that if Barb found out about Ana that she'd be out the door? Margene may have thought that this was her chance to finally take all the power as Bill's wife, but Barb surprised her and yanked out the rug in front of her, significantly, with Margene's first friend outside the family: Pam. She took Margene's "calling" from her, but at the same time, she openly acknowledged Margene's role, which effectively gives Margene a calling at the same time. She is wife and mother, she is family.
My second favorite line in the episode was when Pam asked Barb if she didn't want to have two or three more kids, so she could have a normal-sized family. It was great on so many levels: For one thing, it is the very basis of polygamy. What are Nicki and Margene if not surrogate mothers for Barb, to some extent? Margene openly threw this in Barb's face in the last episode. And Barb, by telling Pam that Margene was married to them, claimed Margene for herself, as her own surrogate, and yet didn't: She recognized Margene as her equal, her sister, her wife.
This is very interesting and compelling on so many levels: Why is it okay for Pam to use a surrogate to bear children for her husband, and yet, it's not okay for the neighbors across the street to be polygamists? The methods of insemination are different, yet at least Margene and Nicki are full wives and get to raise their children, rather than give them away like some twisted Margaret Atwood tale. However, before Barb was ready to openly acknowledge them as sister-wives, they were, to some extent, hidden away as mere surrogates for Barb. She wants to be THE wife, but the only way she can do that now is to be one among three. And her acceptance of a role on Weber Gaming seals her acceptance of The Principle. Ben embraces her, Barb stands with her other two wives, and now it is Sarah on the outside, looking in.
I was not expecting to see Ana again, and I was sure Barb was going to walk in on her embrace with Bill in the pantry. Hand in hand with Barb's acceptance of Weber Gaming (and symbolically, polygamy), does this mean she will now entertain the idea of a fourth wife, if that is what it will take to secure her own position and power? And what will happen with Weber Gaming now that Roman is in jail? Will Alby and Bill now be at war? The Greenes are still at large and dangerous, and at the same time that Bill is bringing Barb more fully into the future with her position on the board, he is also lying to her, which undermines not only her power and position, but their marriage. He lied about what the doctor said about moving Roman and also about his relationship with Ana. And that was just in this episode.
We will probably be seeing further development of these storylines in the next season, as well as Wanda's independence: She stood up to Lois, and snapped at Kathy. I wonder if she'll try to poison Kathy next, in order to get Joey's affections back to herself. It's very interesting that Lois was behind all of Wanda's other poisonings, except for Alby's, and yet Lois is the one who put her into a mental hospital.
One of the most poignant scenes in the finale was when Bill asks Roman why he sent him away. At the heart of everything Bill does, he is still a scarred and wounded little boy who lost his foothold, lost his home, and is still trying to invent and reclaim his identity. Roman says, "Look at you now, " as if who Bill has become has somehow made up for what Roman did to a young teenager, casting him out. I'm not therapist, but I think that statement was not necessarily a compliment. As long as Roman lives, Bill will never be free of Juniper Creek. However, he can't cut the strings and set himself free.