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October 13, 2015

'Big Love' Season 5, Episode 8 Recap

by Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously), posted Mar 7th 2011 6:45AM
['Big Love' - 'The Noose Tightens']

It turns out that in the world of Mormon polygamist senator, Bill Henrickson, not only is the love not big, it's pretty much non-existent, and the only love that might be in his future is of the unlubricated prison variety. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Every woman on 'Big Love' is going in a different direction: One toward death (Lois), one toward empowerment (Barb), another toward personal success (Margene), and yet another toward eliminating all the others (Nicki). Bill, whether he knows it or not, is powerless to stop it. If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, then what doth hell not hath like a woman trapped in a plural-marriage with two crazy women and a megalomaniac?

I'm starting to think that a large portion of Bill's strife stems from his unrelenting hubris. If he would just stop and admit that he's scared, weak, wrong, or misinformed, it might be a lot easier to bear. I think that's called humility and, allegedly, the meek shall inherit the earth, but even with the entire earth at his disposal I think Bill would still push for plural marriage.

This episode worked hard to establish a sort of religious allegory with Bill as God, Alby as Satan, and the sister wives as disciples. It even went so far as to define Gogi Blast guru, Michael Saint, as a false prophet. But this allegory had a lot more hypocrisy and moral ambiguity than the ones you might be used to from '7th Heaven' or 'Touched By An Angel.'

Margene was the innocent child being manipulated by the false prophet, but the show wanted to call into question which power was false. Saint, Bill and Barb were each convincing Margene that the other was nothing but a cult preying on her vulnerability and good nature, and Margene was beginning to crack under the pressure of confusion -- especially in the wake of her police interrogation. Both entities -- the Gogi Blast pyramid scheme and The Henricksons -- put Margene in cult-like circumstances, and their rhetoric was eerily similar: "I believe that this is a battle for your soul."

Cara Lynn played the sheep straying from the flock; the flock that recently made her one of their own. Her relationship with Mr. Ivey exposed, she was forced to confront her past and her future, simultaneously. As Nicki fought to prevent Cara Lynn from repeating her same mistakes, Margene was torn between condoning love for love's sake and the implications of her own indiscretions with Bill. It's hard to be at once sympathetic and outraged, but Margene somehow made it work.

Nicki and Margene were haunted by the fact that they saw themselves in other characters, specifically Cara Lynn. Nicki assaulted Mr. Ivey upon hearing of their ilicit relationship, and it was difficult to discern whether or not Nicki was angy with him or with the course of life that she only relatively recently overcame, and the life from which she was trying to save Cara Lynn and so many others through Safety Net. Margene was no different, and the Cara Lynn saga hit far too close to home in light of the ongoing investigation into Margene's marriage to Bill.

Inevitably these types of stories set everything up for the final revelationary battle between good and evil, and the two traded salvos of intimidation and manipulation back and forth. Alby had gotten to Don (Bill's best friend and busuness partner) and Don was losing it. Bill shot back with some good old fashioned blackmail. Alby put a hit out on Bill, exclaiming, "It is time for that insolent suburban shop-keeper to go" and almost killed his own sister, Nicki, instead choosing to whack Verlin, his little boy wonder.

Alby is what really makes this show tick. Bill can have all the swagger and Senate seats he wants, but Alby brings inbred creepiness and deviant vigilante vengeance to prominence. As with everything else on the show, Alby's situation is far more complicated than just being a corrupt, evil man. His closeted homosexuality and his relationship to his father and the compound almost justify his actions as a victim of institutional abuse.

When he nearly killed Nicki, she tried to appeal to his emotions, but how do you appeal to the emotions of a calculating fundamentalist Mormon robot of death? You drudge up some random memory you share about swimming, apparently. He left her with the rather foreboding and oddly threatening, "This is who we are. This is who we'll always be."

This was supposed to be Nicki's corronation, her triumphant transition into legal wife status, but too many things were getting in the way of her selfishness, sadly enough. Particularly the Margene crisis and the targeting of Bill and Barb by the LDS in attempts to bring down plural marriage and push it back to the fringes where they believed it belonged.

This is where Bill began to tap into some of that humility I mentioned before. Considering all the negativity surrounding his Senate run and the subsequent fall-out from it -- Don's breakdown, the Home Plus collapse, the rape charges, Barb's search for identity, Gogi Blast, Alby and the compound, Safety Net, Lois's deterioration, etc. -- Bill finally wanted the dogs called off, telling the LDS he would resign if they would just let things lie. But this show has taught me something about this religion, and that is that people rarely just "let things lie."

We were left with the news that the D.A. will still be coming after Bill, whether he resigns or not. This "God" has been sufficiently tested, and I just can't see him acheiving anything but salvation as the end approaches. Twenty years in prison for rape would strain any marriage, let alone three marriages, and with two episodes left Bill will need that unequivocal love and support that he's been blathering on and on about for five seasons, but has been sorely missing lately.

'Big Love' airs Sundays, 9PM ET on HBO.

Dr. Vaughan teaches English/Media/Humor courses at Binghamton University in upstate New York, and he loves fish stick Fridays. You can also check out his blog at drvtv.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/pages/Ryan-Vaughan/21931402981

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Only two episodes to go, and I find myself glad. I've watched it since the beginning and enjoyed the earlier seasons. However, last season was too chaotic, and this one is almost too painful to watch.

March 07 2011 at 3:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

as intense as friday night lights sure emmy nod.

March 07 2011 at 1:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder if the actor who plays Alby creeps himself out when he watches this. he desrves an Emmy nod. His performance makes my skin crawl...

March 07 2011 at 11:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hate that this is the last season of "Big Love" but feel we are in for some great stories. I feel sorry for Margene having to tell on Bill about her being underage when they married. What is going to happen to him? I think Nikki's daughter will end up pregnant with her Professors' child which will make Nikki go berserk!! Lois will end up killing her husband before the end of the season. There are many more bizzare plots which will keep all of us on the edge of our seat!

March 07 2011 at 9:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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