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August 28, 2015

'Big Love' Season 5, Episode 10 (Series Finale) Recap

by Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously), posted Mar 21st 2011 7:05AM
'Big Love' Series Finale['Big Love': 'When Men and Mountains Meet']

What do you look for in a series finale? Resolution? Closure? Drama? Suspense? A twist? The return of a lost character? Death? Birth? Pro-polygamy legislation? If you answered "yes" to any, or all, of those scenarios you would have been mildly amused by the 'Big Love' series finale.

I say that because, while the episode did hit all those major finale highlights, it didn't really hit any of them with much force, leaving the show's legacy somewhat up for grabs. I'm not going to let a great series be sullied with a mediocre finale; I will continue to pretend that it all ended with a three-way wifely mud-wrestling contest -- which is what we were all expecting, I'm sure.

Bill emerged from prison with the fire in his belly and the stench in his hair that only two nights in county lock-up can adequately provide. With his wives on his arms he set the tone for the finale. He was coming for all those who stood against him, even possibly his own wives.

Margene, so inspired if not brainwashed by Gogi's Michael Saint, started talking with Bill about her aspirations, which included philanthropic cruises to foreign lands for months at a time, to which Bill was not necessarily opposed. It was always precarious how Bill handled each wife differently, but in the case of Barb and Margene in this situation it was straight-up hypocritical.

Things with Barb were contentious as a result of that and countless other things, and she chose Easter church service as a perfect occasion to be baptized into the Reform church that would allow her to hold the priesthood, and to stick it to Bill in the process.

With the responsibility -- or the threat, depending on how you interpret Nicki -- of being first, and only, wife becoming ever more real for Nicki, she started to crack as fast as you can say, "be careful what you wish for." Her manipulative nature may have been as much of a contributing factor to Barb and Margene's flightiness, as well.

The Alby situation was what really made everything fizzle. Bill's only rivals in the finale were his wives (barely) and his mother's Alzheimer's. It wasn't like he and Alby -- the principal conflict throughout the last few seasons, and one of the creepiest villains in TV history -- had a fight to the death in the penultimate episode either. They didn't even get gay married. Alby was in prison and sent Adaleen as his proxy for the episode. For someone as ruthless and watchable as Alby to not appear in the finale is borderline criminal, but at the same time, it helped make it all about Bill and the wives.

I thought the episode was more about Barb's triumph than anything else. Until now, her strength had always been relative to the family, never herself. Just when it seemed like the sister wives were pushing her away harder than even Bill, Barb really sought that inner strength and spirituality and used it to embrace the changes she had been resisting exclusively for appearances' sake, causing Nicki to comment, "it's good to keep an open mind, but no so open that your brains fall out."

It was interesting to watch the different characters come to grips with the implications of Bill's future, and everyone but Barb seemed to go against character. Margene was at peace with whatever happened since she'd found an inner peace and embraced her regrets rather than fighting them. Nicki did a double-take, thriving in an area of weakness (motherhood), finally connecting with Cara Lynn, and choking in an area of strength (first wife).

The Lois storyline, while saccharine sweet, was a bit much, and another thing to add to a show that was already loaded with angles not getting enough attention. After watching her fade before his eyes, he had a vision of a young Lois that kind of set up her eerily emotional assisted suicide with Frank. A lot of people looked at their relationship as the back end of Mormonism, an intimate connection cauterized by a mutual respect for surviving the fire.

All the goings-on only made Bill act with more of a sense of urgency. He defiantly continued to push his legislative pursuits in the face of adversity and resistance from his superiors, and when his voice was finally heard, he went rogue and with the kind of brazen disregard that only a man with nothing to lose can muster. On top of his campaign against the compound, he forced a bill to re-open the discussion on the legalization of plural marriage.

Bill was simply planting seeds. Seeds that would hopefully mature while he was away. More often than not, the glory goes to the man who solves the problem, not the man who started the discussion that made the solution possible.

Things with Barb and her priesthood needs became so bad that Bill went to stay at Nicki's for an indeterminate amount of time. It felt like Bill wanted to let Barb go, but fought it because of how it would look to the public in the time of crisis they were facing.

It was no surprise that once everyone stopped hiding behind fear, and self-interest, and deception, and began to speak freely about their feelings and ideas, everything started to work itself out. It may not have produced the by-products that made everyone happy, but it put everyone on the same page. It all gave way to Barb buying a new mid-life crisis mobile, and a scene right out of 'Thelma and Louise ... and Nicki,' with the three wives tearing down the freeway.

The news about the car coincided with the news that Home Plus was shutting down, and Bill couldn't have used the situation as a metaphor for his relationship with Barb any quicker or more obviously. Like a hungry rat backed into a corner by an even hungrier rat, Bill was ready to fight for the things he believed in. Spite can be a terrific motivator.

Nicki's biggest challenge as the show drew to a close was trying not to revert to the compound ethics that she fought so hard against. Her relationship with Cara Lynn and her sister wives illustrated that, fending for herself when the people she loved needed her most. She began to back away from those ideals, however, owning up to Cara Lynn and hugging it out with Barb.

With the Henricksons now fully out in the open, and Bill's Capitol Hill diatribe reigniting the debate over plural marriage for legitimacy, the compound-ites came out for Easter service at Bill's humble little church, much to his surprise. The wicked witch was dead and Bill was the Mormon Dorothy clicking his heels three times to take them all back to a simpler time.

The service ran concurrent with Barb's baptism, and I started to figure out where it was headed. An overwhelmed Bill began a humbled address to his now rapidly multiplying congregation. As Barb stepped into the baptism pool, she backed out at the last minute, arriving just in time for Bill to nod to her at the doorway to the future of Mormonism.

What seemed like a defining moment, however, quickly vanished as Barb's decision didn't really change her ideas about where she stood within the family. It wasn't going to be that simple. You can't just flip a switch and not want spiritual equality anymore.

It was then that the show kind of went off the rails. Carl, the disgruntled neighbor and minor grudge holder approached Bill outside, playing a great hand of cards: Pity, jealousy, "you think you're better than me?" and gun. The camera cut away to the wives and the shots went off. Bill was shot and lying in the street.

Really? Carl? When you have a character as duplicitous and skeevy as Alby Grant and you kill off your main character with someone named Carl, something's not right. I realize Bill had to die to solidify the show's intentions to give a voice to oppressed women, but Carl? At least have Rhonda give it a shot, or Heather, or maybe even Lois. Carl almost made me angry, and then I remembered he was the pestering pool boy, Ramon on 'Seinfeld.'

In the end they must have thought it didn't matter who killed Bill, he just had to die in order to pass the family on to Barb without being around to have to tolerate her perceived insubordination. With Bill fading fast and all three wives floating over him like angels, he asked for a blessing from Barb, validating everything she fought for as his final act on earth.

The prognosis for a Bill-free life? Girl-power. Margene was strong enough to get an atrocious haircut and Barb seemed to be assuming the role of priesthood holder rather well during the über-cheesy flash forward scene. Its one redeeming quality was the return of Sarah (Amanda Seyfried); enough to help me forget the hokey group hug with Bill's spirit looming in the background

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

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if you would rather read a respectful review, one without sarcasm and condescension, then read this:
this is how a review of Big Love should be written. honest, yet unspoiled and wreaking from your superior attitude!!
You are also mistaken mr phd, bill did not have a 'vision of a young lois', the woman at the back of the church during his testimony was Mrs Joseph Smith - something you would have known without question had you viewed previous seasons?! Cant say I am a fan of the idea of plural marriage or having sister wives, but i found this series to be heartfelt and fascinating. I will miss these characters. Seeing Bill at the table was wonderful. Yes people, he is dead, but in following with the show (I am not a religious person).. heavenly father will bring this family together for eternity, and I find that comforting for them, even if they are not real. We all need something to believe in, and at the very least, I believe in these characters.

February 05 2012 at 7:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vezu Sigidi

But who said Bill is dead? I bet he will appear in the next season.

March 30 2011 at 4:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I think Carl was really the only one who COULD kill Bill in the last episode. Everyone else would have unraveled the story. It had to be someone outside of the core situation but still linked. It's not random. Carl has been cracking up all season. He's been blaming Bill for his life falling apart all season. Margene and Goji, Bill's election stuff, the aftermath of that. Plus he lost his job, and then his wife was spending all their money on something Bill's wife was doing and Bill was too busy, important, etc to do anything about it. So in the end, he killed Bill. Anyone can understand that he snapped. It closes the story nicely. It wasn't the Greenes coming for revenge or someone from the compound or anything that would have unraveled the story. It was a poor distraught man who lost his mind and took that out on the person he saw responsible for his problems.

March 21 2011 at 8:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think it had to be carl. Anyone else would have unraveled the story again and put the women back on the run. Carl killing Bill was open and shut. It closed the book cleanly.

March 21 2011 at 8:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

did bill really die? we don't know this yet.

March 21 2011 at 7:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought it was a perfect ending, and it served it's title well - BIG LOVE. The tender moments between Bill and his mother, and his wives and the rest of his family was touching and believable. I will miss starting 2012 with new episodes of BIG LOVE. I watched and learned a lot from this show... THANK YOU!

March 21 2011 at 4:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The writers/creators have posted a video interview and it deals with some issues you raise.

They chose Carl because the Greens or Albie shooting him would bring up so much of the background story that would just muddle it worse (and the Greens are on the run anyway so why they would randomly pop back to kill Bill doesn't make sense). Its a case of "keeping up with the Joneses". Carl sees Bills actions and beliefs as wrong and yet in spite of everything Bill still seems to be "winning" (he has the businesses, as obviously Carl didn't know he lost Home Plus, the loving wives, was a senator etc) while Carl lost his job, his home was practically invaded by all the press and his wife. It wasn't some grand act of vengeance or hatred, it was just badly channelled anger.

They also said that Bill had always been about faith first and family second but at that moment in the church he realised family should come first. He seemed to be making plans to do that (the legal pad etc).

March 21 2011 at 3:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


March 21 2011 at 3:44 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to CATHYTREALTY's comment
Vezu Sigidi

I also thought it was more of a cult. Nothing of what they believe in is biblical. But i loved every episode of it. I will miss watching it

March 30 2011 at 4:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hated to see "Big Love" come to an end. I have followed every episode and feel there could have been much more for the show to offer.

March 21 2011 at 2:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think they tied up things the best they could... I would have loved for this show to continue on.... Whether you watched and were touched by it, disgusted by it or just loved another side of life as i did, I KNOW I WILL DEFINITLEY MISS IT AND NOW HAVE NOTHING TO WATCH....

March 21 2011 at 1:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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