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Talk Back: Season Premiere of HBO's "Big Love" ("Block Party")

I don't know about you but I've definitely missed HBO's Big Love, which has been missing from the airwaves for far too long.

You've all had a chance to read my advance review of the third season premiere of Big Love ("Block Party") from last month, in which I tried my hardest not to give away any major spoilers. But it was definitely difficult when talking about an episode that contained as many intriguing plot twists as this one, in which murder attempts are made, boys are thrown off the compound, and a personal sacrifice is made for the greater good. (And believe me when I say that you haven't seen anything yet: the twists that are coming will blow you away.)

Now that the season premiere of Big Love--written by series creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer--has aired, we can talk about the latest complications in the Henrickson clan's lives... and what these latest twists might spell out for the future of the polygamist family.

Barb. I was shocked to see that Barb's cancer may have returned and even more shocked that she decided to keep this news a secret both from Bill and her sister wives. Rather than tell them that she might once more be sick, Barb opted instead to invest her energy in welcoming a potential fourth wife into the family. Sure, her reasoning makes sense: they need to expand their family in the afterlife and a fourth will allow them to do it. But really Boss Lady is being pragmatic: if she dies, she wants to make sure that Bill is taken care of and the best way to do so is not to disturb the already-fragile balance of the family.

I don't think that a season ago Barb would have gone so far as to drop in on Ana and tell her that they wanted to start to formally date her (hell, she was considering leaving the family at the start of Season Two after her outing at the governor's ball), but her current situation has precipitated her action. And the sad look on her face when Sarah railed against her for even considering a fourth said it all.

Nikki. While Barb surprised me by being so matter-of-fact about the addition of a fourth wife to their family, I was stunned by Nikki's act of utter selflessness at the block party. Given her devotion to the principle, it was a stunning about-face to see Nikki stand up on the roof and publicly denounce the compound and her father. While Nikki is often portrayed as selfish and manipulative, it's perhaps the single most genuine act of support and compassion she's performed for her family on the series to date. Even though she's actually betraying them by secretly working for Adeleen at the DA's office, gathering evidence on the four Jane Does preparing to testify against Roman. And she had Adeleen's help in doctoring a fake driver's license registered to Margene. Nikki is playing a very dangerous game and it's only a matter of time before all of her lies catch up with her.

Margene. Don't you just want to hug Margene? She's slowly transformed into a more than capable member of the family unit and she came to Bill's aid in the meeting with Jerry and LaDonna by reciting the Indian words she had so carefully practiced ("We are a peaceful people"). I think we'll see Margene's influence on Bill continue to grow as he looks to expand his business... and hopefully see her gain an ally in Ana. The smile on her face at the episode's end when Ana comes up to them was priceless.

Alby. I had no idea that Alby's illicit rendezvous at the rest stop would become an attempt on his life and the scene was so terrifying and shocking that I was horrified but found that I couldn't look away. Everything--the lighting, the filthy water in the sink, the lack of a score--all contributed to the scene of absolute dread and rage. He surely would have been dead if those kids hadn't wandered in and interrupted his killer. The look of horror on his face as he realizes his brush with death is only later trumped by his expression of understanding as Adeleen drives by him on the road. Yes, Alby knows that his own mother tried to have him killed. And that knowledge terrifies him.

Sarah. Clearly, Sarah is not dealing very well with the latest changes to her family and the mere possibility that her father could take a fourth wife--and that her mother would willingly allow this to happen--is perhaps more than she can bear. When she confesses to Heather that she'll die if she stays in Utah, you can't help but feel that this is more than just a histrionic threat: it's deadly serious. Of all the characters on Big Love, Sarah continues to remain the most tragic, caught in a series of compromises and choices that she had no part in, forced to remain an outsider even among her family. You can't help but feel for her.

Frankie. I'm worried about the reappearance of Frankie at the Henricksons, given the already bitter rivalry existing between Bill and his father Frank. Kicking 15-year-old Frankie off of the compound for kissing a girl, Frank swears that Bill is no better than him and that his fancy wives in the suburbs are nothing "modern but broken." We all saw what having Rhonda at the houses did to the family, so I am not sure that having Frankie there will prove to be much better, save for the fact that no one will come looking for him. But by inviting him in, Bill has taken a stand against his father and the Henricksons already have enough enemies to contend with. Still, it will provide a really great opportunity to see how being kicked off of the compound affected Bill as a character by seeing it unfold once again via Frankie.

Jodean. I can't believe that Kathy has a twin sister and that she had the bad fate to be sealed to Frank, who is going to do his best to destroy her spirit. Seeing her forced to obey his every instruction--including helping the "girls dig out the new sewer line"--sent shivers down my spine. But how fantastic is it that the always luminous Mireille Enos now gets to play two fantastic roles? I'm hoping we see more of both Kathy and Jodean in the future.

Lois. She might rant and rave and kick up a fuss (along with more than her share of intrigues) but Lois really did believe that having a boy kicked off the compound is always hardest on the mother. For all of her tempest-in-a-teapot scheming, Lois does often speak pearls of wisdom, at least in her own mind. And I think that she's had to suffer more than her fair share of burdens over the years.

Best line of the evening: "These are good lawyers, honey. These men worked for Ronald Reagan." - Adeleen

But I am curious to know what you thought of the season premiere. Did you get choked up when Nikki put aside her beliefs and protected the family by making her rooftop speech to the neighborhood? Were you shocked as all hell when that guy tried to kill Alby? Did you think Bill would sleep with Ana? And were you surprised that Ana came around to the sister wives' way of thinking? Talk back here.

Next week on Big Love ("Empire"), Bill and the sister wives attempt to date Ana as a group; Barb anxiously awaits her test results; Scott offers to join Sarah in Arizona, an offer with which she's not too pleased; Frank visits Lois with his new wife.


Anonymous said…
Nikki is fantastic. It's fascinating to see a character that is so conniving and so loyal at the same time. The premiere was great, but I must say that I agree with what Bill said about Ana - she wouldn't be a good fit. She's too stubborn and independent. I don't think she will be around for the long haul. I can't wait to see what comes next!
Anonymous said…
This series is great! The first episode of the new season more then delivered and I can hardly wait for the rest, especially after reading your preview. Really curious about what happens between Sarah and Ben and what Nikki's big secret is!

And I really love love LOVE some of the secondary characters - especially Wanda’s craziness, Adaleen’s ruthless, single minded purpose, Lois selfish, greedy conniving. I was really happy to see that these women seem to be continuing with strong storylines around the main characters.
Anonymous said…
To answer your questions:

I was not shocked at all by the attempted murder on Alby nor the fact it was his mother that arranged it. He tried to kill his father, her husband and Adaleen has shown she let's nothing, including her own children, get in the way of her dedication to the "Prophet". (really it is a dedication to her own well being, if he is not the prophet where does that leave her?)

I was not shocked at what Nikki did, all through the episode she indicated she knew she was the problem and wanted to leave for the good of the family. I thought maybe after her impassioned speech some of the neighbors might be moved and rush to help her get her ladder? But no one did.

I was shocked at Ana's decision to date all of them, it was the only thing that maybe did not ring true and felt a little forced to make the story more interesting. I don't see her embracing their religion, I think her feeling for Bill is more lust based then anything.

The two moments that got to me were:

1 - how upset Sarah was when she heard that a 4th wife was being considered, yes I do really feel for her and her situation, trapped by decisions she has no part of making

2 - how obviously upset Bill was with himself for betraying his own moral code and sleeping with Ana - because he always tries so hard to do the right thing (according to his beliefs)
Anonymous said…
I can't believe how much happened in one episode!

I'm glad that Ana is still around but, as much as I love her, I don't think she'd be happy as the fourth wife. It will be interesting to see how the "dating" goes.

My favorite part of the episode had to be Nikki speech on the roof of her house. Her courage and support of the family gave me chills! And then I loved the humor at the very end with - "They took my ladder." A great piece of writing and a great performance!
Unknown said…
Yes, yes, rich storylines, crazy, complex characters, spot on actors. Did no one else find that scene in the office between Bill and Don chilling? I mean, the unbelievable chutzpah of those two--and that male dominated religion of theirs! So self-righteous, so female demeaning! All that hoo-ha talk of priesthood and serving the Divine was revealed to be merely a justification for a roving eye and the need to feel superior.
Anonymous said…
I have to disagree about the best line of the episode. The best line (and most perfect delivery) had to be from Barb, when discussing the block party: "But Bill's the hot dog man!"

Indeed he is.

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