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Rough Edges: Truth and Consequences on "Big Love"

Could it be that Kathy Marquart's death has shown everyone's true colors?

I never thought it possible that Lois would show true compassion or that Wanda would show some grit but this week's episode of HBO's superlative drama series Big Love ("Rough Edges"), written by series creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, proved that the series can surprise in smaller moments just as much as it can shock and awe when it pulls out all of the stops.

With the death of the much beloved Kathy Marquart, it seems that several of the characters are acting in heretofore unseen ways, whether that be Roman Grant's fear that his complicity in her death will be discovered (despite his later showboating at poor Kathy's funeral), Wanda's move to support her long-suffering husband Joey, and Lois' attempts to form a bond with Wanda in the face of their shared loss.

All of which would have been enough character development to last an entire season, but that's to say nothing about the intrigues and plots that the other characters are currently enmeshed in: Nikki coming clean to Ray about her true purpose at the DA's office, Bill's scuffles with brother-in-law Ted, the return of the Greens... who come close to ending Bill's life on the floor of his office, and the first appearance by Wanda's brother J.J. (Zeljko Ivanek), whom Nicki had been sealed to as a teenager.

Nicki. This week's episode made me want to reach into the television set and shake some sense into Nicki. It is mind-boggling to me just how out of touch with reality she is and how she can keep denying what she has done to the Henrickson clan. She willfully betrayed all of them by secretly taking birth control, stole Margene's identity, spied at the DA's office for her father and tampered with witnesses, and embarked on a relationship with her boss, Ray Henry. None of which has seemed to phase Nicki one bit; she still can't believe why no one wants to hear her side of things. The scene between her and Ray in the street was powerfully understated; you could see in Chloe Sevigny's eyes just how much she wanted to leave with Ray, to convince him that she loves him, and how much she is torn by her duty to her family... who can't seem to understand why Nicki would betray them in this fashion.

Did Adaleen and Roman put her up to this? Of course they did and Nicki's always followed their orders without question (especially Roman), even though they clearly don't give a fig about her. (Loved the way that Roman said that Nicki voted with her hand when she pushed him down a courthouse stairwell.) There's no way that Adaleen is going to defy Roman and speak up for her daughter, who faces a litany of serious criminal charges for her part in the conspiracy. And she's clearly made enemies out of the people she cares about most. I was glad to see that Bill made Nicki choose whether or not she wanted to come home (she refused)... and that Joey then kicked her out of his house as well. Kathy's death was a direct result of Nicki's involvement in the trial; because of her, Roman DID go free and did exact his revenge on Kathy. And with nowhere else to turn, Nicki goes to the big house. And is very surprisingly welcomed with open arms by Alby. Gee, do we think his newfound love for his sister has anything to do with offering a united front against their father? Hmmm...

Lois. Out of nearly everyone (save Joey, who outright accuses Roman of murdering Kathy at the funeral), Lois seems the most clearly affected by Kathy's death. Could it be because of its own similarities to the fate that befell her daughter Maggie? Could Lois also suspect that Kathy's death wasn't an accident? That remains to be unseen. But she reaches out to Wanda in a way that she hasn't on the series to date and the two seem bound by tragedy now. The fact that she locks herself in a gas station restroom overcome by sadness but ends up offering a beautifully poignant speech about death and how the living have to accept that pain and try to endure speaks volumes about Lois' contradictory nature. This season we've been seeing a deeper side of Lois Henrickson, one that's colored by grief and unpent rage, and I think that Grace Zabriskie has done an extraordinary job of bringing this complex woman to life before our eyes.

Wanda. Likewise, I was amazed to see Wanda take on a leadership role at the funeral, protecting Joey and appropriately thanking everyone for paying their respects to Kathy. It's a stronger Wanda than we've seen of late and I think that admitting to Lois that she wished Kathy harm lifted an extraordinary weight off of her shoulders. Just how Wanda will roll with this latest tragedy remains to be seen but the way she kept looking at Wanda's portrait and her twin sister Jodean makes me think that Wanda is going to try to get Joey to take on Jodean as a new wife in an effort to replace Kathy. It's a plan that's bound to fail... and will likely put her once again on a path of destruction at the hands of Frank Harlow.

I was VERY surprised to find out that the enigmatic J.J. (Damages' Zeljko Ivanek), whom we learned earlier this season had been sealed to Nicki, was in fact Wanda's own brother. Ivanek is always wonderful and here he radiates a malevolent presence that makes me very concerned. He clearly hasn't gotten over Nicki and--now that she's back on the compound at the big house--it's only a matter of time before they cross paths. Color me very worried about this latest wild card.

Bill. Once again, Bill is playing with fire, inciting his brother-in-law Ted to take actions against Bill's casino project. And Bill definitely crosses a line by hiring thieves to break in and steal an authentication report proving that the church document advocating polygamy is real. If that weren't bad enough, said thieves actually belong to Hollis and Selma Green's creepy sect and bring the terrifying leaders to Bill's office, where they demand the letter. Unfortunately for Bill, the report itself is gone, taken by Don in an effort to prove to his two errant sister wives the legitimacy of plural marriage... and Bill is nearly strangled to death by the Greens' hulking henchman. If it hadn't been for Don's quick thinking in pulling the fire alarm, I do think they would have killed Bill right then and there. Terrifying indeed.

All in all, another fantastic episode of a series that just gets better and better with age. I'm shocked that there's only two episodes left with so much to wrap up this season and, if the past few episodes have been any indication, I believe we're in for two of the most heart-pounding and tense installments of Big Love yet. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Next week on Big Love ("Outer Darkness"), Nicki returns home after Barb calls her; Wanda gives Jodean a makeover; Sarah reconnects with Scott; Barb faces ex-communication from her old church following a visit from the bishop.


Anonymous said…
I loved the scenes between Lois and Wanda in this episode and found it very satisfying to see both a softer side to Lois and a stronger side to Wanda. And I was very happy to see Joey stand up to Nicki and let her know that she was not welcome in their home after everything she did to help Roman in the trial.

Nicki is seriously delusional and I think she feels bad for herself but not bad for what she's done. She has to take responsibility for herself and stop blaming everyone else!
S Broggie said…
This episode should be submitted for the awards it deserves. I would love to see Grace Zabriskie get an Emmy for her role as Lois. It's a great character who Grace makes completely believable when she's being tender, insightful or just plain nasty.
Anyway, the street scene with Ray was incredibly uncomfortable to watch. I loved it! Well written and wonderfully acted.
deonne said…
Ray and Nikki are amazing. They should definitely submit that scene for an golden globe or emmy. The actors click. You could see how much Nicki and Ray's heart was breaking. Nicki desperately wanted to be with Ray and explain to him how she feels. Ray was justifibly angry but also you could see that he clearly was still in love with Nicki. It is amazing how much story these two have. The dynamic with the family would be huge if they get married.

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