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The Fugitives: Into the Darkness on Big Love

"Hold tight."

While the walls have been closing in on the Henricksons for some time now (really, almost since the start of the series), the stakes have never been higher for the polygamist family, beset from all sides. It's impossible not to feel that the endgame is finally here as the countdown to the series finale begins. (Are there really just two episodes left?)

On this week's episode of Big Love ("The Noose Tightens"), written by Seth Greenland and directed by David Knoller, the noose certainly did tighten around the family's collective neck, as law enforcement officials closed in on Bill and Barb, Margene took a stand against just about everyone, and Nicki came face to face with the madness that has overtaken her brother Alby.

In a series that's been overflowing with twists and turns, this week's installment might rank up there with some of the craziest, most jaw-dropping episodes to date, a rollercoaster ride of betrayal, deceit, murder, and soul-searching. Will there be a family when all is said and done? Or are we seeing the dissolution of the Henrickson family before our eyes?

I don't think that the series will end with Bill in jail for his crimes, namely the charges that the Utah prosecutors are holding over Bill: statutory rape, aiding in the delinquency of a minor, etc. While, yes, ignorance of a crime isn't an excuse for perpetrating said crimes, Bill didn't knowingly cross any legal or moral boundaries in bringing Margene into their marriage, as he was unaware of her true age at the time that their affair began. So too is Barb innocent of the charges being levied against her: she didn't act as a procurer, either in this situation or with Ana.

Yet, one can't escape the fact that all of them are fugitives in a way, and the episode--which uses footage from the original The Fugitive series (it's on television in Lois' nursing home bedroom)--posits that each of the characters are running from something: whether that be the truth of their situations, themselves, or the darkness within. Despite the fate awaiting them, old grudges rear their ugly heads here (enough with the finances, Nicki!) and uncomfortable truths (the re-sealing) come tumbling out. Bill and the sister-wives might claim that they are a united front, but they seem to be anything but that, lapsing into the sort of accusations and suspicions that their numerous enemies would hope they would.

So just how will the Henricksons wriggle out of this legal quandary? Likely, by turning state's evidence against Albert Grant and Juniper Creek, throwing themselves on the sword in an effort to protect their family and the Principle from Albert's heretical ways. I've long predicted that the series would end with the rightful balance restored at Juniper Creek, with the Henrickson family restored to their position of power as they reclaim the prophethood stolen from them by the Grants.

But Alby isn't going down without a fight, as we saw only too clearly here. He's willing to kidnap Nicki and contemplate murdering his "apostate" sister and dumping her body in an unmarked grave, which means he's not above slaughtering anyone who gets in his way. (Look how easily and callously he kills Verlan in cold blood, shooting him right in front of Nicki.) Albert believes that they can't escape who they are and what they are in the soil and blood of Juniper Creek, those prim prairie clothes and their unerring belief in both the Principle and their position of righteousness in the eyes of Heavenly Father.

Alby has been backed into a corner now and he's likely more dangerous than he's ever been as a result. That Bill has dug up old business with Madison and the payoff engineered by Roman and Adaleen to cover up Alby's homosexual appetites is only the first strike. There's the matter of Madison, of poor Dale, of the attack on Don, Nicki's kidnapping... The list goes on and on. No wonder he flees the scene and leaves Nicki shaking in her purple dress. He's become mentally unhinged, a shepherd who has lost all control of his sheep, and I'm terrified to see just what atrocities he's capable of in his vengeful quest to punish those who would strip him of his authority.

The Henricksons, after all, are fighting battles on numerous fronts: against the LDS Church, against Alby (who wants to buy out Don's shares of Home Plus), against the Senate, against Michael Sainte and Goji Blast, and against themselves. Put under so much pressure, something has to break and what concerns me is that I'm not sure all three sister-wives will make it to the very end of the road. The re-sealing that went on without Barb was a brutal wake-up call, a realization that perhaps these four might not spend eternity together, that just as on Earth, their celestial souls are being pulled apart.

Just as I was happy to see last week that Margene was the one who noticed the inappropriate nature of the relationship between fifteen-year-old Cara-Lynn and Greg Ivey, so too was I pleased to see her doggedly pursue her suspicions here, relentlessly chasing Cara-Lynn until she caught her and Greg together at his apartment. Given her own history with Bill and the charges that they all face, Margene is the one person best-equipped to see Cara-Lynn's position... and she quickly urges her to stop the relationship once and for all.

But Cara-Lynn isn't giving up on Greg. She doesn't see what he's done wrong, as he claimed to have saved himself and that their first time together was his first time too. She's fallen for her teacher and he's taken advantage of his student, even if he claims to love her. Which is part of the danger really: Cara-Lynn is so desperate to be loved for herself (Nicki claims to love her daughter but her idea of love is saving her from the life she led) that she's willingly to make this leap with someone twice her age, to fall into the traps of polygamy that Nicki desperately tried to avoid for her. She's avoided one marriage for another, becoming yet another child bride in a long line of them.

Cara-Lynn demands that Nicki give her consent to marry Greg when she turns sixteen, a fact that sends Nicki right over to Greg's house where she brings down her words and her fists upon Cara-Lynn's teacher. But while Nicki fights Greg, it's also herself that she's battling: the past she escaped, the future she envisioned for her daughter, the situation that she unwittingly engineered. History is repeating itself all over again, a kaleidoscope of possibilities collapsing inwards upon itself.

While Cara-Lynn never asked for Bill to adopt her, the damage that her presence has caused is incalculable, a fact that Ben raises when he screams at her for doing something so "effed up." While the adoption was a good thing, in terms of bringing Cara-Lynn into their family, it's had a ripple effect on the marriage, as Bill divorced Barb and legally married Nicki in order to push the adoption through. How many sacrifices have they made for this girl? Which begs the question: Just where was Cara-Lynn attempting to sneak off to with her bag? To Greg's? Was she looking to flee the Henricksons' homes and move in with her lover? Has her judgment become so clouded by love and lust that she can't see how wrong this situation is?

I'm glad that Ben went to Nicki, not to come clean about what had happened with Cara-Lynn, but to tell her to get Cara-Lynn psychiatric help. Without spelling out the true cause, he urged Nicki to get Cara-Lynn some professional counseling, which she refused to even consider. But rather than drop it, Ben called her blind and undeserving, a real emotional sucker punch that needed to be made.

Earlier this season, Cara-Lynn told Gary that if you act polite and smile, you can get away with just about anything. That ploy has worked for Cara-Lynn for fifteen years and it's worked wonders with the Henricksons as she pulled the wool over their eyes countless times. But Cara-Lynn shows her mother her true colors as Nicki threatens to call the police and report Greg, calling Nicki's bluff. It's the moment the scales fall from Nicki's eyes and she sees Cara-Lynn clearly for the first time. "Who are you?" she says. "Maybe you're just a bad seed after all."

Poor Heather, meanwhile, attempts to come clean to Barb about her part in the unfolding legal drama around them, telling an incredulous Barb that she confessed things in confidence to her bishop, who in turn called the stake president, who called her parents, who called the police. The noose tightening around their necks is due to the innocence and naivete or poor Heather, who believed that certain confidences would be maintained, that she was doing the right thing sharing her concerns and her worries. But the road to hell, as we know, is paved with good intentions and the church used this woman's confession as the smoking gun to nab Bill.

His offer to resign from the state senate comes too late, as even Barn realizes when Bill makes it. Everything the family has fought for and sacrificed for would go up in smoke, but it would also possibly keep the wolves from the door. However, the time for such public maneuvers is long past. The church is determined to tar and feather Bill and to remove any authority or standing he might have. They're not going to be content with anything less than his head, readying a 25-year potential prison sentence against him.

I loved the juxtaposition of Michael telling Margene that her family was a cult, and her family telling her that Sainte's Goji empire was itself a cult. Trapped in the middle, Margene sadly realizes that she wants to be a part of the world that Michael showed her, a world of faith a bridge-building, but as she tears down the Goji World poster in her house, she resigns from that company to be with her family, Bill's words ("We're not a cult. We're a family.") echoing in her head.

Poor Verlan thought he could double-cross Alby to get money for Rhonda and his baby, and warn Nicki of the plot to kill Bill to boot, but Alby has other plans. The final scenes in which Alby and Verlan take Nicki to the pit (and Verlan's horrified realization that it's Nicki they're going to kill) were taut and brimming with extreme tension. I loved Nicki's story about swimming with Alby as children and how he rescued her, saving her life. He does save her again here, shooting Verlan twice, but the message is clear: the same blood runs through their veins and neither can escape Juniper Creek or their pasts. Alby will, despite this moment between them, still be coming for Bill...

And, as Bill tells Barb and Margene about the district attorney, Nicki walks into the dining room of Barb's house, dirty, disheveled, and dressed in clothes that brand her as one of Juniper Creek's indentured women. It's a horrific entrance, a startling vision, and an implicit threat. Alby has struck at Bill through his wives. The endgame, it seems, is at hand. And so too, quite possibly, Judgment Day for all of them.

Next week on the penultimate episode of Big Love ("Exorcism"), with Alby on the run and posing an imminent threat, the Henrickson family finds itself in lockdown mode; Nicki decides to break Cara Lynnʼs “dependencies” by enrolling her in boarding school; Barb spars with Bill about her new churchʼs stance on polygamy, and her commitment to the family; Lois begs Frank to rescue her from confinement; Margene vows to repay Pam for her Goji investment; Ben and Bill debate what to do about Rhonda.


wackiland said…
Thanks for the help - this one was really mind boggling and you helped a bunch!
Anonymous said…
Almost too much to take in this week...painful, really. I can't see this ending well at all for the Hendrickson's. Enjoyed seeing the picture of Honest Abe on Barn's wall as a suddenly very-much aged, haggared and defeated looking Bill offers to tender his resignation rather than involve his wives in the scandal. Too late, Bill...sadly, much too late. said…
Basic Mormonism holds a belief that if one's blood is spilt onto the ground when one dies, one can be redeemed from their sins and united with their family in heaven. Another sign of the depth of Dale's disgust at himself.
Also I think Heather's bishop told the President of the Stake, the next level above the ward in LDS hierarchy.

I suspect that the more one knows about the Mormons, the deeper the symbolism reverberates.

Bella Spruce said…
That was an intense and incredible episode but I really don't know how they are going to wrap it all up! What I do know is that Alby is one of the creepiest TV villains of all time.

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