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Sweets to the Sweet: Kathy Marquart Debates Fight or Flight on "Big Love"

I am still in shock after watching last night's heart-wrenching episode of Big Love ("Fight or Flight"), which offered some brutal plot twists, shocking reveals, and one of the most tragic deaths on any drama series.

This season of Big Love has proven itself more than willing to pull out all the stops in the name of status quo-shakeup, between Sarah's pregnancy, the addition of a (short-lived) fourth wife, new alliances, God Squads, and, well, murder. The result has been a dizzying blend of complex relationships, dramatic tension, and gasp-inducing plot twists that have placed Big Love at the forefront of intelligent, compelling American television today.

This week's episode of Big Love ("Fight or Flight") started off as a brilliantly understated look at that most primal of hard-wiring, the fight-or-flight mechanism, and how this natural physiological response colors all of our interactions. It's seen most keenly in the showdown between Bill and the wives against Nicki, between Barb and daughter Sarah, and in the plight of resourceful Kathy Marquart.

Kathy. I was completely traumatized by the death of Kathy Marquart last night. For many reasons, Kathy has become a shining example of purity, goodness, and grace within the off-kilter universe that Big Love has so realistically created. Whether it was her inherent love for the psychologically unstable Wanda and her efforts to include Wanda and care for her, even in the face of Wanda's blatant upset that Joey would be taking another wife (to the point where Wanda was wetting the bed at night with fear and worry) or her efforts to remain true to herself even after Roman went free after forcibly marrying her to Ron, Kathy has stood out among the series' multitude of damaged characters as a woman who has remained unerringly faithful and true to her perceptions of right.

When Kathy went to go pick flowers for Wanda's hair (on the day of her wedding, no less), I knew that someone truly awful was about to happen to Kathy. But I never suspected that she would be kidnapped from the hillside by Roman Grant's people and brought to the Greenes, where Roman would enact his revenge on Kathy by once again forcibly marrying her to a man she didn't love: in this case, the sadistic Hollis Greene. Her fate, as seen to by Roman: that Kathy would marry Hollis with his blessing, be whisked away to a compound in Mexico, and bare children for Hollis Greene.

Kathy could have acquiesced, gone along with Roman's plan, and accepted her fate. But she wasn't having any of that. She stabbed Selma Greene (more on her in a bit) in the leg with a pitchfork, ran out of the barn, and stole a truck. Kathy did the sensible thing: she ran. Unfortunately, Roman and the Greenes were faster and were relentless in their pursuit, repeatedly slamming into the truck with Roman's Hummer and forcing her off the road... But Kathy's flower-strewn braid (shades of Ophelia, perhaps?) was caught in the door and the impact of the truck hitting a telephone pole snapped her neck.

I'm really going to miss Kathy. Her death affected me in a way that very few television deaths have: it was senseless, tragic, and unnecessary. But I am glad that the producers gave the luminous Mireille Enos a double role to play: that of Kathy and her twin sister Jodean. I'm sure that some viewers are secretly hoping that it was Jodean who met her maker in last night's episode but there's little to support any theories to that effect. Big Love has never been one to use any subterfuge in its often heartbreaking plot twists. Sadly, it's Kathy who is going to her grave.

Nicki. I cannot believe that Nicki went so far as to go out with Ray Henry... and kissed him in the office. After everything that has happened, after all of Nicki's deceit and lies (and even being found out by Margene in this episode), I am completely shocked that she would forsake her martial vows and take the first steps towards consummating an affair with another man and that she would so blatantly tell Margene the truth about what she was doing working at the district attorney's office in the first place. Clearly, Nicki is playing with fire and she's either not thinking about the consequences of her actions or is just in a state of complete denial about how utterly wrong and twisted her actions have been over the last few months. But clearly, it's eating away at her subconsciously: her fainting spell during the intervention would prove that her emotions are clearly at odds with one another. Is her assumption of Margene's identity an effort to escape the prison of her own life: to experience the freedom and ease that come with being a less "moral" woman? To walk the line with immorality, temptation, and vice?

Margene. For her part, I was surprised that Margene didn't just tell Barb and Bill what Nicki had done but instead manipulated the situation in order to get her own way: that Nicki would quit her job and stay home with the kids so that Margene could experience the outside world. The fact that she started to cry when she couldn't go to the store with Pam, her one selfish daily escape from familyhood, belied her deep depression (love how readily she accepted Pam's Zoloft) about her current situation. Yet she does bounce back in true Margene-fashion: she dyes her hair back to its normal color, blackmails Nicki into looking after the kids, and seemingly regains her old sunnier outlook on life.

Sarah. I'm glad that Heather called Sarah out on her completely selfish use of her so-called best friend. Poor Heather has suffered through so much, has altered her own plans for the future, has so unerringly supported Sarah through polygamy, sexual activity, and an unwanted pregnancy without judgment that it's absolutely shocking that Sarah once again pulls the rug out from underneath Heather and announces that she's not going to go to ASU, after all. Is it Bill's generous gift of a car that brings about this change? Hardly: it's her own feelings that she needs to punish herself for wanting her baby to die despite loving it. A fact that she finally and tearfully admits to Barb, the real reason why she's avoided intimacy with her mother. It's a shocking thing to say aloud but Sarah finally does stop running and confronts her mother, bearing her soul and admitting the dark thought she's been having: that she is being punished by God for her wrongdoing. And Barb offers Sarah the one thing she's been running from, a mother's love and forgiveness.

The Greenes. I had no idea that the mannish Selma Greene was actually Roman's little sister, therefore making Roman and Hollis Greene brothers-in-law. Poor Selma was humiliated by Hollis' decision to take a new wife and by Roman telling her to fall in line in a more traditional manner. The sight of Selma in a pink dress was both sad and terrifying. That Roman would consort with the people who shot him just proves how completely desperate he is to consolidate his power and reclaim the prophet's throne at Juniper Creek. Bill made the mistake once of getting into bed with the Greenes and it brought him nothing but heartache. Will the same be said of Roman, now described as "the prophet of the Holiday Inn" by Joey, when all is said and done?

What did you think of this week's episode? Were you as shocked and saddened as I was to see Kathy die? Did Nicki's behavior surprise you? And what will happen once Bill and Barb find out what's really been going on behind their backs? Discuss.

Next week on Big Love ("Rough Edges"), Bill urges the DA to bring murder charges against Roman for Kathy's death; Margene decides to launch a business; Nicki tries to find refuge in her past; Sarah struggles to map out her future.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Kathy's death on Big Love last night was the last straw for me... I am officially done with this show. The first 2 seasons were great, but this season started out bad and seems like it will end up even worse. I for one liked the episodes showing the normal trials and tribulations of a modern-day polygamist family, but now these characters are becoming more and more unlikeable. Barb is cold and demanding, Nikki is a slut, Margene is off her rocker and Bill! He cheated on his wives with Ana, and has been increasingly shady these past two seasons. NOT what I would call a good "Priesthood head" and definately NOT a true man of God. The last straw though was killing off the only character with any decency at all. Poor Kathy, couldn't they just leave her alone and take Frank instead??
Hopefully these writers will get their act together before they get canned!
Anonymous said…
Totally agree with your take on this show which is becoming one of my faves. Last night's ep was shocking and upsetting especially because of Kathy. I was hoping that it was her twin but now I think your right and it was Kathy who died. Did we know that Selma and Roman were sibs????
Anonymous said…
@anonymous You could just stop watching, you know? Since HBO already renewed the show for S3 I don't think the writers are going to get "canned" any time soon. Think S3 is the show's best season so far and am loving the dark places they are going.

@annie I don't think we knew they were related. Creepy!
Paige said…
I both loved and hated last night's episode....Kathy had become one of my favorite characters...so luminous and beautiful and complete. But I feel like the show has on a higher level this year, from the soundtrack to the editing to the writing. Fantastic. But I can't stop thinking about Kathy in last night's episode - I knew that when she went to pick flowers Roman would nab her to marry his sister's husband. But I never dreamed she would die. Awful.
S Broggie said…
I know this old adage doesn't always apply to TV but, "it's always darkest before the light". I think the writers are taking us deep into the depths of hell with these characters so that their eventual redemption is more meaningful.
As bummed as I am about Kathy's death, her "sacrifice" I believe has setup the road to total destruction for Roman and friends. What a major f***-up for Roman!
Anonymous said…
Kathy's death was heartbreaking but at least she ran and wasn't forced into a life of misery with Hollis Green. I think Kathy would rather be dead then be chained to a horrible, loathsome man. (Again!) I will miss her terribly but I think the writers were brave to kill Kathy off and I'm glad that she remained a fighter until the very end.
Anonymous said…
I have watched the show over and over again, hoping for a different ending. It makes me sick that that the precious Kathy was taken from us. Did you notice Roman's dismay at the sight? It was almost like, "Oh sh*t. I really **ucked up now." I mean, what is the glue in these polygamist sects. Prophets come and go with much intrigue, sabotage, and sometimes ungodly acts. Isn't that a clue that these men are just MERE mortals. I don't get it.
Anonymous said…
Kathy was so stunningly sweet that her death hit me hard. Mireille Enos practically glows, and she absolutely made Kathy captivating. I hope that we will see more from her as Jodean, but even if it is the same actress, Jodean can never replace Kathy.

After watching the episode, I turned to my husband and said "well better dead than married to Hollis Green". Poor Kathy must have been horrified. I was glad she went down fighting and didn't have to suffer being forced into yet another marriage by Roman.
Anonymous said…
I think some of you are missing the point. These FLDS people are not “likeable” they are not nice people! They brainwash young women and are often cruel. I agree that most of the characters are not likable, but I do not think they are supposed to be the world of polygamy is not a sweet and fuzzy little world. It is cruel and demeaning and I believe it brings out the worst in people. I think Big Love is doing a good job of showing how bad it is.

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