Tonight's Big Love on HBO picked up just where the innovative series left off last year - Barb, the first wife in Bill Hendrickson's three-wife polygamous marriage, is traumatized by her forced withdrawal from Utah's mother-of-the-year contest - which by all accounts she was likely to win.
The reason she had to withdraw was that Roman - Nikki's (Bill's second wife) father, and head of a powerful cult Bill is in complex conflict with - outed Barb to the contest officials.
No one knows that Roman is the culprit.
As the show begins tonight, after that great opening scene on the ice with the Beachboys' "God Only Knows" playing and the ice cracking, Bill suspects his neighbors across the street. Nikki suspects Bill's secretary Wendy. Bill pressures Barb into having dinner with the neighbors - to smoke them out, if they are the tattlers - and Barb erupts.
She walks out on her three-wife, one-husband, lots-of-kids from everyone family. It is part of the genius of this series that, although we might think polygamy is crazy, as we watch the show it is hard to fully identify with the people who in one way or another condemn or rebel against polygamy. Once in a while, the polygamists do seem totally crazy to us. But most of the time, they seem the normal ones.
Big Love also presents polygamy as a much more complex relationship than just one man with three wives. The three wives are married to each other as well - as Nikki, and Bill's third wife, Margene, make very clear in this episode. They feel as walked out on by Barb as does Bill - and they want her back as much as he does. (Well, in the case of Nikki, the second wife, perhaps not quite as much - since she would become the first wife if Barb left permanently.)
This multi-faceted relationship is played beautifully by each of the wives - Jeanne Tripplehorn (first), ChloŽ Sevigny (second), Ginnifer Goodwin (third) - and Bill Paxton brings just the right blend of piety and living-it-his-way to Bill Hendrickson.
Barb - of course - does come back in the end. But we've been served with notice that we're likely in for an even more tempestuous and surprising season of Big Love than last year...Light On Light Through podcastalso iTunes twice upon a rhyme blog
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