Monday, March 21, 2011
"Big Love" series finale recap: "When Men and Mountains Meet"
Am I an idiot for not seeing that coming? Because, minutes after Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) was shot to death by a disgruntled neighbor, I realized that OF COURSE Bill had to die. What better end for a character who, over the past six seasons, had constructed an ornate house of cards through his denial and selfishness? Had Bill gone to prison, he probably still wouldn't have seen the error of his ways. After all, didn't his effort to legalize polygamy make him a god in his world? Even if he did the full 20 years and exited prison an old man, I think he still would have stubbornly clung to his misguided ways. He might have even become the new prophet -- sort of the second coming of Roman Grant.
I know there are those who think having Bill get killed -- particularly by a minor character like Carl -- was a cop-out, but I think it really was the most appropriate end for that character. As he's dying, Bill is finally forced to realize that everything he's built is meaningless -- his business, his political career, his ministry. It's only in death that he realizes that his family -- the family he's been destroying with his greed and pride -- is the one thing he can count on. So he lets Barb, the wife whose religious ambitions he so emphatically squashed, give him a blessing. It's a huge concession for him, but he knows it's the right choice. Then, he slips away, forced to finally confront whether he's worthy of entry into the heavenly kingdom.
It was a strong, fitting ending.
Except...it wasn't the ending. OK, I guess I understand why the show's creators wouldn't want to end on the bleak of image of Bill dying. But surely they could have come up with something better than that hokey coda at the end -- particularly since it was so dishonest. We see the women 11 months after Bill's death, all fulfilled in some way. Barb is running Bill's church. Margene is taking those medical cruises she had put on hold in the wake of Bill's impending imprisonment. And Nikki is, weirdly, some sort of nurturing superwoman. Hmm. Despite her epiphany with Barb and her desire to be a good mom to Cara Lynn, I don't totally buy that Nikki would be happy in a life that didn't fit the model of the polygamist lifestyle she grew up in, but whatever.
That wasn't my biggest problem with the ending. My biggest problem was Barb's assertion that Bill "made all this possible." Um, yeah -- by dying. Barb of all people should know that Bill never would have allowed this sort of feminist Utopia to grow under his supervision. These women are so clearly better off without Bill, yet no one acknowledges that. All they do is mourn his absence as a hokey ghost version of Bill hovers at the breakfast table. Oof. Schlock city.
But I've enjoyed enough of this season, and enough of the series in general, to overlook that final scene. Yes, I know there are those who say that coda goes to the heart of what was wrong with "Big Love" -- that it always shied away from admitting that Bill was a big, honking jerk who didn't deserve everything he had. Yet, I have to admit that, overall, the episode satisfied me. Bill, in the end, did pay for his sins. His wives, in the end, were free of him. And the show had an ending that actually resolved some things.
What did you think?