Big Love, Episode 8
By Rob Wilson
Tuesday, May 2, 2006
Rob is a member of this online community. This series of reviews is his first submission to us. He can be reached via email, or through our forums.

This will be an ongoing review for the entire 12 weeks of the HBO drama Big Love. Previous editions of this review can be found in the Monthly Columns archives.

Out of all the reviews that I have written so far about the HBO series Big Love, this one has proved to be the most difficult. Big Love is just too big at times. Not only do we have the husband and his three wives, seven children and their friends but also his mother, father and his three wives (plus a rather annoying dog) temporarily moving in with him. Did I mention his very pregnant sister-in-law and her husband?

Amid all this chaos are some telling moments dealing with choices and beliefs. This theme is summed up at the beginning of the show when the three wives are standing in the kitchen. As they stand and work in the kitchen they start to bicker a little; Barb, as usual, steps in and says something to the effect that “families need to find closure and move on.” When pressed by Nicki who makes a not so subtle comment about the affair Barb had with their mutual husband, she continues “At the end of the day, families should find everything forgivable.”

Barb is still reeling emotionally from breaking off her and Bill’s “affair.” When she and Bill are finally able to steal a moment away, she breaks down in tears. She knows it was the right thing to do for the family, she confesses to him. But she still feels robbed, “like they stole you from me.” Ending their affair was the right thing to do, since it was being kept from the other wives and technically cheating.

In a brilliant piece of writing we can see her pain and jealousy, however her determination to work through these emotions and turn them into something positive should be stressed. A later scene between Barb and Nicki seems totally sincere and real. Nicki, seeing Barb’s distress, approaches her, and without asking for details or being accusatory (which is out of character for her) asks a simple question. “Is it over?” When Barb answers to the positive, Nicki turns and leaves and you can see the waves of relief pouring over her.

There are two ways to look at this scene. One way is where Nicki realizes that Barb ended the affair to protect the family since cheating on your spouse is a serious offense no matter what type of relationship structure you have. I believe that Nicki does not want to see the family torn asunder because she truly loves Bill and is willing to accept her current status, but will not accept anything less than second place in his life. After all, she was raised in a polygamous household and this is the only life she has ever known. When viewed in this context Nicki is not so much jealous but protective of her family and her position within that family.

The other way to view this scene is in her own self-interest. Now that Barb and Bill have broken off their affair, Nicki is able to take advantage of his free time. Plus, what would happen if Barb and Bill decided to end the family? Where would Nicki turn?

Although her character is self centered and manipulative, I truly believe that she loves Bill and the rest of the family. Although her own self-interest was certainly part of the motivation for her recent behavior, when viewed in the context of her growing up in a polygamous household I believe it was understandable though not moral or honest.

Barb and Bill’s brother Joey, played by Shawn Doyle, shares a tender moment that reveals much about Barb and to a lesser extent Nicki. Joey was born and raised on the Juniper Creek compound and is ready to leave it with his pregnant wife in tow. As they talk, Joey reveals to Barb that he is having second thoughts about polygamy.

“You’re a monogamist!” Barb says to him in shock. “The only way I know what to believe is to listen to my heart, and it says Wanda is it for me.” Joey says quietly. The scene ends with him walking away and Barb breaking down in tears. It’s a powerful and moving moment, and again is open to various interpretations. Is Barb crying because she “lost” the monogamous relationship she once had with Bill? Is she crying because of the depression that follows when an affair ends? Is she crying for joy because Joey has found “the one?”

The show would have you believe that it is one of the first two reasons mentioned and I feel that most of the viewing public will interpret it to be the loss she feels for “losing” the monogamous relationship she once enjoyed. Personally I feel that the character of Barb is much more complex than that simple answer, and I am waiting to see how the storyline will play out.

Meanwhile, Nicki is still terrified that Bill will kick her to the curb once he learns about her $60,000 debts - and her attempts to handle it so far are failing. A call to her mother for example only results in her learning that her mother is also very much in debt, up to $90,000.00, and she seems unlikely to help her daughter. When asked to let her speak to her father, Roman Grant - the patriarch of the Juniper Creek compound and Bill Henrickson’s nemesis, she is told he’ll take it “under advisement.”

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