The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Big Love – the Chosen One

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Season 4: Episode 2

Well, we are fully back in the world of polygamist melodrama and dasterdly plots! In case last week’s premier left any doubt, the Henrickson’s roller coaster ride with exposure and persecution is far from over, even with the death of Roman. This time, Bill is bringing the danger to their door step with a (probably) ill-advised campaign to run for state senate. Of course, having a creepy, crazy compound relative like JJ (he has no fingernails!!!) is sure to complicate what is already likely to be a long, drawn out, complicated campaign trail. And now the danger isn’t getting exposed, it is getting exposed by other people before Bill can publicly expose them during his Great Reveal after he wins the hearts and minds of his fellow citizens by pretending to be an upstanding, if repentant, member of the LDS church.

Let’s talk for a moment about what this is whole campaign is all about. Bill claims he is following a revelation from Heavenly Father and acts as flabbergasted as the next wife that he (little old Bill Henrickson) has been chosen for such a monumental task as “putting a new face on the Principle.” But do we really believe for a second that Bill is that humble? One of the things I’ve always loved about this show is the way they show characters acting out of their religious convictions, while at the same time suggesting other, less noble, motivations are still in play, without reducing religious conviction to a bevvy of other unconscious desires. In this case, Roman’s death and Bill’s own feelings of impotence in the face of a law that criminalizes his life, are clearly motivating his actions and to some degree have to lend “that inner peace” Don talks about to his revelation. Not to mention we’ve watched Bill aggrandize his image and material gain at great costs to his family and always with the blessing of Heavenly Father. At the same time, he has one wife and a brother insisting that he is called to assume public leadership under the mantle of his true life, just as the Prophet of Juniper Creek, not a state senator. When Bill comes to his final revelation – not only is he supposed to run for office, he is supposed to reveal his plural marriage after election – he does so with his grandfather’s copy of the Mormon “Doctrines and Covenants” on his knee. The message seems pretty clear – Bill is accepting his call as a new Prophet, but his church will extend beyond the compound. It will, in fact, extend to the whole Mormon world and beyond as the ambassador for the Principle in a new middle class guise.

If Bill is a new kind of Prophet, what are we to make of his three wives and their various reactions to the news? Barb still seems to be embracing a new kind of submission to Bill and the Principle, even as she pulls the wool over the eyes of the same church that just excommunicated her to such emotionally devastating results. Did it seem just a bit implausible that she would go through with that whole charade, especially when she is doubtful of the campaign anyway? The only possible explanation is that she is giving herself over to her husband’s priesthood/headship so fully she has stopped thinking for herself. Not Margie, however. Margie is only growing more independent and I love it! Not only  is she projecting a six-figure salary for her jewelry business, she is not above using sex to question Bill’s actions and then still demanding more action when he breaks off early. But, as is often the case, Nicki is still the most twisted, vexed, and uncertain – and the most fascinating to me. She clearly wants Bill to go back to the compound and run her slimy brother off, but she seems potentially open to the idea of sticking it out for the big public exposure. And of course she is still confused about her feelings for the DA. The most fascinating Nicki scene for me was her open weeping at Sarah’s wedding. Every fiber of Nicki’s being seemed to long for that expression of romantic love, despite her diatribe against the falseness of a non-celestial marriage. What storehouse of emotions, sentimental though they may be, will we discover next?

Speaking of celestial marriage – I am totally excited to see this aspect of the Henrickson’s theology come to the fore: the belief that true eternal happiness depends upon one’s family and that the ties of one’s family last for eternity. The exchange between Sarah and Barb went straight to the heart of the matter – Barb employing Sarah not to buy the cheap lie that commitment for this life alone is all that matters and Sarah saying that perhaps that is exactly the point. I’ve drawn comparisons between the doctrine of eternal marriage in Big Love and the theological background of the Twilight series and I look forward to seeing this trend in Mormon romance continue.

There is so much more to say about Sarah’s marriage and the return of Heather (yay!), but I will wait for another episode.

Then we have Alby finally seeming to embrace his sexual identity, eternal marriage be damned. Or is this just part of an elaborate power play? Is there a big difference for Alby?

Finally, I never noticed before that the Henrickson’s pray with their arms crossed – you learn a fun new tidbit every day!


One Response

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  1. Kathryn,

    Very well written!!! Until the very last sentence I was certain you were previously LDS. You have a true understanding of the show!!!


    January 20, 2010 at 9:24 am

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