The sins of the father…can be redeemed?
I’m aware, even as I upload this photo, how much of this season and my commentary on it have revolved around Bill. Bill the megalomaniacal father, husband, businessman, prophet, potential senator. Bill, who runs roughshod over his entire family, his friends, his business partners to get what he wants, believing all the while that such calloused behavior is part of the lord’s plan to elevate his priesthood over an increasing circle of loyal followers (as though he is doing such a good job with those whose priesthood he supposedly already holds). This episode was no different – Bill continues to clutch at straws of control even as his family continues to implode, his son leaves home, his political scheming with Marilyn backfires – except that perhaps, finally, we, along with Bill are going to see some consequences to his actions.Ben has left home and refuses to brush over the clear intentions of his father’s alpha male move. Bil might insist he didn’t exile Ben out of sexual competition, but Ben and the rest of his family clearly don’t see it that way. I have to say, I was mighty relieved that Ben didn’t come back and the two men make some sort of shuffling apologies. I can’t say I like his chances for happiness on the road with Lois and Frank’s bird show, but I am glad that we are finally seeing repercussions of actions that last longer than the time it makes to cobble together an apology and start trying to make a baby (though, total digression, I loved the scene between Nicki and Bill when she asks him, so honestly, why she is always the one called upon to do the morally ambiguous things for the good of the family and he answers “to each according to his gifts”. Thanks Bill, that really makes a girl feel good).
Of course, even as Bill’s family harmony is upset, his hairbrained political aspirations continue to move forward. Maybe politics really are different in Utah, but it was a bit hard to believe that such a short personal confession of his own morally ambiguous past and a call to Utah “to move beyond its past” by embracing the so-called Lost Boys would yield a Republican nomination. I couldn’t help but think how shocked and betrayed the good conservatives of Utah will be when they learn that their Ronald Reagan dance-party throwing senator wants to move beyond Utah’s polygamous past by reinvigorating the institution with some good middle class values and transparent multi-home living arrangements.
As should be pretty clear, I’m not a huge Bill fan right now. Nor do I forgive him everything just because of the anguish on this face when he realizes Ben isn’t coming counts as redemption. He still hasn’t actually admitted what he did or his own complicity in the system that destroyed his life. That said, I was actually moved by the sad defeat on his face as he looks out toward the blank space he created in exiling his son at the same time when the jubilant crowd tries to pull him into a political celebration. The fact that, for once, he can’t quite switch gears, he can’t quite get his arms in the air on his own, or turn his face into the mask of confident success at least convinced me that Bill might have the makings of repentance in him, even though we’ve never seen them on display.
Of course, this episode wasn’t all about Bill and the various layers of father trauma that haunt all the men on this show. We also saw the wives in full bloom, each of them according to her own. Margene’s bizarre bid for forgiveness, showing up to hawk her jewelry at the convention, only to become Senator Paley’s date for the day when he shows her a modicum of kindness her entire family denies her (couldn’t you see how, for one moment, she might actually kiss the senator too, just out of sheer gratitude?) was so unlikely to work, so endearing and so desperate, only Margie could have thought of it. It might not be flattering, but Bill is right – there is no one like Nicki for the morally ambiguous work of playing multiple roles. While such work might drive her to eat sundaes in the backroom of the casino, it also clearly gets her libido going, and as a sign of new subservience and committment to the family game, she and Bill are actively trying to get pregnant – and endeavor, as she informs Margene, to which she is an active party!
The real surprise/non-surprise was Barb’s own spiritual/sexual confusion as she is drawn into the swirling steam of Tommy’s sweat lodge. We’ve seen Barb question a lot about her life, but never her attraction to Bill. Tommy might just be the only kind of man who could draw her eye – authoritarian with a soft center, committed to family, but suffering the anguish of loss in a way that only suggests he would be that much more caring and committed a second time round. Perhaps what I love most about this developing tension is the way her own potential attraction to Tommy is tied up in her spiritual seeking. Who knows exactly what she is thinking about/longing for as she sits her own make-shift steam room, but I like to think it is more than Tommy’s bare chest; that she is also searching for some spiritual anchor to hold the confusion, frustration, and mounting despair that seem to govern Barb this season.
So much more to say about Joey’s wonderful righteous anger, the absence of Alby and J.J. and all that might follow next week, the thought of Margie diligently studying her scriptures. But I will end on one last question: why is Bill so nasty to Marilyn? Is it just fear of early exposure? I just don’t get why he dropped her like a moldy sock the moment he got out of Washington, unless it is supposed to illustrate his political unsavvy and hypocritical values. Any thoughts?
Posted by Kathryn.