The Moth Chase

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

Is the grand gesture enough?

with 2 comments

In an episode where Ben, Lois, Frank, and Jodeen are almost shot by the demented Green clan and Joey goes off on a holy vendetta and a bomb is found outside the casino and Margene marries Ana’s fiance (“in comparison with eternity, Barb, it is just a blink of the eye”), it seems silly to say that this seemed like a calmer episode. Maybe it just means that the story lines were fewer and tighter, though there were still plenty of them. Or maybe it is a sign of just how little I love the return of the Green’s and the outlandish prospect of watching Bill once again swoop in and outsmart them, though not without some bloody help from Lois, who levels Hollis single-handedly (sorry, I couldn’t resist!).

I have always endured the presence of the Green’s as a necessary evil. If the compound exists partially to remind us that the Henricksons happy suburban polygamous experiment exists against a background of patriarchical excess, corruption, and control, the Greens exist to remind us just how far down this corruption can go, when all law is abdicated except the law of the Father and the cross-dressing Mother. The melodrama both the compound, and especially the Greens, add, is always more than I can handle, especially when it seems to be recycled – oh wait, once again Bill has to rescue a child from the evil clutches of Hollis and Selma!

But there were two new developments in this “haven’t we seen it before” story: 1) Bill is given a chance at genuine self-sacrifice and 2) he and Joey finally begin to have it out. Taking the second first, I’ve really enjoyed watching the grown children of the compound (Bill, Joey, Nicki, Alby) begin to work through their demons and actually acknowledging that they have demons. Nicki has by far been the most fascinating in this regard (and this episode gave her fair game to keep probing her past wounds), but watching Bill and Joey square off drove home how much damage the lost boys of the compound have inflicted on each other and are carrying around as motivation, examined and unexamined, for their sometimes improbable actions. You have to think, with Roman and Hollis Green as models of authority, one is bound to be pretty screwed up.

Which is perhaps why Bill’s moment of potential sacrifice was both moving and totally annoying. We have seen his self-centered egoism pushed to an extreme this season and it felt a bit cheap to imagine that all of that might be erased by one grand gesture. On the other hand, it was a real reminder that this family – indeed, this whole way of life? – depends on the grand gesture and assumes that the grand gesture can, does, and will replace the daily routine of actions, words, and intentions. And while we see on every level how the aggregate of a lifetime of behaviors influences our characters more than any one grand gesture, we have also seen time and again that in these particular family structures, the gesture isn’t empty – it is in fact the bedrock of the institution and time and again it saves. Even if the habits that it is meant to displace return to undermine it again and again, there is always another moment of renunciation, of declaration, of intent to start again.

Given the power (both real and impotent) of these grand gestures, I am especially intrigued by Margene’s slow and steady bid for freedom. The deeper she gets into the family structures, the more she realizes that her only hope at power is to work subversively from any angle she can leverage. I love the mixture of innocence and calculation in her plot to become the legal Mrs. Petrovik – it reminds me of Nicki’s earlier machinations and I wonder where it is going to lead.

Much like I wonder where the tension between Tommy and Barb is going to lead. Oh, yeah, and the whole casino is imploding and Marilyn is in bed with the same evangelicals that are behind the protests. See what I mean about the superfluous nature of that escape and rescue mission in Mexico? His businesses in jeopardy, his campaign set aside, his marriages in various states of disarray, and Bill has to leave it all to go to Mexico and lay down his life. It is clear that this grand gesture is going to carry a lot of weight, at least with Ben, at least for a while, but I am excited to get back to the hard scrabble of politics and to see a little more of Marilyn vs. Barb in the last two episodes of the season!

Posted by Kathryn.

Read the entire Big Love conversation from start to finish.

Written by themothchase

February 22, 2010 at 12:41 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I hope we’ve all noticed that the casino/lobbyist story line is lifted right out of real life and Ralph Reed’s character’s name is only slightly changed to Ron Reed. bwahahaha

    Thunder Jones

    February 22, 2010 at 3:00 pm

  2. Margene is getting sneakier each episode, and this has to come bite her in the end. While I can understand her need and desire, everything she has done is purely selfish as she is looking out for herself above all else. I kind of like her standing up for herself but I think she may be going a little too far.

    I also want to know when will we hear more of poor Don?


    February 22, 2010 at 6:58 pm

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