We will always be this way
I have completely fallen in love with Big Love all over again! Last night blew my socks off and I cannot believe our time with the Henricksons is finally coming to an end. As the show hones in on its conclusion, it is striping away the distractions and taking us right to the heart of the characters we love. We all know some climax is building and they seem to know it too – as the noose tightens, who are the Henricksons and what life have they built? This episode centers on Margie, but really, the revelation of her age is the perfect way to get at what all these characters face. Can they in fact make a claim to a different kind of polygamy? While the show has done its best to show us the beautiful side of their marriage and to suggest that monogamy could learn a thing or two about the kind of communal support a family needs, as we watch their lives fall apart, it is clear that there is no escaping the deceit and lies that patriarchy breeds.
Which is why Margie’s age is not just a random detail, but a lynch pin to the family’s self-understanding. It is why Bill, who has ridiculously held onto his power schemes at great cost and peril to his family is willing so easily to give them all up when faced with a statutory rape charge. That charge, above all others, haunts his ideals and challenges his self-image. It is why, even though we all know Margie was not forced against her will, the detective’s questions are good ones: 16 or 18 is still really young for anyone to make that kind of decision. And Margie’s questions for Barb not ridiculous either. While she did not “procure” Margene for Bill in any straight-forward way, she has already admitted that she suspected things were not right in that relationship, but in desperation and loneliness turned a blind eye and needed Margene to counter Nicki’s presence. What is the difference between procurement, soliciting, and befriending when you are so worn out by the choices you have made you will do anything for some relief?
All of these fears have always been represented by Juniper Creek – that was the one thing they could not become, the one thing they had to differentiate themselves from. Watching Nicki appear in the doorway of the kitchen, dressed in compound garb, pale and shaking like a ghostly messenger was chilling – Juniper Creek literally hanging around like a ghost in the background while Bill explains how he will be arrested for statutory rape. Or is it their future? I also couldn’t help but wonder if someone this will all end with Nick and Bill back on the compound. But I will save my predictions….
Did you feel like the chickens are finally coming home to roost for Barb? Is she finally realizing that her passivity is actually the active form she has taken in relation to her family? By just going along and not standing up to Bill or not being strong enough to leave when she knew she did not agree she has in fact added and abetted his life and lies. Her spiritual journey took on new light to me in this episode as a necessary part of her realizing that she is complicit by being so dormant. And what about Margie? I totally believed her struggle and confusion. But I also started to wonder if Bill’s speech last week about her downright goodness wasn’t a hint that she will be the only one to get out unscathed. Maybe she really will start again. Even though I loved her tenderness for continuing to live with and by the commitments she made to her family. I don’t think it is probably the best for her, but it is a sign of her capacity for breath-taking human sympathy.
There is so much more to say – Nicki and Alby. Wow, WTF?! The twisted love they have for each other was reinforced in the most awful of ways and it also made it clear to me that Nicki is not going to change. Alby was more right than wrong. She might never wield a gun, but she wants power and control as much as he does and she will do almost anything to get it. I have to sign off so I am going to leave the entire Greg (ew!!) and Cara Lyn story to you, along with Heather and Ben.
I am sticking with my predictions from last week – some way or another it will boil down to Nicki and Bill or Bill will die. You?
I am with you – last night was an amazing episode, affirming everything I love about this show!! I’ll pick up where you left off, with Niki and Alby. It didn’t really occur to me that Niki would be killed – not in the way that I thought Bill is going to be. But it all seemed to make sense as Alby took her away. As they stared each other down, and she started narrating their childhood swimming escapades, reminding him that the same blood runs through their veins – that they understand each other – I thought two things: first, that’s exactly why he’d kill her. Alby lives with such self-conflict and, in various ways, self-hate, that killing off some part of himself, like Niki, might be some twisted form of therapy for him. As she said those lines, I turned to my husband and exclaimed in horror, oh my gosh he’s going to do it. And I was very very surprised when he didn’t. Second, I’ve been noting how stupid Bill is for going up against Alby – I just don’t think he can win and the ongoing battle is a mark of his own selfish machismo. As Niki and Alby stared each other down, the center of the war shifted, and I realized that it’s not between Bill and Alby – in many ways, it really is between these two siblings. And that is perhaps why Niki has become so obsessed with her work with safety net – sure, it’s her public face as Bill’s wife. And sure, it’s her way to process her own trauma at Juniper Creek. But it’s also the sticking point between her and her brother (really, “I’ve devoted my life to destroying your kind” – I don’t think so???). It’s a form of fighting back on all his assaults on her way of life, by imagining herself as one who has always rejected his.
I also have to mention from that scene not only the incredible performances of Niki and Alby, but also Verlan. I’m sure we both loved him as Herc in Friday Night Lights – and here he’s really come into his own. The shocking realization that it was Niki under the hood, and then the dawning realization that it’s him who’s going to die – what a range to yelp out with perfection. I’m excited that Kevin Rankin has made his way into the HBO pantheon of actors!
When it comes to the younger generation, I’m utterly captivated. We’ve talked about how Heather is stepping into Barb’s shoes – falling for a charismatic guy who is nevertheless going to lead her down the polygamist path, plus the hair. And Cara Lynn is walking straight into Margene’s role. Indeed, Margie’s insistence that her and Cara Lynn are different fell completely flat to me – I’m hard press to see any difference besides the fact that Cara Lynn didn’t hide her age…which indicts Margene more than it indicts anyone else. But if Barb and Marge have these doubles – who does Niki have? Why give first and third wife such strong counter-parts and not give one to Niki? I think you’re dead on with the spectral symbolism, and I might add this little detail to it. We’ve wondered if Bill and Niki are going to move into monogamy or, now, if they are both going to die – I wonder if it will be a combo? Their deaths would comprise their shift to eternal marriage. Maybe that is how she’ll get him to herself in the end?
What intrigued me most in the episode was how often the wives and Bill too used “me” language. In the midst of commitment and love (and a whole lot of “f’d up” stuff, as Ben put it), they’ve all moved into self-preservation mode. And they’re attacking each other as much as they’re facing outward in defense. They’ve always had some leanings in this direction, but with this pressure it’s heightened all the more. I think the hardest thing to predict will be whether the family will be destroyed by an external agent – someone killing or hurting one of them – or whether they will unravel themselves. Everything feels so ominous right now – right down to Barb’s frosting knife and her pained joke that Bill better hid the Draino because she might just drink it. I really feel like anything could happen!
Wow – even with all that, there’s so much to say! What did you think, readers? Thoughts, predictions?
Still giggling at Margie’s screaming, “It’s not about the Juice!!!” How does it manage to be so funny on top of all of that?!