Big Love: The Complete Fifth Season

Big Love: The Complete Fifth Season
Having simultaneously won the Utah State senate election and come out to his constituents as a polygamist ― much to the chagrin of wives Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) ― Bill (Bill Paxton) spends the fifth season of Big Love trying in vain to mend fences and break down barriers between church and state. Before even swearing in, Bill ramps up his open dialogue forum, Safety Net, wherein state officials and members of various polygamist sects can discuss the presumptions, stigmas and quality of living, primarily for women, on a Mormon compound. But, like most things in the absurdist, yet very real, world of Big Love, it turns into a disaster when Juniper Creek leader Alby (Matt Ross) instigates an arbitrary argument with other compounds and Nicki (Chloe Sevigny) goes on a tirade about the subjugation of women. This is more or less the formula for this season of the intelligently written and well-acted HBO series, with every step forward resulting in two steps back. Of course, these steps forward tend to be misguided and solipsistic assertions on the part of Bill (albeit noble in an ideal world), which are often contrary to the practical disposition of first wife Barb, whose frustration with her lack of marital control leads to her exploring the priesthood, and alcohol. Margene is similarly frustrated, having lost her very lucrative home shopping icon job because of Bill forcing them all out of the closet. Nicki, on the other hand, is pleased as punch that Barb and Margene aren't happy, taking that opportunity to get closer to Bill and fulfil her dream of becoming first wife while integrating her daughter, Cara Lynn (Cassi Thomson), further into their family. And inevitably, controversy arises when Cara Lynn takes a flirtation with an adult male tutor too far, which just adds to the existing drama of Grandma Hendrickson (Grace Zabriskie) contracting VD and Adalene (Mary Kay Place) injecting aggressive hormones to keep her inbred baby in utero. While the season continues exploring these character trajectories with a keen eye for interaction, masked selfishness and passive-aggressive histrionics, the actual series finale disappoints with its truncated and somewhat glib fast-forward of everyone to an unsatisfying resolution. Still, the sharp and balanced handling of the many political complexities involved in managing beliefs and equality, along with the keen characterizations, demonstrate an astute use of the televised format beyond the usual tedium of contrived, flash-in-a-pan emotional manipulation. Big Love was an impressive and consistently entertaining series that will be greatly missed. The box set includes the same "Inside the episode" supplements that came with the fourth season, which just expand upon the vision and themes of the season. (Warner)