Big Love: The Complete Fourth Season

Big Love: The Complete Fourth Season
At first, Big Love seems like a reality adjacent, voyeuristic, idiosyncratic observation of an alternative lifestyle, detailing the inner-histrionics of polygamist Bill (Bill Paxton) and his three wives: Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), Nicky (Chloë Sevigny) and Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin). While the obvious questions of, "why would anyone want three wives?" or "why would any woman want to share her husband?" come up, the series portrays the family as flawed but loving, in a pseudo-relatable sense, begging the question of polygamy's illegality and the purpose it serves. But Big Love isn't interested in simplifying things and doling out a twee message of tolerance, showing the other side of the Mormon religion on a Utah compound where teen girls are "sealed" to men old enough to be their grandfathers. Similarly, the government regulating and intervening with this murky religious structure is simultaneously portrayed as proactive and necessary, but corrupt and myopic. This fourth season complicates these matters further by having Bill run for office as a closeted polygamist, while Nicky's first husband assignment, JJ (Zeljko Ivanek), returns from the Kansas compound minus fingernails. The question of tolerance also arises at Bill's newly acquired Native Casino, where Barb and Sarah (Amanda Seyfried) accidentally hit a native with their car and become a little too involved in a sticky situation. Since the series is also an allegory for living in the closet, sociopath Alby (Matt Ross) acts on his repressed homosexual desires with the state-appointed attorney looking after Juniper Creek's assets, which is not only a conflict of interest but a bit of a burning fuse for two married religious men with children. Each of the nine episodes deal with specific themes, such as conditional love, or confession, or bigotry, weaving elaborate storylines throughout the season, involving opportunistic DC lobbyist Marilyn Densham (Sissy Spacek), dismemberment in Mexico and the possibility that Cara Lynn (Cassi Thomson) would be both a niece and a sister to Adaleen's (Mary Kay Place) baby. The argument is that these excess plot threads detract from core characterization this season, but Margene's independence, Nicky's conflict with normalization and Barb's quiet resentment of Bill all grow substantially and with complexity. The DVD box set includes only "Inside the Episode" recaps, where the creators quickly mention their intentions, articulating themes. (Warner)