Big Love: The Complete Third Season

Big Love: The Complete Third Season
In the post-Sopranos era of American television, the idea that trouble's brewing behind suburbia's miles of picket fencing became the trope to trump all tropes. From Mary Louise Parker slinging dope to self-medicating soccer moms in Weeds, to dear daddy Dexter moonlighting as a serial killer and those cheeky Desperate Housewives, the idea that urban sprawl isn't so idyllic became TV drama boilerplate. In a way, HBO's Big Love piggybacked on this trend, at least in its first couple seasons. Following the lives of a fringe-Mormon polygamist and home reno mogul (Bill Paxton) and his three differently foxy wives (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin), Big Love hit the ground in 2006 testing already tired assumptions of unflustered Americana. But by the third season, after establishing its dozens of supporting cast members and mostly jettisoning the dubious attraction of watching Bill Paxton heave over a different wife every episode, Big Love had become not only HBO's most gripping hour-long drama since The Sopranos (and yeah, that includes The Wire), but probably the best show on television. Aided by one of the best casts in the history of TV ― the four "plyg" primaries are joined by an outstanding ensemble, including Harry Dean Stanton, Grace Zabriske, Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Amanda Seyfried and Matt Ross ― Big Love offered masterfully crafted plot-arcs that rely not so much on cliff-hangers as the ability to weave complex, believable dynamics between the ever-expanding family tree of major players. Season three sees Paxton's Bill Henrickson further expanding his commercial and spiritual empire, hatching a plan for a Mormon-friendly casino, while adding a fourth wife to his celestial fold, and butting heads with indicted prophet Roman Grant (Stanton) and closeted pretender Alby (Ross). It's still a bit soapy, sure, but Big Love aces its narrative juggling act while walking an even finer line: implicitly critiquing the American intermingling of church and state without condescending to its characters (or its viewers). Special features include in-character interviews with Bill and his wives, as well as mini-dramas that further deepen the program's already convincing domestic song-and-dance. Good deal. (Warner)