When I go into an episode of Big Love, the first thought in my mind is that the episode hopefully won’t go off the rails like several season four episodes. Maybe this is a pessimistic way of thinking, but I still have a hard time believing the writers set up so much stuff early in the season just to have them pay off in the most awful ways.
“D.I.V.O.R.C.E.” has lots of warning signs–Cara Lynn and her teacher, Ben and Rhonda, Marg and Golgi guy, Alby and Verlan–but it remains true to the Big Love of the first three seasons and the fifth season, in that Bill and Barb, family in general, are the heart of the episode. There isn’t an external force driving the drama, only the growing division between Bill and Barb.
To me, the discussion of the priesthood with the addition of Renee Clayton felt like a lot of justification for the viewers alone since Bill doesn’t even entertain the notion. (Although Renee could play an important role later on, in which case I’m very mistaken.) It’s a pretty obscure subject for most people, but it does seem like a legitimate topic after a bit of Googling. The writers prop up Renee as an expert, using Barb to flaunt her credentials and papers, thus justifying Barb’s position in viewers’ eyes so she doesn’t seem crazy.
But Big Love has never been a show primarily about theology, and what Barb wants seems to have less to do with religion than simple equality. After all, if religion were completely absent, Barb would still have grounds to be mad at Bill and the marriage. Barb’s problem are general, about women’s rights and her own, but they manifest themselves in religion, which is a major force in their lives. It makes sense that she would conflate these issues together.
A major instigator is Nicki, who is pretty bitchy in the episode. In private, Barb tells Bill that it would be best if she were still in charge of finances after the divorce, given Nicki’s spotty record. That makes sense and the divorce was supposed to be solely for Cara Lynn’s adoption. When they bring it up with Nicki, however, she balks, making a big deal about how Barb is trying to usurp power. Although she’s right, and it does rattle Bill to his senses, Nicki also is trying to take a bit more than she had, not unlike Barb trying to have the priesthood.
While Bill and Barb’s marriage crumble, the marriage of Lois and Frank, which has consistently been destructive and often times silly, actually grows stronger once Frank realizes what he’d done. In a sad sort of way, it’s emotional and sweet, and for the present, allowing us to forget the craziness of their past.
In exactly a month from now, March 20, Big Love comes to an end. I’m very curious to see what finally happens to the characters and whether the writers will split apart the family.
Tags: Big Love