Monday, February 22, 2010

Big Love, "Blood Atonement": One-armed bandits

We're in the home stretch for this season of "Big Love," and things continue to feel much too busy to me. You may feel otherwise, and since the point of these posts at this point is to let you discuss the show, have at it.

45 comments:

Molly Lambert said...

WAY too busy. I think they screwed themselves trying to pack all this stuff into 9 episodes.

Trilby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurel said...

Waaay too busy! I was bored throughout the entire episode except for the brief scenes with Barb, Marge, or Nikki. Otherwise, I felt like it took physical effort for me to keep my eyes on the screen.

I find Barb's devastation about not raising Ana's baby to be unbelievable even for her. Your husband is running for office and the woman pregnant with his love child wants to leave the country. John Edwards would have paid a fortune for such good luck. But no, Barb can't deal with that.

JanieJones said...

All I have to say is, run Margene! Take your kids, money and leave.

I have to wonder when Scheffer and Olsen sat down in the writer's room with their staff to hammer out this season, what were they thinking?

Last night's episode evoked aggravation.
Too many cook's in the kitchen, imho with all these story lines.

Rick said...

I'm not really bothered by how busy it is- with such a large cast/family, I wouldn't expect anything else.
What does bother me is that none of the storylines are dealing with the family. Instead, each family member is involved in some over-the-top comic story, like hiding a drug runner in Sarah's apartment or faking a marriage so a Russian immigrant can stay in the country.

Or Bill breaking Ben out of a makeshift prison in Mexico. I'm pretty sure Burt and Danny did the same thing on Soap, and did it better.

Soap might be the best comparison for this show, just without Katherine Helmond to keep it all grounded.

Elbob said...

My biggest problem (among many) was the sense of timing. If I got it right Ana and Goran got three visits from various Henricksons, started packing to leavthe country, got the marriage proposal from Margene, considered and decided to do it, took christmas and other pictures, and actually had time for glean and margene to get married, all in the 24 hours it takes bill to drive from the border to the Greens. Wha? Also, the Greens run the worst armed compound ever. Despite knowing exactly when and where Bill is coming, both Henrickson brthers are able to walk right in. And why would psych Selma not just have five of her guys shoot all the henricksons, and let the other 300 armed compound members take care of Hollis? This episode made no sense at all, I think this show has well ad truly jumped the shark!

CB said...

I think it's laughable how bad this show has become. Does anyone notice that NO ONE on this show has a normal conversation? Every interaction between characters is a emotional screaming match. It's like watching a Mexican soap opera. And once again we have Bill in an implausable situation. He just walks onto Hollis' compound. And no one is guarding the prisoner even though Bill says he is on his way? Nikki is the only reason to watch anymore. It's just become shell of what it used to be.

Trilby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan Sepinwall said...

Trilby, that's enough of that. What's one of the cardinal rules around here? Talk about the show, not each other. People have the right to object to the show's creative direction without being told to stop watching and/or commenting. If we only discussed shows that were universally loved around here, the place would get awfully boring.

kishkeking said...

Still watch the show just like I always slow down to look at car wrecks. Nice to see Bill and his dad finally bond (my eyes are rolling). Did I miss Hollis scream out or was he mute when mom pulled an Uma Thurman on him?

bmfc1 said...

Last night was the Jump the Shark episode.

Was it realistic for Margene to "get married" without telling the family? And without getting a prenup to protect her business? It was a bad movie cliche when Bill heroically busted open the door, and then refused to leave his father behind. How did Joey getting to the compound on foot at the same time as Bill and, as said earlier, where were Hollis's guards? At the end of season 1, when Barb was disqualified from the Mother of the Year contest, didn't the word get out about her family (remember the Home Plus billboards)? If so, why is it still a secret? Did Quentin Tarantino direct last night's show?

jonsel said...

What does bother me is that none of the storylines are dealing with the family.

In a sense, all these storylines have to do with the family. I think they're emblematic of the season, which seems to be about what happens to a family when it loses its way.

I feel out of breath after most Big Love episodes and this was no exception. The arm bit might have pushed things JUST a tad too far, though.

Lindsay said...

My head was spinning after watching last night's episode, and much of this season for that matter. Agree with most of everyone's comments already put out there, but I'll add one additional frustration -
How could they completely leave Alby out of this episode? That's the one storyline I was actually anxious to watch! Much more interesting than everything that went down in Mexico.

christy said...

Yipes. I don't think I can stop myself from watching this show, so I'm just going to pretend the arm scene didn't happen. I feel like something LIKE what happened could have worked, but the combination of unnecessary holes in the plausibility and totally weird editing choices made me seriously think it was going to turn out to be a dream or something.

In addition to Hollis's knowledge of Bill's approach as a huge loose thread, and Bill and Joey making it as far as they did undetected...The whole arm slice sequence was absurd and surreal--was that intended? I was under the impression this was a show that existed in the real physical world, as over-the-top the character themselves can be. An old woman could not cut off an arm in one slice. And the way it was shot made it seem like it was supposed to be funny. It was WAY too close to the Black Knight scene from Monty Python to take seriously. Why not have something that could happen happen? She could have buried an axe in his shoulder, it would have been just as dramatic.

I also didn't buy Bill allowing the escapees, Ben in particular, to stop and wait while he tried to stop Joey. You're rescuing your kid. Nothing comes before that. At the very least, tell him to keep running before going back.

I don't mind the Greens as much as some viewers. I appreciate their creepiness, and I absolutely love that Selma is just a straight up cross-dresser and no one seems to notice or care. But I think they botched what could have been an interesting and dramatic turn of events.

I didn't really understand what was happening with the road block, or why Bill was allowed through. And I don't really grok what's happening with the casino and Scotland and how that translates to the casino getting hosed. And I don't understand what's happening with JJ at all.

The only thing I can think of that would justify Wanda's horrified and blood-curdling "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE" is that JJ and Adeline are related--say, closer than first cousins related. But beyond that...I just don't know. What is JJ hoping to gain? How's it going to affect our main characters? Is he angling for prophethood? But how does impregnating Adeline lead to that? Oh, and Nikki going to her...former step-son for fertility treatment? That's obviously leading somewhere creepy--is that related to the JJ/Adeline/Wanda drama? I'm just lost.

Here's what I do like about this season, and it stands in almost unbelievably stark contrast with the above: that each of the wives is gradually moving out from under Bill's thumb in her own way, and the subtlety with which each actress portrays the motivations behind the movement.

A big part of me was hoping that Bill would actually be killed by the Greens or at least kidnapped. It would be a brave move, and potentially very interesting TV, to see how the family (and even to a certain extent, the extended family and businesses) would cope with the sudden absence of that central character.

But now it seems like we're almost back to square one, except that Bill's sorry for kicking out Ben and Frank's sorry for kicking out Bill. Oh, and Bill knows Joey killed Roman.

TooAdorkable said...

I think that the season three finale should have been the end of the Greens. They're an even crazier foil for Roman Grant, and now that he's dead, they don't really serve a purpose in this world except to up the insanity on an already insane season.

Although, one of the friends I habitually watch the show with insisted that the bird smuggling and kidnapping were worth it because we get the scene where Bill is willing to sacrifice himself for his son. I completely agree that it was an awesome moment, but the hi-jinks to get us there were so over the top.

Though Lois and the machete were amazing. I think I jumped off the couch in shock.

Christy, I really like your point about the wives. I'd never considered it that way before, and one of my favorite moments was when Barb put together that everyone campaign related was in Scotland. I loved that she got such a smart moment, and it completely fits with her burgeoning independence.

liz said...

Before yesterday, I'd disagreed with the "too busy" critiques, but it's clear at this point that they've got too many balls in the air and too few episodes left to deal with them (at least to any satisfactory degree). For the first time, I feel that Big Love would benefit from a set endpoint. So much of their plotting this season has seemed like it's just being set up for resolution in seasons-yet-to-be-written, and they need to bring a tighter focus to the show's storytelling.

KronicFatigue said...

In the history of television, there hasn't been a more absurd story than Bill breaking his family out of the compound. The kangaroo court should have lasted an hour at most, and yet somehow goes into a second day. The woman sneaks her way into the compound, but doesn't hear Hollis behind her when she's holding the cellphone to Ben. Bill blurts out his entire strategy on the phone w/o hearing the commotion?!

That's all absurd, but in a "normal, low brow" kind of way. Now we get pure farce. The "trial gets rushed", but they break for "appeals". Then they have a party while NOBODY is guarding the prisoners. Joey calls out into a large crowd, many of whom are carrying guns, and Hollis decides to approach him creating the saddest mexican standoff (literally!) I've ever seen. And then the "kill bill" scene played straight. WHAT?!?! And to top it off, instead of just shooting everyone and THEN rushing Hollis to the hospital, the Henricksons get spared.

I know most of this was already mentioned, but I needed to vent. Although I've watched every episode, I wouldn't even consider myself a fan. But i DO watch. And after that pile of garbage aired, I went to this blog. And w/o an update, I went to twitter for about the 2nd time in my life. And people liked the episode! I couldn't sleep at night knowing that. At least now these comments provide me some comfort.

Anonymous said...

What a ridiculous show this has become. Its a shame because last season was amazing.

I can't believe all the nonsense they crammed into one episode: bomb threat, old lady pregnancy, evil doctor, green card marriage, Bill going all Jack Bauer on the compound, the Scotland conspiracy (???), arm chopping, and all the failed executions. Yikes.

Anonymous said...

I feel better after reading these comments. Until last night, I'd been disappointed with this season, but sticking with it. When last night's episode finished, however, I told friends that I was done with it. Now, having read these comments, I feel all the more certain that I wasn't being too harsh in my judgment last night: that was so ridiculously over the top and unbelievable that it may well have killed the entire show for me.

Anonymous said...

I paid to have my HBO subscription restored, and now I regret it. The Green compound scenes played like "How can we get the father to sacrifice for the son?" without a thought to how implausible the whole thing was.

IreneInIdaho said...

I totally agree with those who thought the episode was ludicrous. I'll waste another 2 hours of my life to see how much they can cram into the final 2 episodes, but doubt I'll bother with it next season. When the writers learned they only had 9 episodes to tell their stories, they should have had the sense to eliminate one or more plot lines - like the bird smuggling plot which led to the most outlandish scenes of all. Bill manages to pass by all the partygoers without being noticed, then his mother chops off Hollis's arm with a single stroke of her mighty machete, and the Greenes say Adios and safe travels??? Apparently, despite the compound's location in a vast remote desert, there's a hospital just down the road which has the facilities to reattach an arm, but only if the whole compound shows up with the body?? The Ana's baby plot could also have been dropped with no loss. There are so many stories that viewers would like to see resolved, because they actually make sense and feature characters we care about, especially, for me, Nikki.
Last season ended really strongly, and I'm disgusted that HBO has allowed the writers to so blatantly insult our intelligence this year. But then I guess the writers and HBO are laughing all the way to the bank.

Hugh Jee From Jersey said...

bmfc1- You are so right, and said it before I did....this was the "Jump The Shark Episode", where they've gone from the implausible to the insanely ridiculous.

I went along with Bill's nutty logic about running for public office, and Margene and Ben's raging hormones, Margene's lame brained marriage to Goran, the silly claims from Barb about Ana's baby belong to "all the sister wives", the weirdness back at the compound, and just about every mindboggling subplot imaginable....

But when you ask me to believe Bill is going to walk into Hollis's mini-compound like Gary Cooper, only to be saved by his machete wielding 70 year old mother who chops off Hollis's arm- guess what? Its time to just call this "drama" a parody or a satire in search of any reason to watch it again- and I've been following BIG LOVE from its inception.

And once again the show flunked The Watch Test....I kept checking to see how much time was left in this episode so I could put on something else- I followed BIG LOVE this long, so I might as well stick with it until its merciful end.

Oh one last thing....the scene on a crowded Mexican street where Joey shows Bill the trunkload of firearms. Bill gets nervous about the situation as Joey pulls out that automatic and sticks it in his belt- and not one passerby seems to notice what's going on?

Gimmeee a break!

CB said...

This is what happends when you go from "character based" story to "plot based" story. There isn't one thing that any of these characters are doing right now that makes sense given the history of their characters.

CB said...

One other thing. I think the Marilyn character and Sissy Spacek have been completly wasted. I understand it's hard to build suspense in only 9 episodes,but the reveal was a big yawn. There was no emotional investement in the character and I thought it was a huge letdown.

Bitsy said...

This show doesn't bother me as much as it does other people. I watch it all the time, but the thing that gets me is that plot lines are resolved too quickly. The Ben/Margene thing finally went somewhere explosive after dangling that around since season one, and all of a sudden it's over and everything's fine, we're off to something else.

Lois's chopping off Hollis's arm was pretty lame, badly played and just weird all around.

Anonymous said...

KeepingAwake here.
Most of my concerns have already been raised by others, but add me to the Jumped The Shark contingent. If there were more than 2 episodes remaining, I'd give up right now.

Someone asked about Barb's obsession with Ana's baby. My understanding is that polygamist Mormons believe that the number of children produced by the family is directly connected to their worthiness before G*d when they die. That's also why the wives are so invested in each other's pregnancies. Barb is exceptionally invested because she can no longer conceive after her cancer.

Mark Madel said...

I agree with all above: Jumped The Shark Episode, without a doubt.

Chalmers said...

Until this one, I always felt "There's nothing wrong with 'Big Love' that can't be fixed by what is right with 'Big Love.'"

Yes, there were always issues with the Juniper Creek stuff, and the constantly shifting public awareness of the situation, and the Teeny thing bugged me, but the acting, writing and exploration of religious themes always carried the day.

I always took the show's premise to be that living a lie, even if done in well-intentioned service to a larger "principle," constantly erodes the lives of you and your family.

Now, it's more along the lines of "living a lie turns your life into 'Twin Peaks.'" Maybe the showrunners view this as natural result of that erosion, but in real life, the family would have shattered long ago. But that would ruin the show's premise.

I'll watch the last two and probably season five, too. But I used to urge people to watch for moments like Barb's face when she sees Sarah at the end of "Come, Ye Saints" or the courthouse scene where Roman breaks the imaginary shackles and ends up tumbling down the stairs.

There still is great acting on the show and moments where the wrting is as good as ever, but it's become the freak show that people who always resisted watching it assumed it to be.

Maggie said...

Another thing I'd point out about why Barb cares so much about Ana's unborn child is that if the baby leaves, it won't be "saved" through their religious rituals and be together with them in heaven. It doesn't matter that it isn't Barb's child, it's her husband's, so she is invested in its spiritual life (and after life.)

I'm glad everyone else was frustrated by the last scenes. I, too, couldn't figure out why there was a choice between saving Hollis's arm or killing Bill and the others. By the time Bill finished explaining that, several guns could have been fired. Selma could have shouted for someone to carry Holis to the car as she shot the Henricksons.

Sonia said...

This show used to be SO good...great even at times. Just like the new opening credits...it's just free falling now. Yikes. What a shame. I understand the show order was cut back...then cut back some story. Seriously...could have done without ever seeing Hollis again, or Ana, Albie and his secret love life, or Bill running for congress. They show would have been just fine with the casino, Bill's business, and more focus on the wives. The stuff with Nikki has been great (and could have been explored with more depth with more time). Someone here said they show is showing how the wives are moving away from Bill...that's been the best part of this season.

Anonymous said...

It's a total waste of Adam Beach. While I enjoy the hint of sexual tension, Sissi Spacek has had more lines, and yet has been in less episodes.

I really enjoy Barb getting back to her character from seasons 1 and 2, smart and determined, although she strains the plausiblity of staying married to Bill.

Since the end of season 3, after the excommunication she's been frantic and awkward.

Kensington said...

Wait, is it HBO or the showrunners who decide how many episodes they'll produce?

Why would HBO only want 9 episodes? I thought Big Love was one of their successes right now. Why wouldn't they want a full 12 episodes?

Kensington said...

I'm still invested enough insofar as it's one of the few shows I watch eagerly as soon as it airs, but I keep thinking there's a much better show buried underneath a lot of clutter.

I'm not watching because I give a rat's ass about Hollis and Selma Greene, yet one precious episode revolved around them. When there are only 9 in a year, that's too much.

And I still don't get the point of JJ's character or what he's doing.

Fran said...

Chalmers and Sonia - well said.
I will keep watching, hoping they don't get cancelled and the creators will turn it back around next season.

Hollywoodaholic said...

Where can I get a cell phone with service that reaches 250 miles into the middle of nowhere in Mexico like this?

JL said...

Mormon compounds and the politics within are interesting and crazy enough WITHOUT needing to implement these crazy and implausible story-lines.

They turned this show into a ridiculous action / adventure show. This show should take a lesson from great writing in shows such as Mad Men and Friday Night Lights and try and seek realism and true character development rather than becoming a cheesy soap opera.

JL said...

I just watched the scene with Hollis again and I have to post again about how terrible this all plays out.

1. It's apparently VERY easy to cleanly slice a mans arm off

2. "How dare you put a hand on my son" ... really, that's the best dialog you could come up with?

3. The post sever reaction by all parties present. No shock, no look of disgust .. just "Oh, Hollis got his arm cut off, let me see if I can talk my way out of this situation" ..lol, this is writing at its absolute WORST.

Anonymous said...

I can only echo what's been said in the comments above--very disappointed and somewhat confused. What happens to some shows when they start out so well written, well acted, well plotted. then after the second or third season, you begin to think "why bother watching"??? "Heroes" falls in this category for me and now "Big Love". So very disappointing.

Anonymous said...

The "Kill Bill" sequence is when Fonzie put on his water skis and signaled for the boat to hit the gas. I didn't mind "busy". What I mind are the huge plot holes in that sequence that have been summarized by the good folks in this thread. My two biggest issues were:

(i) in the middle of a compound/party with that many people, how the heck did Lois get behind Hollis with a weapon and use that weapon without getting stopped or killed. Hollis has the worst security on the planet (ignoring that nobody was securing the prisoners during an announced prison break).

(ii) after the arm was severed why was it a one or the other choice for Selma. Save Hollis or deal with Bill and his gang?

Such sloppy writing for what is sometimes a great show. I think I'm actually alone in that the creepiness of the Green Compound could have been explored so much more.

Dennis said...

Hollis Green's phone conversations kill me all the time and tonight I also liked his use of the term "avian goods."

I've said for awhile now that they have situations arising for Bill like he's Vic Mackey.

Moshen Family said...

JL had the best point: BL should learn from other shows like Friday Night Lights that make you really love and care about its characters, regardless of what they actually do. Now, I couldn't care less about anyone on the show since they've all been reduced to their most basic stereotyped characteristics. Bill = narcissism; Barb = devotion; Nikki = damaged goods; Margene = rash & quasi-independent; etc.

shushie said...

I have to agree with JL's comment too. Before this season started I was thinking back how interesting this show was originally before turning it into over the top soap opera style plotlines -- and then this season started - sheesh!

This show has a very interesting subject, a polygomist family, and instead almost none of its storylines deal with that. A little drama is ok, but a political story with baby mama troubles, illegal bird dealers, casino problems, a wife having romantic feelings toward her teenage son, a banishment, a murder, AND the Mormon mafia is too much, in my opinion.

TL said...

Until this one, I always felt "There's nothing wrong with 'Big Love' that can't be fixed by what is right with 'Big Love.'"

This is a good point, and, despite this last episode is still the case, I think. I continue to believe that the show's order got cut to 9 episodes late in the writing process and the creators scrambled to try to salvage their work.

If the show gets picked up next season, I hope that they will have some certainty at the outset and learn from what didn't work this year and can mostly wipe the slate clean. There's still so much fertile ground to cover with these characters and the underlying scenario that I hate to see that squandered on the Greens.

Steve said...

This was on of the worst episodes of TV I've ever seen. They should have let Jason Alexander play Hollis if you're going to write something so absurd. Many fine actresses are being wasted on this show.

Anonymous said...

God awful episode in a poor season, but I have to admit I cackled when Nikki referred to Margene as "Mrs. Petrovic."
RW