Sunday, January 17, 2010

Big Love, "The Greater Good": Will I still love you tomorrow?

Again, I'm not going to have a lot to say about "Big Love" each week, but I thought "The Greater Good" was a really strong showcase for Chloe Sevigny, as she played Nicki's epiphanies about her marriage, her upbringing and her entire outlook on life. At the start of the series, Nicki annoyed me so much (as she was supposed to) that I kept hoping they might find a way to write her out of the show. Now I can't imagine the show without her as one of the most important figures.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

The way Chloe Sevigny played the wedding scene was beautiful.

Narrim said...

Is Zeljko Ivanek in everything? My god. Who is his agent?

Stephen said...

I thought her feelings came out of no where, and didnt really make much sense. Especially considering her character.

Bitsy said...

I agree that Nikki has become a much more interesting and complex character since the first season. She's probably the most compelling of the sister-wives, even though her story lines often do lead back to Juniper Creek.

John said...

Haven't seen the episode yet but very excited that chloe sevigny won the golden globe tonight. Her work on Big Love always stood out for me; her raw emotion and perfect timing are all the more impressive given that this NYC fashionista party girl is playing a devout fundamentalist and selling the hell out of it. Great actress, great performance. I hope Emmy is next

christy said...

I didn't understand the significance of JJ not having fingernails, other than it being really super creepy. Did I miss something there?

KeepingAwake said...

Nikki has always been interesting! I think that Barb is the entry point for most viewers. She's always shown the most ambivalence toward the principle and is the most 'normal' character. But Nikki's never been boring, and that's more due to Chloe than it was the writing early on.

I leapt off the couch tonight when she got the Golden Globe! It was about time! Last season was such a strong season for her and for Tripplehorn, for Seyfried-just glad to finally see one of them honored.

Tonight's episode was far better than last week's.

I agree with the first commenter who mentioned Sevigny in the wedding scene. It seems that this year she is the wife who will be teetering between the outside world and polygamy, and she totally sold it with her face during the wedding. Can we give her two Globes tonight?

KeepingAwake said...


I think that fingernail comment was meant to reference unspeakable torture somewhere along his backstory?

Maura said...

Nikki's feelings totally made sense - remember how she told the DA that he made her feel feelings she never felt before? Watching Sarah, young and free, marry the man she loves in a secular ceremony that nonetheless included her family must have been terribly painful! Hence the tears.

Sara said...

I love following the journey that Nikki's character has taken throughout the series. So much of her true character has slowly been revealed not only to the viewers, but to Nikki herself. I think she is finally facing her true feelings about her faith, her family, and her deepest desires which she has always had to supress. I am really eager to learn what is next for her character.

Sevigny's performance in the last scene was stunning. Watching Sarah marry for love, surrounded by the love of her family clarified for Nikki what she has missed out on.

I was also really glad to not have one scene with Bill's mother and father in this episode. Their storyline is so boring and painful. Just let them drive off a cliff or something.

Katty said...

I love Big Love. It's just so different to anything else that is on television atm. Just wrote a massive post on it.
Really appreciate what you do.

Oskar said...

This episode was much better than last week's, but the whole "I'm gonna come out as a polygamist after I win the election" is so idiotic.

Aside from everything else that's stupid with the story-line, Bill thinks that because polygamy is a misdemeanor, he cannot be forced out of office and will serve the full four years. I hate to break it to you Bill, but they can still impeach your sorry ass, which is exactly what would happen within days of his announcement.

It's such a stupid plot-line for such a smart show that I feel really let down by it. Other than that, though, I did really like the episode.

belinda said...

Chloe Sevigny certainly earned her Globe. It's really great to see her growth and I can't wait to see what happens with Nicki.

But I have to agree with Oskar - I'm enjoying almost every plot development other than the main one - Bill running for office. If Nicki was annoying at the start of the series, I now find Bill to be the most annoying now. How do the wives put up with Bill's every kooky whim (like deciding to run for election and expecting his dirt to not come up until AFTER he 'wins', etc), especially when he explains it as "I have a calling, so we're doing this!" every single time he makes a decision that affects his entire family (including the kids).

Anonymous said...

"I thought her feelings came out of no where, and didnt really make much sense. Especially considering her character."

Her father just died, she had just revealed that she doesn't know if she loves her husband, the man she thinks she loves is leaving town, her "daughter" is getting married and the ex-husband that was forced upon her by said father is back in her life threatening her.

A few tears seem understandable especially (as pointed out by someone) as she was watching Sarah being able to marry for love when she never had the chance to do so.

By the way, is there any way for this series to end with Bill not assuming the role of "Prophet".

Unknown said...

I read in the LA Times review of the episode an interesting theory on JJ's lack of nails. There is apparently some condition which causes someone not to have fingernails and it is more common in offspring whose parents come from the same bloodline. I have no idea where Big Love is going there, but there has to be some significance to it, other than just being creepy. The camera gave a full shot of it, and Barb mentioned it explicitly. There is a reason behind it and I think JJ is harboring many more secrets which will come spilling out this season.

Unknown said...

I read in the LA Times review of the episode an interesting theory on JJ's lack of nails. There is apparently some condition which causes someone not to have fingernails and it is more common in offspring whose parents come from the same bloodline. I have no idea where Big Love is going there, but there has to be some significance to it, other than just being creepy. The camera gave a full shot of it, and Barb mentioned it explicitly. There is a reason behind it and I think JJ is harboring many more secrets which will come spilling out this season.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who can't stand Bill? "I'm going to open a casino for Mormons!" "I'm going to start my own church!" "I'm going to run for office!" "I'm going to tell everyone I'm a polygamist and change the world!" Seriously, how arrogant and full of himself can one person be?

Trilby said...

@Anonymous^ -- You are not the only one! I love this show but I LOATHE Bill. What an ego on that man. Maybe that's comes with the territory of having 3 wives. I hate the way he talks, his plans, his "testimonies." Yuck. One scene I really enjoyed was when the judge(?) was saying how morally corrupt the whole polygamy thing is while Bill's head sank lower and lower. Yes, he is arrogant and full of himself. I totally agree with you!

Cloe sure looked gorgeous at the Globes, didn't she?

Sarah said...


The writers have said in interviews that JJ and Wanda's parents were brother and sister .... that would explain the no fingernails and perhaps Wanda's instabilities.

KeepingAwake said...

@Anonymous and @Trilby:

No, you are not the only ones to find Bill more and more annoying. His most prominent quality over the more recent seasons has been hubris.

In the beginning of the series, he seemed to be misguided at times but desperately trying to do the right thing. You could forgive him some of his nonsensical and self-destructive behavior because his intentions were good and he questioned himself more.

Lately, he's just a suburban Roman. Maybe that's the point? I'm not sure exactly where they are headed with this evolution of Bill. But if one of their main themes explores how religion and power become so inextricably entwined that they are indistinguishable, Bill may look a lot like Roman to further that theme.

Rob said...

I agree with most of the posters that this episode was much better than last week's one and that Chloe Sevigny was great. I've been annoyed by her in the past too, but I realized last night, for the first time, how central she is to the series. If we barely saw Bill at all, I think we'd miss him a lot less than if we barely saw Nikki.

I think, intentionally or not, that Nikki has become (or perhaps always was) the true protagonist of the series. In some way, the series is really about her fundamentally. She's half Hendrickson-half Grant, torn between those worlds and the real world, and the one with the most to lose most of the time. I also like how richly complicated she's become. I think that Sarah, though she's not her actual daughter, is following in her foot-steps in a way, by her struggle between her household and the real world. To me, this stuff comprises the most interesting themes in the series.

I also agree with all the comments about Bill and his crazy behavior. He is so self-righteous that, at times, it's hard to watch. Besides, I'm getting really tired of that well-worn Bill Paxton slight-look down half frown that he affects every time he's trying to express emotion. I guess it's better than his default 'no expression but constipation' look, but not by much.

Finally, did anyone else think there was some sexual tension between Barb and Casino Guy Jr.? My wife thinks I'm crazy, but I see something there.

Unknown said...

I'm starting to find the show unbelievable at best. Bill could never run for office, given the fact that he's a polygamist. He would be 'outed' instantly. And what is the significance of JJ having no fingernails? I'd appreciate feedback on that point.

Anonymous said...

Like someone said, the significance of the fingernails is that he had none. That is a birth defect that relates to inbredding. If you google Kingston clan there is mention of those children, some not having fingernails. Wanda and JJ are the children of a brother and sister.

Also, I interpret Nikki's crying at the wedding as hurt, due to missing out on REAL love instead of arranged love. Did I read that right?

KeepingAwake said...

@Anonymous: I think there are so many emotions at play in Nikki's wedding tears that there is no one 'right' interpretation.

I think some of it is watching Sara exercise choices that Nikki never, until recently, thought she herself had.

It's also that She's raised Sara for half of her young life, so the normal Mom blend of excitement, hope, nervousness, fear and love; astonishment that she really is growing up and moving on; all the myriad emotions of seeing a child marry.

That Sara somehow came to terms with having very different beliefs from her family and still went her own way without sacrificing that family--something Nikki is trying to sort out for herself.

The stark contrast between Sara's certainty that she loves Scott while Nikki herself is not sure she loves Bill and the man she thinks she loves is moving away and dismissed her.

So many things going on...

Susan said...

I agree with most of the commenters - I'm finding Bill and his "calling" to run for office to be annoying, confusing, and selfish, and Nikki, while still hard to take sometimes, has been fascinating in the start of this season and for much of the last.

But I thought the most interesting scene in this episode was the scene in the car when Bill and Margene are talking about how much she makes with her tv sales, and at first Margene avoids the question, and then she completely ducks the idea that she should pass on her earnings to the family, instead saying they need lawyers and money managers. Bill may be Margene's husband, but it's not legal, and Margene knows that she can keep the money if she wants. And she's smart enough to know that if this whole family blows up, she'll need her own funds.

Trilby said...

Chloe is great as Nikki, and Nikki is always interesting-- I've always been a fan-- but lately, I'm really loving Margene. And she used to annoy me so much with her childishness. But she is really coming into her own and she's cute as anything. Just had to say that.

Abdul said...

Nicki! I feel so sad for her. For me, the reason why she was crying was more than just seeing Sarah, her sister-wife's daughter, marry for love, more than because she thinks she doesn't love Bill anymore, more than because her love is going away, and more than because her father just died. I think it's also because marriage is about people accepting each other. I think the part about acceptance is essential. Nicki hasn't really accepted her father's rule as prophet to be true. She hasn't really accepted certain aspects of her past (Cara Lynn, and the District Attorney). And Bill hasn't really accepted her. Nicki is in a state of nothingness, of non-identity.

[In a way, Nicki has been as close with Sarah as Barb is. I still remember when Sarah was crying because of Scott, and how Nicki gave her some advice. I still remember Sarah and Nicki in Come Ye Saints. She's very motherly towards Sarah because Sarah gets to be free when Nicki wasn't at her age.]

I realized a lot of the audience don't like Bill. I understand. At first, I really hated him, especially when Barb didn't get to win Mother of the Year Award. And when Barb's mom tearfully talked with her non-polygamist mom at her wedding. And when Barb was excommunicated before a panel. (Jeanne Tripplehorn is such a beautiful and moving sight when she cries.) The thing is, the wives all have to make sacrifices like Bill. It's the nature of a marriage. Consider the two added wives, and the stakes are higher.

In a way, Bill should relatively look less controlling with two more wives who have a say, but the reason is also because of the nature of the show. Big Love is about a family, and the challenge, as in real life, is keeping the family together. There has to be conflict, because a show about Bill letting his wives do what they want to do, about the wives letting Bill and the other wives do what they want to do, would make such a staggering fortress of boredom. In real life, the things people remember best, and remember the quickest, about their lives, are the extremes: most challenging ones, the darkest ones, the happiest ones, and the funniest ones. And Big Love continues to be memorable by showing those extremes.

I can understand why Bill wants to run for office. He's a cultural minority. He feels threatened. He feels that his family is threatened. And he feels that his faith, his relationship with his god, is being threatened.

I am a religious minority, a cultural minority, as well as a sexual minority in a third world country. I'm not just a twofer, I'm a "fourfer." I feel threatened all the time. And I think that the only way to defend myself is if I could get people to understand me. So I can understand why Bill is running for office - it's not just about legitimizing himself before god now, it's about legitimizing himself, his identity, before the whole world. As a second-class citizen, it's not enough to just exist - you have to be larger than yourself. That is exactly what Bill is doing - he's trying to be more than just a polygamist hiding his family.

Also, another great layer about this storyline is that while he doesn't like the people in the compound, he nevertheless wants to protect his faith. I'm a Muslim, and I do not approve of Muslim polygamy (which is why I watched Big Love in the first place). I hate extremists who distort Islam and use it to kill people, but I want to protect my faith from critics as well through legitimate, lawful, and moral means. This is why I understand Bill wants to protect the compound, though he did not want to associate with it at all in the first three seasons. Bill wants his family to go out of the closet after the elections to show that they are normal, that a Mormon polygamist can be a leader, and that they are not what most people expect Mormon polygamists to be. Like Bill says near the end of the episode, "That's what this has been about."

Abdul said...

Normally, I could care less about Bill (except when he was having an affair with Barb - that was such an original, heartbreaking storyline), but seeing Bill as an underdog in the context of a whole city is exactly why I like the current main storyline.

I'm seeing this storyline in view of Obama's presidency. Obama the symbol of the underdog is now Obama the president. I'm not saying Bill is the next Obama. What I'm saying is Bill the family man, the businessman, COULD be Bill the senator. So why not? Why can't Henricksons the polygamist family be the Henricksons the representative (polygamist) family in Utah?

Other points:
*Yeah, there's some chemistry between Barb and Tommy.

*One of the things I like about Big Love is that there is a community of women supporting each other (as in Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, Golden Girls, and Gilmore Girs). We see it in the wives, but we also see it in Sarah and Heather.

*Ben's expression after he sees the happy look on Barb's face when she was looking at Sarah getting married - priceless. It's just a great family.

*Barb capturing the I-am-very-right mom look and tone when she gave the dress to Sarah.

*"Good gravy!" -Barb

*"I was having you investigated."-Ray "I know."-Nikki

*Margene's expression at the wedding. I think she thinks that the family is growing bigger, and what with Bill's run for the senate, the family is about to explode. I think Margene, now with something big to lose, would be the most practical this season. And she can live separately and independently of the family now. If there's anyone I think is the most prone to split, it's her.

*Margene freaking out at JJ's lack of nails.

*JJ's lack of nails and general creepiness. Is it me, or was he inappropriately near his sister in that scene? I think Big Love got its new Big Bad, but I'd like to see how Sissy Spacek figures out in all of this.

*How awesome was the ending song?

*How gloomy (but as beautiful as the previous one) is Big Love's opening credits?

*I can't wait for Teeny to return.

*Is Evie Nicki's sister? I'm a faithful follower, but I have a bad grasp of faces. Plus, Evie's sister has a very fashionable jacket.

*"You will die a bitter, selfish orphan with a heart of stone!"-Adaleen

*Joey's consistent insistence that Bill should be the leader of the compound. I last saw this I think season 2 when the board of trustees voted for Bill to be the temporary leader, or something like that.

*"You're building a church! Why, when there's already one waiting for you?!"-Joey

*Heather's maid-of-honor dress! (But did she get back to her dorm by 8?)

*"Well, I'm struggling, too!"-Cara Lynn

*Alby's expression when Dale left. I pity Alby, but I think he deserves it. This is probably the season he looks more human.

I love Big Love. I simply, genuinely, unconditionally love it. To be invested in these characters, to see them grow for five years, to watch the family push forward, to watch the familly pull itself back for the its own good, to watch the wives lose, and break, and hope, and hold tight. To lose with them, to break with them, to hope with them, and to hold on. To heartbreakingly hold on. It's magic.