Big Love: The Complete Third Season (DVD)
Three seasons in, the popular HBO series Big Love
remains a highly entertaining and rewarding viewing experience. The cast is enormous and the storylines are numerous, with each of these ten 60-minute episodes adding new wrinkles to the plotlines already being pursued. This is business as usual for those who've been on board from the start, but while newcomers may need a couple of episodes to get up to speed, viewers of all stripes will be inexorably pulled in by the show's tangled combination of drama and black humor, personal peccadilloes and internecine strife, and big time social and religious issues. There really is nothing else like this on the television landscape, and that's entirely a good thing.
As usual, the series centers on the anything-but-normal life of Salt Lake City businessman Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton). Bill’s a study in contrasts: while he has plenty of objections to modern Mormon mores (he and his family are no longer active members of the church), he’s committed to the practice of polygamy, which remains the single most controversial aspect of Mormonism despite having been officially banned. Bill, his three wives, Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), Nicki (Chloë Sevigny), and Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin), and their various children find themselves waging constant skirmishes on several fronts: with their nosy, judgmental neighbors, with the splinter Mormon clan headed by the evil, self-proclaimed holy man Roman Grant (Harry Dean Stanton), and with the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. But the Henricksons' most pitched battles, and they are legion, tend to be amongst themselves. Though the wives generally get along with one another, the jockeying for position is endless, and Bill's desire for a fourth spouse this season definitely doesn’t make things any calmer. Other ongoing storylines include Grant’s trial for rape (similarities to the real-life prosecution of Mormon fundamentalist Warren Jeffs are no coincidence), which presents a serious conflict for Nicki, who happens to be Grant’s daughter; Bill and his partner’s ongoing efforts to open a Mormon-friendly casino on Indian land; and sub-plots involving teen pregnancy, kidnapping, adultery, and a host of other lurid behaviors. And while there’s a certain amount of what may be perceived as Mormon bashing going on, the edifying sixth episode, "Come, Ye Saints," in which the family visits Mormon landmarks from Utah to New York, features several of the season’s most moving scenes. --Sam Graham
Stills from Big Love: The Complete Third Season (click for larger image)