Big Love 5.10 When Men and Mountains Meet, Series Finale

I don’t think we need to do a line by line analysis, this was a pretty emotional and visceral episode. But first off, never underestimate the fans, right? We all totally called the Carl scene. (Then again, they laid the foreboding on pretty thick.) I will just say that my husband didn’t see it coming, but then, he’s not the most… observant of people, bless him. 

I got pretty choked up during the Lois and Frank moment. What an amazing character Lois Herickson was. Tough as nails, suspicious and mistrustful of everyone but herself, a master manipulator, and a once-beautiful woman beaten into the hard, bitter woman she became (both literally and figuratively) by the life of polygamy she led. I don’t know yet how I feel about her coming “home” to Frank, and I would have liked to have seen that Frank also injected himself. Pancho and Cisco should have rode away together. He’s not much good without a woman to care for him. And that in itself is an awesome twist to the patriarchal order of polygamy – it’s the “my way or the highway” woman in Frank’s life that he settles with for the last haul. And she got to choose her exit, although I find it troublesome that it was by the hand of her husband.

Barb’s journey was pretty interesting last night, as well. How many of you called bullshit to Bill’s “I built this church for you,” line? Did you, Bill? For your wife. Mm hmm. I really thought she’d leave the family, they certainly laid enough crumbs for that to have seemed reasonable. But her story was far more interesting the way it played out.

And guys, when she stepped into that water of the baptismal font I could feel that warm water. I remember the nervousness and excitement, I remember the plexiglass surround to keep the water from sloshing out onto the carpet, and the individual behind us with a computer monitor with the names of people I was being baptized for by proxy. See, the baptismal font you saw last night are the ones in the LDS temples, with the 12 oxen, the ones used for baptisms of the dead. The oxen represent the 12 Tribes of Israel, of which Mormons believe they are one of the missing tribes (Native American Indians are also believed to be another of the missing tribes.) Also, standard baptisms are done in the church houses, where there is a large baptismal font that resembles as whirlpool spa, it’s not the elaborate tub we saw. But then, it was an RLDS church, which I’m not familiar beyond the basics.

Augh, that sensation of holding on to the priest’s arm as they raise their hand to the square and you kind of float a bit? Then it’s a complete dunking, because it’s old school. Sorry, sensory memories flooded back big time. I always catch myself mouthing along with the prayers said, too, and then find myself frustrated when they omit lines – I assume it’s done out of respect for the religion and its members.

I completely buy Barb not going through with it, by the way. That is such a huge, personal moment, and would truly signify her leaving her family (it would undo the sealing to Bill by their religious standards.) And if she left her family, what then? She’s been defined by her family for more than 10 years, she changed everything about her life to embrace this concept of multiple wives and eternal families. Looking out at the congregation, seeing all of the families sitting together, smiling, joyful… Yeah, I believe she’d leave.

Which brings me to the visages of polygamy’s past that Bill saw during his mini-sermon. Really? Ugh, this is such a Mormon concept, it filters through every story from the beginning – its proof that what the person is doing is righteous. Mormons are hugely invested in their ancestors, etc. visiting them at religious events. You have the ancient Nephi warriors standing guard at the dedication of the Logan temple to protect the pioneers from… Oh, who knows. The Ute Indians, or something. You can’t throw a stick and not hit a story of a Mormon seeing their g-grandpa smiling down on them as they chose to go to the Y after hard prayer. The church is a revelatory church where you can have a direct answer from God, so that ties in nicely.

But Emma? REALLY writers? Emma Smith, looking like a beautiful Lois (I’m not the only one that saw that, am I?) smiling and approving of his wife joining him after leaving the church that she and her son founded. Emma Smith who was known to fly into a rage at the women Joseph had polygamous relations with? I get that they’re trying to tie in the whole matriarchal theme into the story, but it’s bull. I mean, we can dress it up and say it’s about women, their choices, the whole “we’re free to choose,” but that’s like saying to someone at an In-n-Out Burger joint that they’re free to choose. Well, you can choose a burger, a cheeseburger, or a double cheeseburger. There’s no shrimp quesadilla or turkey club.

While I felt satisfied from a storytelling point of view – they did seem to touch on some of the major issues (except where was Rhonda? Banished? Waiting for Ben to show Heather the black and white film student video of horses dying and the old lady rocking? Er, you all get she played Samara in The Ring, yes?) I felt that the ultimate concept that it’s the women pulling together that makes it a good situation is seriously flawed and somewhat harmful. That is a rarity in that world.

And that brings me to Margene, and again I have to say that I don’t believe that she’d bail on her kids for months at a time, leaving Barb and Nikki (most likely just Nikki – I got the impression that Barb would be working full time to support everyone) to raise her babies? She always seemed like a devoted mother. And to work in the galley? Not the sick bay, not with education or something? That seemed tacked on to me. I might just be super nitpicky, I’ll own it.

I do like that she found herself, though. She grew up, realized there’s more to her than just being the third wife, and that was pretty great for the character. Her youth was robbed by the life she chose, the avenues of freedom closed off in exchange for dirty diapers and tater tot casserole for 30. Her saying that she fears she might be too old to be something hit me hard. I can identify with that, but I can also see that it’s not always the case. To be a teen model, yes, it’s too late. To be a force for good in the world? No time like the present, sugar booger. But you really should wait until you can either take your kids with you, or they’re old enough to go it alone, that’s just me.

Things of awesome:

  • the Godfather homage with Bill and his orange slice. I expected him to have a heart attack, but then, there weren’t any tomato plants. This would make Barb the Michael Corleone of the family, which should be our clue that they’re going to be alright, and possibly even better than ever.
  • Frank telling Lois that at Bill’s birth she called him the “light of her life.” How fitting that his light was snuffed not too long after hers. (Going along with the show’s mythos of eternal life, obv.)
  • The beautiful camera work as Bill lay dying, his three wives angelic and shining over him, Barb’s voice coming in and out, and most especially for his asking of a blessing.
  • Bill asking for a sign for a new prophet, and that’s when Barb walks in (I may have to rewatch that scene, but that was a lovely touch for the women)
  • Ben registering a star for Heather, omg, I laughed so hard I started coughing. I may or may not have had LDS suitors that did that very thing back when I was a’courting. So funny to me.
  • The relationship with the three women. To me it’s the most important relationship on the show, because if that doesn’t work, nothing works. I was sincerely moved at Barb holding Nikki, realizing that while she’s broken, there is something deep inside of her that’s compelling.
  • Barb’s car named “honeybee” – bees all serve the queen, and always know their way home.  That’s a nice touch for our Queen Bee of the Henrickson’s clan
  • “I don’t have one ounce of the milk of human kindness in me!” I know. “No, I mean it!” Pause. I know! Hahaha.

Things that left me cold:

  • No resolution on Alby – what an important character to the overall show he is, and nothing? Pah.
  • The ending feeling too “wrapped up with a bow” of joy, sure there were tears, but they were just “I’m going out of town” tears.
  • Ben and Heather are married? Engaged? Huh?
  • Again, Emma Smith! No no no.
  • Cara Lynn? Greg Ivey? Wherefore art thou?
  • Bill dying with everything left unresolved, and the sweeping under the rug feeling I got with the “11 Months Later” where they’re all just trucking on. I mean, that’s just what happens with a series ending, I understand that, but ultimately I feel like they dressed polygamy up to be something that in reality it isn’t.

As unsatisfied as I am in that list of items, overall this show was a pretty powerful force for me. Having grown up devout Mormon, being a descendant of polygamists, having polygamists in my extended family (which is huge, so you know, law of averages) and ultimately being the black sheep that left the church a few years back (and taking my children with me) this show makes me ache in a way.

I think one of the strongest lessons in this show is the strength of family, which is truly what the Mormon (both mainstream and fundamentalist) church is about. Everything is done to make your family strong, to insure that in the next life you are still family. Every sacrifice, every heartache, all exist to remind you that no matter what, your family is there for you in the end.

The community of love and support the Henricksons (and most LDS families) exist in is a pretty special thing, and one of the few elements I miss about attending church. That and the hymns. Hey, I’m a choir master’s daughter, it’s always about the music for me.

Was the show a fantastical version of the ideal church that could embrace its past and present? A hope for more open-mindedness and fairness to its female members? Without question. Do I think its possible for this to happen to either branch of Mormonism? Not on your life. But it made for great tv.

 

OK, guys, let’s talk about things. What worked for you? What didn’t? What questions do you wish were answered? And how terrible is Ginnifer’s pixie cut? She looks like a relative of Karl Pilkington with that bowling-ball do.  I’m rushing this out to the internet so we can dissect stuff, but I’m sure to have missed things, so feel free to chime in.