Big Love: Season 3
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Big Love: Season 3

During the last few years an unlikely subject has become highly debated; the nature of marriage. For quite awhile western civilization the traditional definition of marriage has been one adult male matched with one woman. As the natural of personal relationships change the model for what is considered a normal family is undergoing drastic change, single parent households are on the rise as divorce reaches an all time high and people start families without a partner. Another major change in the view of what constitutes a marriage comes from gay and lesbian community pushing for legal recognition in many venues. Not that long along ago yet another variation of marriage hit the news; polygamy. In most cases participants are depicted as isolated cult members living removed from most of the mainstream society. The fact is there are several cultures in the world that still allow a man to have multiple wives at the same time and the practice has been found in other cultures throughout history. HBO has always stood on the cutting edge of serious dramatic entertainment and one of their current popular series examines the life of a modern polygamist. ‘Big Love’ is current in its fourth season with the previous season available on DVD. It focuses on Bill Hendrickson (Bill Paxton), a businessman living in Utah who just happens to have three wives and nine children. Some may think that rotating between three attractive women on a nightly basis is a fantasy come true but for Bill he finds Zoloft far more useful than Viagra. Just remember that three wives have considerable associated baggage not the least of which is three sets of in-laws. Besides that any one of Mr. Hendrickson’s in-laws would be more than enough to push a rational man over the edge of sanity. You might think that such a set of circumstances would have a tendency towards the melodramatic and to some extent this is true. The overriding factor though is the sheer quality present on every level of the production.

The series was created by Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, a first time in this capacity for both. Considering the difficult sociological aspects here this was a bold choice for an initial project. Portraying the dynamics in a more traditional is difficult enough but adding the interaction of this complexity provides a means for a different type of drama than the audience is accustomed to watching. In this third season themes are explored that have been building throughout the series so far. Each of Bill’s three wives brings a different form of drama and craziness to the table. His legal wife Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn) was brought up as a traditional Mormon but when the secret of her multiple marriage began to leak out she faced excommunication from the mainstream religion. This has placed a strain on the relationship with her family and has affected her position as senior wife. The second wife Nikki (Chloë Sevigny) grew up in the compound do an isolated polygamist cult. Her father Roman Grant (Harry Dean Stanton) is the profit, the undisputed leader of the community. The government has been cracking down of communities like this and Nikki is sent work in the district attorney’s office to gather information pertaining to the criminal investigation of her father. Being the Prophet of Juniper Creek Grant also controlled millions of dollars held by the United Effort Brotherhood, the business aspect of the community. Nikki inadvertently begins a relationship with one of the State’s investigators almost ruining her relationship with Bill. The last wife, Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) has it a bit better this season. She has always been the sweet, perky one holding her position as lowest in the peeking order. Bill has been trying to secure greater financial security for the family by starting a Moron friendly casino on a Native American reservation. Margene’s natural people skills blossomed helping them secure the deal. As an ancillary to this she also started to sell Native crafted jewelry on a home shopping channel; a business that has become incredibly lucrative. This broadens the rift between the wives since personal finances are supposed to be pooled. The children of this multiple marriage are not without their share of drama. Eldest daughter Sarah, played by breakout star Amanda Seyfried, rejects the principle held by her parents and has become sexually involved with a young man. A little trivia here; Sarah’s best friend Heather is played by Tina Majorino who portrayed Tripplehorn’s young daughter in the much lamented ‘Waterworld’. Such drama does seem to run in the family though. Bill’s parents, Grace (Grace Zabriskie) and Frank (Bruce Dern) are constantly plotting against each other up though trying to murder each other, but with this couple though it seems more like their version of foreplay. In all this series keeps changing thing up to keep what could have been a one note premise into an exceptional; drama. By the end of this season Bill was risking everything to go into politics so next year should be very interesting indeed.

Posted 03/02/2010

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