Welcome to Wife Watch!, the only blog post that ranks the most powerful wives on this week's episode of Big Love.
I love this week's episode. I even love the title, "The Special Relationship." It suggests the political ties between the Mormon Church and the Utah Congress, it suggests the romantic (and political) ties between Bill and Barb, and it suggests Barb's ties to God and the church's tie to priesthood holders. This whole series is about special relationships, really, and the right to declare them, and I give props to writer Patricia Breen for corralling so many into an hour.
I've also got to give props to you guys. Your comments have been enriching my special relationship with the show, and I've particularly appreciated the texts I've been getting from a Mormon friend who has helped me see things in these episodes that I'd never see otherwise. For instance, he argued that last week's dream sequence, where Bill sees his mother dressed exactly like the troubled wife of Joseph Smith, suggests Bill's confidence is wavering. Apparently, the historical allusions in that scene are so specific and so potent within Mormon history that they make Bill seem much more uncertain than he might seem to a layperson.
I wish the show would communicate that complexity through channels that don't require a dense knowledge of Mormon history -- because he does seem awfully arrogant -- but I'm grateful to have that insight moving forward. I'm no less irritated by Pompous Pomperson, but at least I see that he's not functioning in the show as a pure blockade to the women's desires or a pure manifestation of hypocritical, self-righteous ego. Those things are leavened. A bit.
My anti-Billishness is also leavened by the moment he sits with Barb on the bench where he proposed to her. It's touching to watch them remember, because it reflects a special relationship that's pretty much gone.
As this scene makes clear, the relationship isn't over because Barb and Bill don't care about each other. It's over because they've hit an insurmountable wall: they fundamentally disagree about the faith that defines their marriage and their lives. Barb wants to be a priesthood holder, Bill feels that violates their faith. Barb and Bill now have different views of God and his place in their hearts. What can you do about that, except sit on a bench and ache?
I'm assuming that Barb and Bill really will get divorced, of course, but the season has been setting us up for that from moment one. Remember when Barb was dressed like Charlie Chaplin in that weird family variety show? She was the only one in costume. She was already being depicted as an glaring outsider. Since then, the show's been careful to demonstrate that her calling to be a priesthood holder is not flippant. She truly wants this connection to God, and that, more than jealousy toward the sister wives or frustration with Bill's political ambitions, is enough to pull her out of the family. Even the disappearance of my beloved Teeny, Barb's only child still young enough to need her constant parenting, makes it easier for Barb to leave. The writers are building her a massive doorway, and I think she's walking through it.
I think Margene could leave, too. If we consider disregard last week's insanity, then she's simultaneously developing a deeper faith and a new, self-sustaining business. If both of these things hold, then like Barb, she could have a faith-based reason to walk away from a family that may not want her to have her own identity. I'm less solid on this prediction -- and lord knows, we've seen Margie's plans crumble before -- but I could still see it happening.
It's possible, though, that the show will backpedal on all this. Remember when Nicki had a credit card addiction? Remember the middle of this very episode when Don was murdered... but then he wasn't? They love to tease us with events and then snatch them away.
However it ends, though, the Donmurder is chilling. The cinematography alone, with Verlan stalking across the ice, is amazing, and the image of Don, stranded in a frozen world not unlike the one Bill has thrust him into over and over again, creates primal terror in me.
There's also something horrible about Alby as he decides to chuck it all and go fully to the dark side. Ordering a murder, just to prove a point? Having a really intense, homoerotic moment with Verlan, where Cousin V spreads his legs and basically says he'll kill for $50,000 and some rough trade? What's going on? How often did these two hook up? How far will Verlan go now that's he literally drinking the poisoned milk of Alby's kindness? Why is it so disturbingly hot to watch these two stare at each other like killer wolverines in heat?
Just like Verlan's gaze from last week, Math Teacher Greg's weird stare in the food court gets explained a bit more in this episode. With Cara Lynn desperate to get out of a family where she can overhear everyone screaming at each other because of her -- and hear her own mother saying she's damaged goods---she also seems likely to flee by season's end. Confused as she is, she seems to think she'll be fleeing on Greg's magic carpet to a private school somewhere, and maybe he can help her get away... but I don't think they'll be kissing on the ride over, if you know what I mean. I'll bet you a hundred slide rules that Math Teacher Greg has a man in his house, and that's why he doesn't want Cara Lynn to get too close. We'll find out soon.
Speaking of finding out... I'm touched that Bill chooses to spare his father the news that he's the reason Lois has dementia. What good would it do, you know? Bill proves himself to be a bigger man in that moment.
Meanwhile Lois almost makes herself First Wife, what with her successful hunger strike reminding Bill that he can't always get what he wants. Until her dementia kicks in, that is, and she ends up staying in a house where she feels out of place. (Side note: this is part of my frustration with the show. It seems like the plot always moves forward by giving Bill what he's after. He rarely has to compromise in a major way. He doesn't have to accept politically expedient deals or do what his mother asks him to do. Again, if I felt like his motives were good or his ideas were just, then I might be less aggravated. Or maybe I'm forgetting a compromise. I'm on a tear, people, and I can't be expected to think it through!)
All this finally leads me to Nicki, who pushes so hard for Cara Lynn's adoption (and maybe the chance to legally marry Bill) that she indirectly causes Barb to ask for a divorce and Cara Lynn to run away. This could result in new freedoms for both of the latter women and a new claim on Bill for Nicki herself. Being a catalyst makes Nicki first wife.
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