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'Big Love' recap: Farewell

Great things are done when men and mountains meet; /

this is not done by jostling in the street. —William Blake

In the end, it was as it should be. The family stayed together.

At first glance, after everything the Henricksons had been through, with the loss of Home Plus, Bill’s upcoming trial for statutory rape, Barb’s imminent baptism at a reformed church, Margie’s desire to fly and Nicki's dislike of being touched, cutting Bill’s life short -- gunned down by poor, unemployed, separated, disgruntled Carl (Carl, of all people!) -- seemed a bit of a cop-out and a big warning never to re-sod your neighbor’s lawn. After the fraught neighbor’s weary mug and fleecy vest appeared ominously in the background, you knew that Bill was in trouble. Particularly because it came on the heels of a revelatory vision where Bill received a nod of approval from Emma Smith in front of his bustling flock of parishioners.

Gunned down now? By Carl? On Easter? But the more I thought about the end of the series finale, called "When Men and Mountains Meet" (a line taken from the poet William Blake, who himself had differing views on traditional marriage), the more it made sense. Had Bill survived, he most likely would have served his time in jail, and his family would have suffered that much more. They would have lost the houses, Home Plus, their dignity, etc. Bill, in his disgrace, may or may not have been compelled to allow Barb to give the priesthood blessing. Marg wouldn’t have had the heart to leave her husband to go serve those in need. Or Bill would have run away to the hills and become prophet of Juniper Creek (where it seemed he was headed, what with his vision at the church with Joseph Smith’s wife Emma Smith giving her nod of approval on Easter Sunday), which wouldn’t have made sense for Margie or for Barb.

Ending Bill’s life on that cul-de-sac effectively put a definitive end to the show, but it also made him a martyr who made the ultimate sacrifice for his family. His wives could celebrate his life and be reborn in it, rather than be stifled by it and their sense of duty to him. And if you think about it that way, this ending was how it should be. As much as this show’s premise revolved around a polygamist patriarch, the true heart and soul and growth within the series revolved around the sister wives.

This way, the wives’ stories didn’t have to end with Bill’s death. Bill brought them together, allowed them to grow as individuals and in love with one another, and in the end, they were able to take that security in their love and find the faith and courage to live out their true callings. Nicki became the loving, gooey center of the family, a weepy heart on a sleeve; Barb was able to be the priesthood holder at Bill’s church and christen her grandson; Margie was able to realize her desire to cut her hair, get out into the world and help the world on her Mercy cruises. And Ben and Heather ultimately ended up together, despite Ben’s indiscretion and his star-crossed attempts to woo her back.

In the end, both Bill and the show were all about the family. “The only thing that matters are our families -- our marriages,” Bill said, holding the peace of the world within him. “Faith comes from that love, not the other way around.”

Biglove11_30 And there it was, simple as that. Ultimately, nothing else mattered. Never mind the hairy legislation to get polygamy legalized again, the threat to put Bill away for statutory rape or Barb coming thisclose to getting baptized at a reformed church. Barb realized she was nothing without her family and that she had laid Barbara Dutton to rest long ago.

Also laid to rest: Lois. In a sad, tender scene, Frank made good on his promise to his first wife, lovingly recounting stories of their youth as she lay next to him and drifted off into a sweet oblivion. “You gave 'em what for,” he said proudly. Oh, Pancho. Oh, Cisco.

Oh, jalopy. After all those years that Barb spent suffering in that ol’ heap of a station wagon (particularly when Bill got to cruise in that sleek new SUV), it also finally came to light why Bill held on to that big hunk o’ junk for so long: Turned out the outdated wagon wheels represented Bill and Barb’s relationship before she got sick and they took on new wives. Bill was utterly crestfallen that she would trade it in for a newer, shinier, topless version without a thought to its past or its meaning. “You got rid of us -- you threw us away without so much as a second thought,” he said, wounded.

What it really represented was not so much a turning away from the past, but an embracing of the present. And the future, which lay wide and open before them. I loved that scene of the wives together, joyriding around together in Barb’s new Mini Cooper convertible (dubbed “Honeybee,” though Nicki suggested “In Your Face” would be a better name -- ha!). Seeing them grinning from ear to ear, giving one another knowing looks, hair flapping in the wind and without a care in the world, made me want to preserve that moment in amber forever. Part of me was wishing they would just pull a Thelma and Louise and go riding off into the sunset together. (Margie said as much, though she included the husband in the mix: “Let’s go pick up Bill and all of us just keep on driving.”)

Biglove11_29 Nicki and Cara Lynn made up after Nicki apologized and wisely opened up about her own fears. “You chose something that couldn’t last, and that felt safe,” Nicki began. “Because maybe you wanted to learn what love really is, because you didn’t understand it. ... I’ve been through that.” And Nicki was lovably Nicki with her share of zingers (“If you want to be Margene Without Borders, you hardly have to leave home to do it”; “You thought you could just say I reject your church and I have the priesthood and I find greater comfort with lesbians and reformed churches than I do with my sister wives?” and “It’s good to have an open mind but not so open that your brains fall out” were a few of my favorites). But she also realized her fear of being alone. “I don’t have one ounce of the milk of human kindness in me,” Nicki confessed. “I know,” Barb responded, before pulling her into an embrace.

And it was the concluding sister-wife embrace in Barb’s dining room with Bill looking on, and then the tune of Natalie Maines’ lovely version of the Beach Boys’ classic, that choked me up in the end. When again will we see and be moved by such an indelibly drawn portrait of a messy, broken, loving family? God only knows.

What did you think? Do you wish there was more to “Love," or were you satisfied with the ending? Were you as pleased as I was to see Sarah and Scott’s shining faces again, even if just for that brief moment? Was it enough to hear Teenie was still around, even if she was putting on mascara in the bathroom? What about the show will you miss the most?

— Allyssa Lee


Critic’s Notebook: Farewell to ‘Big Love’ [Spoiler alert!]

‘Big Love’ recap: Every which way but loose

Complete ‘Big Love’ coverage on Show Tracker

Photos, from top: Jeanne Tripplehorn, left, Bill Paxton, Ginnifer Goodwin and Chloë Sevigny; Tripplehorn and Sevigny; Goodwin. Credit: Chuck Zlotnick / HBO

Comments () | Archives (28)

I loved it. I thought it was a perfect ending. Being shot by the disgruntled neighbor seemed true to how life is. Fight a thousand "enemies" and die of a mosquito bite. I thought the actress who played Bill's mom was incredible.

I'll miss this show. I'm still a bit surprised that they killed off Bill's character, but at least this way, he dies a martyr for his cause (instead of helping usher the end of polygamy), instead of rotting in jail. However, it really did seem like there was enough drama going on that they could have gone another season. I suppose that just because you can, does not mean you should.
It was a better ending than I could have predicted, and for that, I am grateful.

Thank you for yet another perfectly written recap. Reading it brought back the same emotions I had while watching the episode and made be cry again!!! I do agree I thought Carl was a copout. It made me angry t o think they'd just kill bill!! After all these years watching, how could they just kill off the partiarch! But thank you for shedding light that it was the only way it could end to keep the family together...and that is the more important ending. What will I miss most? Everything! A wonderful well written show on Sunday nights about a family who love each other no matter how messy. What show will fill this void??? This show is unique and still makes me emotional when I think of the finale. I'm going to miss this family as much as I missed lost. Thank you for your great recaps. They helped me to appreciate the show even more!!!

Although I expected Bill to die because it was the only logical way to tie up loose ends for the finale, I was nonetheless unprepared for his death. It was definitely a bittersweet ending.
'And, of course, someone could always decide to do a Big Love 2:The Wives' Journey Forward.

Typical of this season--transcendent moments, baffling moments, storylines that dragged way too long, LDS esoterica. Still, despite everything this show made me love this family and I'll miss Barb and Margene and Sarah terribly.

Bill didn't die a martyr's death. He died becaus a drunken guy who felt his manhood was damaged killed him. That's what made the death ironic. He was just a man who will bleed and die like any other.

The real story throughout Big Love was the story of the wives, why they came to be in the situation, the jealousy and insecurity that comes with being one of three, and their eventual growth despite Bill...not because of him.

The scene with Lois & Frank made me weep, as did the final embrace amongst the wives. We should all be so lucky, to have so much love in our lives.

I'll miss a little something from all of them. Barb, always trying to hold it together, even though her husband could be a smug, self-righteous PITA. Nikki's little barbs & putdowns (Margene Without Borders! HA!). Margie's insecurity and desperate need to be accepted.

Even though the storylines often felt strained & unrealistic (to me), at it's core, it was a great cast of characters.

I loved the end and I was so glad that Barb didn't go through with the baptism. Now that Bill's gone and they've lost Home Plus I am wondering how they're supporting themselves, Margie's not working, only Nikki can collect social security benefits for her kids and I still have a loose end that I need to be tied up. I'm confused about Adeline's pregnancy. I've watched every episode and I don't recall anyone explaining what happened to the baby and how she got pregnant in the first place. I'm old, maybe I dozed off?

Really gonna miss them - even Nikki. Thank you to the show's creators for this loving introduction to a different way of living. To all those who have made the choice to have this kind of family...blessings.

Was there a particular reason it was 11 months later rather than a year, etc.?

Didn't like it. It's no Dexter. Showtime shows are so much better! I felt the writing was a little sloppy. I felt the show didn't answer all the questions we had. So now the girls have to figure life out for themselves? All those kids, no Home Plus, no Casino, Um how are they going to pay their bills? What about the Green's revenge. Have we forgotten that Bill's mom killed Hollis? (its implied that he died from his injuries) Are the Greens going avenge him? It seems like Bill left them with more problems. What about Teenie? Where is she? I know its no Six Feet Under, but their writing could have been better. They should have wrapped it up, made us feel secure, that everything was going to work out and then BAM, they shoot him. That would have been better. They should have made us FEEL that everything worked out, a sense of security, and then pull the rug under our feet by killing him. It worked out Beautifully when Dexter's writers killed Rita. They made us feel that everything worked out, and then BAM, she's dead. That finale had me going! Big Love's was weak. I guess its better than the sopronos when they cut off in mid sent.......

I will miss the show for so many reasons. The ending broke my heart - but was so pitch perfect.

It's only a TV show. But Bill still watches over his family. And the world just keeps on turning.

Earlier this season, it mentioned that Bill had reviewed each wife's finances so that if something happened to him that they would be financially set. He made the ultimate sacrifice.

When the three wives ran out and saw that Bill had been injured (they guessed shot, I suppose),one of them said "Call an ambulance!" But no one did. It seemed very illogical one of them would not have immediately called 911. Instead they hung around and watched him die. That is not the way spouses would react. They also did not seem at all curious as to how it happened. It was far too theatrical and it ended the series on a very poor note.

I estimate that Bill took out a lot of life insurance and that sum could support the wives and family.

I really thought it was a perfect ending. Kudos to the writers.

FlyGuy is correct about Bill reviewing the wives finances in case something happened to him. Also @ Bonnie, Remember when Adeline had to get hormones from a doctor to continue to carry the baby due to her age? At some point after this Albie got in her head about the "monster" she was carrying and they showed her doing away with the hormones, which I suppose resulted in the loss of the baby.

That said, I thought the ending was perfect. I do not think Carl was a "cop out" at all. I read an interview with the writers which explained why it was Carl rather than Albie or the Greens. Had Albie or the Greens killed Bill in the ending, it would have left us with a feeling of evil trumped good. I thought the writers did an excellent job this season(much better than last) and wrapped up the show nicely.

I am very pleased with the ending. It did, indeed, tie all the loose ends together. I am sorry Bill was murdered; but their religious beliefs and foundation held them together, unexpected and brilliant. A very comprehensive and well-contrived conclusion to an epic series...

@Tom lake. Margene called 911. You heard her talking in the background while Nikki and barb were w/ bill

Wonderful ending. I stayed off the blogs and kept away from spoiler alerts. I had no idea what was coming. I just blindly watched. I was totally taken aback by the ending. I cried when the three hugged and Bill was seen in the fuzzy background. I was so proud of Margene and the fact that Barb and Nikki allowed her to spread her 23 year old wings after having to grow up so fast.

I sit here so curious about the Ben story line. He so flirted with the idea of polygamy throughout the show. Heather repeatedly said she wanted no part of polygamy, but as we learned through Barb and Bill's history, things change. Something about the way she sat at the family table with her hair looking so Barb-like in the end, made me wonder if Ben and Heather aren't on the Barb and Bill path in the future.

I know that Teenie's character was never fully developed. I feel that was because casting did not go as planned in the beginning. Regardless, I hate that they totally just threw her character out the window and just randomly mentioned her existence from time to time.

I love how Adeline's character was closed...Standing by her man in the end holding up signs and protesting. I hate that she never had it in her to fully go her own way, but she was never meant to be. Loved it.

The writers did a wonderful job with Frank and Lois in the end. They were always so fun to watch with the continuous attempted murders and callous comments. But in the end he stood by her. One would have never thought such at the beginning of the series.
Are we to assume that Cara Lynn was just content to stay with Nikki because of Bill's discussion with her in the bedroom and the apology by Nikki in the basement? Her absence at the table at the end made me question her decision. Many of the children were not there in the end, but her absence mattered.

I could go on and on...

Love, Love, LOVE "God Only Knows" as sung by Daveigh Chase. What a voice on that one.

And perhaps three bullet holes for the three wives?

I was heart broken when Bill got shot. Why did his life have to end that way.
I actually cried my eyes out. It really feels like a death. Great acting. My favorite character was Barb. Pillar of strength.
Also, I would like to comment on how horrible Nicky was to her daughter in the second to the last episode. It cut to the core. The response from her daughter was heart wrenching. I will miss the Hendrickson's. I am grieving.

Big love was an excellent series. Hope we see more of that type of television in the future.

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