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biglove_idol.jpgHBO’s “Big Love” promises delights and intrigue in its second season, as it premieres on its new night tonight at 9 p.m. (ET). Compared to last year, the second season is more comfortable in both its dramatic and comedic skin. The show’s unusual premise was well established last season: Can a man living a closeted polygamist life in “family friendly” suburban Salt Lake City keep three wives and ten children happy and fed while being pressured professionally and spiritually by creepy, controlling sect leaders and relatives? Now the show is free to explore story lines, develop characters, and probe serious questions of faith, commitment, and morality with a more honed focus. It romps well and weaves fine stories.
This season opens with “Damage Control,” in which Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) goes to extremes to discover who “outed” first wife Barb ( an exceptional Jeanne Tripplehorn) just as she was about to be named mother of the year in last year’s season’s closer. While Bill searches for the leak, wife Nikki (played subtly and deliciously by Chloe Sevigny) and wife Margene (a physically flawless morsel of youth and energy portrayed by Ginnifer Goodwin) try to hold things together. Normally, Barb–who really should be mother of the year–is the stable, able one who keeps the family tethered to their “eternal principles” and each other.
Barb, however, has retreated into a world of cross word puzzles and laps in the pool as she tries to recoup her identity. She even admits to her sister wife that she does “not have a testimony of the ‘Principal’ (of plural marriage).”
Meanwhile, back at the compound, mysteries continues. Who among the many power-players and wackos at Juniper Creek should get the blame for attempting to poison Alby (Matt Ross), the smarmy son of the “prophet” Roman (Henry Dean Stanton)? The story lines are complex and engrossing. It will take a pleasurable season to watch all the twists and turns unfold. What will become of the Henrickson teenagers? What’s up with Roman’s pubescent next bride at the compound? She’s too wily by a mile. What ethical short cuts is Bill willing to make to keep his professional and family life in tact? And at what cost?


As an active, committed Mormon, I am pleased to see that it is established more clearly now that the Henrickson’s religious beliefs are not the current beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of Bill’s slick business superiors still hold forth with the spires of the Salt Lake City LDS Temple. That bugs me and confuses the distinctions between the “real” Mormon Church and “Big Love’s” bold extrapolations. (Since politics are in the air, whatever one feels about Mitt Romney, “Big Love’s” skewed view, and the plot lines of these entrancing “faux-Mormons” should NOT be confused for the Mormon lifestyle or faith.)
But some of the most interesting portions are the times when the participants in “the Principal” (as polygamy is referred to both in “Big Love” and in authentic 19th century Mormondom) express their convictions as well as their turmoil with the theological and societal implications of their faith. As Bill’s Home Plus colleague, Don (Joel McKinnon Miller) declares–with pride? With frustration?–“We will never assimilate!”
It’s the tension over assimilation that keeps “Big Love” energized. Bill and his outrageous (and in many ways enchanting) extended family will draw viewers in. Week after week I will tune in for serious, witty, well-written, and superbly acted drama with its big lovely zing.
— Linda Hoffman Kimball

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