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Big Love: "Rough Edges"

Illustration for article titled iBig Love/i: Rough Edges
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Editor’s note: Amelie is indisposed live-blogging the L Word finale, so I’m stepping in this week. Considering watching a single episode of that show is the brain-cell-killing equivalent of huffing computer duster for an hour straight, please empathize with The Hater. She’s doing this for you, dying for your sins like some kind of pay-cable messiah.

Amelie posited, correctly I think, that Bill is the least likeable member of his family. With each episode, he grows more ruthless so that he’s approaching Alby and Roman levels of toxicity. Tonight’s episode was another damning one in a series of them for the Henrickson patriarch, and the situation doesn’t look like it’s going to improve very soon.


Bill aside, this season, and this episode in particular, has shown the true center of Big Love: Chloë Sevigny’s Nicki. She has always represented the uneasy balance between Bill’s old life at the compound and his life among the normals, and all the contradictions therein. She also embodies the screaming hypocrisy of the compound—the importance of family and piety before God (and, more importantly, his “prophet” Roman Grant) are facades for the kind of moral corruption and scheming that would give Machiavelli pause.

That’s all a frilly way of dressing up tonight’s central point: Nicki is a terrible, terrible person. Let us count the ways:

1) In the office, she tells handsome DA Ray that her relationship with “that other guy”—you know, her husband Bill—is over.

2) She tries to get Margene to deal with Ray when he unexpectedly shows up at Margie’s house to hand-deliver the flowers she refused the day before.

3) She tries to con Sarah into sympathizing with her on the way to Juniper Creek for Kathy’s funeral. Then tries to do the same to Barb, Margie, Alby, and eventually Roman—who casually reminds her that she pushed him down the stairs at the courthouse.


Listen, I understand Nicky had it rough. When her scummy ex-husband showed up at Wanda’s house for the funeral, I felt genuinely bad for her. Then, just a couple of scenes later, she’s trying to force Margie to deal with Ray. Nicki may have her father’s penchant for scheming, but she completely lacks his creepily calm resolve. Roman Grant’s a man who can adjust quickly when his schemes fall apart; Nicki just goes into hysterics and tries to throw other people under the bus: “My mother forced me to spy!” “I was addicted to birth-control pills!” Etc.

While Nicki represents all of the contradictions of the Henricksons’ lifestyle, “Rough Edges” was loaded with its own symbolism. Two moments in particular drew my attention: 1) the shots of Bill, Barb, and Nicki as mourners threw dirt on Kathy’s coffin; 2) Alby welcoming Nicki into the compound’s “big house,” after Joey throws her out of his house.


The first could be a none-too-subtle indication of the status of her marriage, and it sure seemed that way at the end of the episode. As the Henricksons get in their cars to head home, Nicki’s face glazes over when she realizes that Bill and Barb can barely stand the sight of her, and that forgiveness won’t come any time soon. You could practically see her severing ties when she asked Bill and Barb to tell her boys she had to stay behind to help Wanda and Joey. The look on her face couldn’t have been more resigned.

My suspicions about the meaning of the second symbolic moment were seemingly confirmed by the teaser for next week’s episode: In it, Alby leans in to Nicki and says, “It’s just the beginning of what we can do together.” Alby needs an ally in his fight to bring down Roman, and with Nicki now broken and shunned by her family, Alby’s in a perfect position to exploit her.


Only two episodes remain in Nicki’s Season, as I’m hereby labeling Big Love’s third. Tonight’s episode ended at a critical moment: Will Nicki, who enjoyed a tantalizing taste of normal life via DA Ray, give up or persevere? She’s already so ensconced in bitterness that I could easily see her resigning to life on the compound or back with Bill, each soul-crushing in different ways. (She could not have looked more dead-eyed when she told Bill she loved him earlier in the episode.) But Nicki has also shown a strong desire to break from what life has given her—what that would mean for the Henricksons remains to be seen. Damned if it doesn’t make for some compelling television.

Grade: A

Other stuff:

• Obviously I omitted the continued struggles over the letter, with Bill nearly losing his fool life when the Greens showed up at his office. What was Cindy trying to do at the bishop’s office? And wait, let me adjust my standings for least likeable characters on the show: 1) Roman 2) Alby, 3) Cindy. Her entreaties to “Barbie” made me sick.


• Speaking of Bill, why is he always telling people his plans? A couple of weeks back, he called Roman to gloat about how Alby would testify, which of course blew up in his face. This time, he tells Don the letter of authentication is in his safe, and when Don takes it, it nearly costs Bill his life. Also, take what you can get, Bill: Instead of just ordering Ted to back off at brunch, Bill also insists the LDS acknowledge polygamy. Dude, one thing at a time.

• Okay, one last thing to beat up on Bill: He tells Jerry, “Let’s sit down and smoke a peace pipe” when he learns about the tribal rivalries. Wow, why don’t you just wear a Cleveland Indians hat and a Redskins jersey while you’re at it, moron? Make sure you don’t offer Jerry any alcohol, because you know what firewater does to them injuns!


• Yet more proof that Lois rules: “If I had a dollar for every time I wished someone I loved dead, I’d be the richest person in the world. And, as you know, sometimes I’ve even acted on it. I know I shouldn’t be proud of it, but I am! Oh, the concussions I gave my sister wives…” I’ve been trying to coax Grace Zabriskie via e-mail to do an interview—here’s hoping we can get her to talk at some point, because she’s so great on this show.

• Just when you think Harry Dean Stanton couldn’t look creepier, you see him on a mural in that banquet hall on the compound. Yikes.


• This episode was directed by Dan Attias, who’s also directed episodes of The Wire, Friday Night Lights, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia—along with two of The Hater’s favorite punching bags, Grey’s Anatomy and Entourage. Well, no one’s perfect.

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