So I’m watching the end of the Jets v. Steelers game last night, and it’s about 8:50 p.m., when I realize I’ve missed the second episode in Big Love’s new and final season. But then it dawns on me that HBO repeats the new episodes immediately at 9:00 p.m., so I was able to watch it. (The first episode last week was mainly about all the blowback the family experienced after Bill publicly admitted to being a polygamist.) There were four aspects to this episode that I found particularly interesting, which I wanted to highlight here. (Spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen the episode yet and is still planning on it.) Also, please note that my characterization is based on my hazy memory, I don’t have a transcript to consult or anything like that.
1. Sunstone. Barb (Bill’s 1st wife) tells her mother that she has joined Sunstone. She needs a community to feel a part of and where she can be accepted, and where she can explore religious questions she has. She is going to participate on a Sunstone panel on the impact excommunication has on the family. (As an aside, I actually went to a Sunstone session on excommunication once, but it was a paper by Lavina, not a panel.) She wants her mother to do it with her.
It turns out that her mother is a faithful but liberal Mormon. She was a founding member of Sunstone and has been involved for 35 years. She had protested the Birch Society and was active in Mormons for ERA. She is very reluctant to do the panel, but she does.
Later in the show, they show a scene from the actual panel. It does sort of look like a Sunstone session, except the audience is sitting around round tables as though there had been a luncheon provided. Barb’s Mom gets flustered with her and walks out of the session. Her microphone is still attached to her blouse, and even after she’s out in the hallway everyone can hear her complaining.
Near the end of the episode we learn that she had invited Betty Ford to come and speak in favor of the ERA. But the Church authorities were bearing down hard and bringing to bear incredible pressure. She ultimately gave in, and when Betty flew into the SLC airport she simply never picked her up, so the speech didn’t happen. She’s very embarrassed that she gave in on this.
2. Women and the Priesthood. Barb has become convinced from her study of the scriptures that women have the priesthood, too. She tentatively offers to give Margene (wife no. 3) a blessing, and since Margene is sort of clueless she goes along with it. Barb pulls the olive oil out of a cupboard, and is in the process of giving a blessing by the laying on of hands by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood when Nicki (wife no. 2) walks in. She of course is totally scandalized and freaks out, and Barb ceases the blessing. Nicki tells Bill, who at first doesn’t believe it, saying Barb knows she doesn’t have the authority. He later asks Barb, and she acknowledges it and says she believes strongly that women should have the priesthood.
A teaser for next week seems to suggest that Bill is going to let Barb bless the sacrament; we shall see.
3. Multiple Mortal Probations. Robert Patrick of T2 fame plays an Apostolic United Brethren polygamist. Bill goes to talk to him, and he starts talking about multiple mortal probations, saying that he himself was Joseph Smith and a whole list of other famous men. I never thought I’d see an explicit reference to MMPs on a TV show!
4. Fundamentalist Groups. Bill as a newly elected state senator is trying to set up a program called Safety Net. The idea is to make sure all the polygamist groups are acting responsibly regarding things like education of young girls and early marriage ages, and to provide state and nonprofit services for those girls, lost boys and others who need them. There’s a big conference room, and representatives of the various groups introduce themselves. They all seem to stand for real polygamist groups, with the names changed somewhat. A woman representing Tapestry against Polygamy is there under protest.
Alby Grant, the sort of Warren Jeffs figure of Juniper Creek (= FLDS), objects to the presence of Millennial Park (= Centennial Park). They start rehashing their differences. Alby claims they have a charter school for girls, and his sister Nicki goes ballistic and says it’s a lie, that girls are treated as chattel and as baby making machines. This offends the other polygamists in the room, who were skittish about this meeting to begin with, and the meeting breaks up in acrimony.
At the end of the episode, the state legislature is going to consider legislation that would make polygamy an impeachable offense so that they can boot Bill from the Senate. The other polygamists are mad at Bill, thinking that he may have been well intentioned in trying to make polygamy acceptable to the public, but that polygamy will always have to be in the shadow and he has just made matters worse with the public light he has shone on them.