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The HBO series Big Love come to a shocking end last Sunday evening after five seasons of polygamy, Utah culture, ridiculous drama, and plenty of ersatz Mormonism to boot. Bloggernacle-types snapped to attention when the series premiered in 2006, but by and large Mormons ignored the whole spectacle. Controversy peaked in Season 3, when the “Outer Darkness” episode recreated some of the most sacred moments of the temple ceremony.
It was all downhill from there. To retain an overwhelmingly non-LDS audience, the producers had to ratchet up the drama with each successive season. While it’s difficult to pinpoint precisely when the series jumped the shark, I began to roll my eyes around the time polygamist leader Roman Grant was murdered and kept in the compound freezer for several episodes.
For those with an appreciation of the absurd, the series remained entertaining. As a fan of actress Mary Kay Place, I especially enjoyed her long-suffering character Adaleen Grant. This unfortunate woman is left impregnated at 60 due to a eugenics scheme that emerged on the polygamist compound.
Yes, it really got that stupid. Melrose Place had nothing on these people. As the series came to a close , there were many story lines to resolve. The final episode raced through them all, culminating in the unexpected shooting of Bill Henrickson by a disgruntled neighbor in front of the family home. The last 15 minutes were gripping. As the patriarch lies dying in the street, his three wives gather round.
In the last season one of the myriad subplots involved whether or not women should hold the priesthood. Here too, all is resolved in the end. As Bill lays dying, he reaches out to Barb and beseeches “I need a blessing. I need a blessing, from you. Please.” As the three wives lay hands on him, Barbara proceeds “By the power of the Melchizedek priesthood, I give you this blessing of comfort. Your family has faith in you and loves you. We will always be together. Your family will be with you….” Fade to black, and wipe away a tear.
The story jumps ahead eleven months and all is well with the Henrickson family. The three wives are stronger than ever. Barb says “We’re strong. We’ve been forged. We endure.” It appears they now all attend the same church and Barb has emerged as the priesthood leader of the family. As the three wives tearfully embrace, we see that the out-of-focus, disembodied Bill Henrickson sits at the head of the table watching approvingly.
Big Loves ends with a powerful testimony of the importance family above all. As we’ve discussed here before, in this series “family” means something quite different than what the Church currently validates. Whether this is good or bad depends entirely on one’s perspective.