Now that The Wire has been over for almost a year, we can all agree that Big Love is the best show on television, right? Right? Good.
Seriously (spoilers ahead), last night’s episode blew me away. Before this, I was viewing the show through an almost purely sociological lens, à la Wire. Most of the characters were either stuck in a pretty hellish existence (Barb, Margene), choosing to perpetuate it (Bill, Nicki, Ben), or playing the part of Satan (Roman, Albie, Adaleen). The only exception was Sarah, who, Kay’s right, is one of if not the best character on the film. She’s the only one with a real chance of escaping, who has strong connections to a world outside fundamentalism and even outside Mormonism altogether and a life at least somewhat like that of a typical 18-year-old. Also, her personality is uncannily similar to that of one of my high school friends, but that’s neither here nor there.
But while Sarah’s story doesn’t stop being affecting, “Prom Queen” was the first episode where the rest of the plot-line packed an emotional punch. Nicki got a tragic backstory that explains both her subservience to Bill and her loyalty to her father; watching her cry in the US Attorney’s office, I actually empathized with her, which I would never have thought possible in the show’s first season. Rhonda, previously just a manipulative brat, is shown instead to be utterly pathetic and dependent, reaching for affection from anyone before finally returning to a man she helped get indicted for rape. And Kathy’s monologue at the Hendrickson’s house was the most haunting I’ve seen on television since Dukie walked from Mike’s car to the arabber’s shack. In observing the quotidian details of these people’s religious life, it was easy to forget that this is a system built on the sexual exploitation of children. After Kathy spoke, forgetting suddenly became impossible.
And I haven’t even mentioned Barb’s cathartic split with her sister, Margene’s cold and revelatory response to her mother’s death, or, yes, Sarah’s conservation with Ben after prom. Anyway, this is a brilliant show, and if you’re not already watching it you should be.