Television Revision: Big Love – Season 2

Television Revision: Big Love – Season 2Starring Bill PaxtonJeanne Tripplehorn, and Chloe Sevigny. Rated MA. By Andrew Williams.

Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation).

Now, this is a story all about how… Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) has been exposed as a polygamist by an unknown source, threatening his entire way of life. He sets out to find the culprit and keep his secrets intact, all while juggling the needs of his three wives (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, and Ginnifer Goodwin).

Happy days? After watching Bill Paxton stride around a further twelve episodes of Big Love as polygamist patriarch Bill Henrickson, I am absolutely none the wiser about his character, his motivations, or (especially) his appeal. I can tell you this: he’s a horrible, vindictive, dishonest person, but those tendencies alone don’t condemn a character to mediocrity (see: Don Draper). Instead, he’s a protagonist lacking in consistency and depth, and he’s a major reason Big Love’s second season is even less consequential than the first.

While the writers might be on the shakiest of ground with Bill, anytime Big Love delves deeper into the lives of Bill’s three ‘sister wives’, they’re on much surer footing. The moral, social, and logistical quandaries facing these three women and their children are the only interesting material this second season has to offer, and it’s often very good. Also, Aaron Paul joins the cast, which always results in creative success (isn’t that right, Birds of Prey?). Sadly, all these forward steps are cancelled out by the absolutely tedious Juniper Creek story thread, which this season adds ‘wasting Harry Dean Stanton‘ to its many levels of ineptitude.

The final frontier: Dull, repetitive, and not even inconsistent enough to be frustrating, Big Love Season Two doesn’t come close to improving on the first outing.

Top three episodes: 2) The Writing on the Wall. Something as simple as forgetting a wife’s anniversary provides an ample amount of comedy and drama. Sevigny is especially good as the jilted wife. 7) Good Guys and Bad Guys. A showcase episode for Goodwin again mines an effective episode from the relationships of the wives themselves – this time as a mother is thrown into the mix. 11) Take Me As I Am. Barb goes to her mother’s wedding with predictably disastrous results, resulting in another standout episode for the consistently fantastic Tripplehorn.

Worst Episode: 12) Oh, Pioneers. Another disastrous season finale only serves for the audience to reflect on how little they’ve actually seen over the previous 11 hours. It’s a badly plotted mess, in which major storylines are resolved unsatisfactorily, some minor storylines are dropped altogether, and others rear their head after episodes of neglect.

Season MVP: Ginnifer Goodwin is able to elevate the character of third wife Margene to something more affecting than the sum of her parts. She’s also the show’s best outlet for comedy and Goodwin plays Margene’s naiveté to perfection.

Big Love – Season 2 is now available on DVD. It can also be streamed instantly on Quickflix PLAY until December 21, 2012.

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