Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Big Love

So there's this HBO series called Big Love, which I am currently working my way through on Netflix. I'm two discs in, and I am totally hooked.

Big Love is about polygamy, and it's absolutely fascinating. Mind you, the series isn't supportive of the concept. In fact the whole mechanics play out into one big train wreck. But it provides you a portal into a world that is both familiar and also completely different, which in my opinion is what good storytelling is all about.

The show centers around this polygamist family with one husband and three wives. They are all one big family, but each wife's time with the husband is rigorously scheduled in equal increments so that no one feels slighted. Each wife even has her own house. There's this odd balance between keeping everything together and yet carefully segregated. The dynamic between the three wives is really interesting, with huge heaps of jealousy but also some sisterhood.

Outside of the home the family leads a very different life, as that they have to keep their polygamist lifestyle secret, for fear that it tarnish the husband's reputation and thus his business. The family is thus very aware of the critical eye the rest of society places upon them. The only people who do approve are their extended family in the polygamist cult they grew up with, and they're all bat-shit crazy. The whole result is a very isolated family that has to lean on each other pretty heavily. Or at least they would if they didn't have so many issues.

In general the characters come off as genuine. Even though this is a very odd, obviously unhealthy situation, you can relate to them as people. The one exception is the second wife, Nicki. Her self destructive tendencies and malicious manipulation pretty much makes her the biggest villain of the show. But at least it's fun to hate her, and eagerly anticipate her inevitable spectacular breakdown. It's coming, I know it. Until then I eagerly check the mailbox waiting for the next disc to arrive.

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