'Big Love' Says Goodbye

As we head into the series finale of Big Love (HBO, Sunday, 9 p.m. ET), tensions are running high. And that might be the understatement that ate the state of Utah. Watch a sneak peek:

For five seasons, the maddeningly sincere businessman Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) has tried to live by his Mormon beliefs, plural marriage being one of them. But being married to Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and Nicki (Chloë Sevigny) and Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) hasn't gone down well with either the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (which condemns polygamy), or the U.S. government (which has laws against it). Plus Bill's also taken a constant drumming from the fundamentalist polygamist sect in which he was raised (and from which he broke free).

This is an interesting sort of hero, to say the least. But hero he is, despite his many flaws and considerable lack of judgment. The guy loves his family -- all three wives and the dozen kids they're raising -- and wants them to grow up in a world that accepts them. So last season he ran for Senate, and won, and revealed his plural marriage to the public. Big mistake.

From the beginning, Bill has presided over a mess of problems that rose from his family situation. With each season, first wife Barb has become increasingly more sick and tired of the whole patriarchal setup. The fiery, slightly demented second wife, Nicki has been igniting trouble since the beginning. And hapless, innocent, third wife Margene has been keeping a secret from Bill (she was underage when they married) that will probably lead to the downfall of the family. Why he would have considered a Senate run a good idea is anybody's guess.

In the series finale, Bill faces the loss of his Senate seat, a public and humiliating legal trial, substantial jail time for statutory rape, and the specter of three very unhappy wives left to their own devices (and to deal with a gaggle of nearly-grown, issue-ridden kids) for the next couple of decades. That's not to mention the continuing threat of Albie (Matt Ross), the spiritual leader of the sect Bill abandoned, who'd like nothing better than to see Bill dead.

How will it all end for this earnest fellow who's been trying (in his own mind) to do the right thing for five years now? Probably not well. You've got to wonder if Kody Brown, the actual polygamist at the center of TLC's reality series Sister Wives, will be watching.

Truth is, he'll probably be too busy watching his own show. Weirdly enough, it airs on the same night at the same time.

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