Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Big Love Tuesdays: season 2, episode 13, "Damage Control"

In some ways, “Damage Control,” the season premiere of Big Love’s second season, is all about the aftermath. In many ways, the whole series is all about the aftermath. The foremost expression of this is in the series’ central question: How much of yourself do you have to give up to be married to a person? Or, if you’re a polygamist, how much of yourself do you have to give up to be married to three people (or share a husband with two others)? “Damage Control” is probably the weakest of the season’s first five episodes, but it does most of the heavy lifting required to get the plot away from the revelation of the Henrickson family’s polygamous lifestyle at the governor’s mansion in last season’s finale (the revelation sunk Barb -- Jeanne Tripplehorn -- in her chance to win the mother of the year award) and on to other business. This mildly irritating plot won’t go away completely, but this week’s episode deals with it the most fully.

The reason this whole mildly soapy storyline works is because of Tripplehorn, who reasserts her character as the show’s center in the premiere. Sure, Bill (the do-gooding Bill Paxton) is first-billed and at the center of most of the show’s storylines, but the series often feels like Barb’s story -- the story of how she became the closest thing there is to an independent woman in a strict religious setting, then lost it all because of her commitment to her beliefs above self. Tripplehorn tells this entire story in throwaway lines and telltale sighs since the show takes place several years after all of these events happened (the show has done nothing so gauche as a flashback episode -- yet). “Damage Control” was the most overt acknowledgment yet of all that Barb gave up and just how much Bill depends on the maturity of his relationship with her to get through his day-to-day life.
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