Saturday, July 07, 2007

Big Love Tuesdays: Season Two, Episode 16, "Rock and a Hard Place"

Big Love’s fourth episode of its second season, “Rock and a Hard Place,” written by Mimi Friedman and Jeanette Collins, and directed by Adam Davidson, was kind of clumsy in a lot of ways. It reduced most of the show’s villains to malevolent stereotypes, hell-bent on giving the Henrickson family a hard time. Most of the subtext that makes the show so entertaining was thrown out the window. And things that should have been built up more resonantly or build to more logically were just blown by, including major plot points that have been big parts of the season so far.

But, in some ways, that didn’t matter. This was something of a head-spinning episode where story points blew by at a dizzying rate. So much stuff happened that the episode almost felt like a season finale, instead of the one that marked the one-third point of the season. Newly confident in their storytelling abilities, the Big Love writers seemed intent on shutting off as many go-nowhere storylines as they could and advancing a few of the others that hold more potential (mostly focusing on the wives and teens, though Bill’s flirtation with gambling machine manufacturers continues to be prominent). While the episode’s flaws stood out in the moment of watching the show, the after-effect of having all of that story rush by was that of making the viewer sit back and simply feel surprised by how densely plotted the thing was. HBO shows are not known for their thrill-a-minute pacing (not even Big Love is, really), so it almost felt for a moment as if the show had made the leap to FX or something.
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