Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Big Love Tuesdays: Season Two, Episode 18, "Dating Game"

Big Love’s halfway point for its second season, “The Dating Game,” written by Doug Jung and directed by Jim McKay, is frustrating first because it’s so good and then because it seems to mire itself in the plotline that’s the least interesting on the show. Up until about 10 minutes from the end, the episode is unconcerned with wacky antics at Henrickson Home Plus or on the Juniper Creek Compound. It’s simply an examination of how the process of bringing another person into a plural marriage can warp and break some and bring spirit to others. But then, the episode turns to some unfortunate business with a third band of polygamists who have come back out of hiding to fight with Bill (Bill Paxton) and Roman (Harry Dean Stanton) over the ownership of Weber Gaming. While we haven’t ever seen an all-out polygamy war on TV (and at least it will give Roman’s character something interesting to do), this plotline stands to bring in more of the weirdness for weirdness’ sake that occasionally weighs the series down (though, admittedly, it’s hard to normalize bands of polygamists who go into hiding at the drop of a hat -- but did the leader really need a seemingly transsexual right-hand woman?). Still, if the plotline brings a definitive close to the often draggy Juniper Creek stories, the show will be all the better for it in season three.

But enough of those concerns. The episode was owned by Ginnifer Goodwin, who finally got a perfect showcase for her powerhouse performance as Margie, the youngest and most naïve of the Henrickson wives. In last week’s episode, Margie accidentally discovered Bill was romancing Ana (Branka Katic), a waitress at a local restaurant. At first, she seemed crushed by Bill’s actions, even though it’s a part of the life she has chosen. At the end of the episode, though, she went to the restaurant and seemed determined to find out more about Ana. As this episode picks up, Ana and Margie are becoming fast friends, even as Bill and Ana’s relationship is progressing. In a short scene set in Ana’s dingy apartment, Ana talks about how much she misses her girlfriends in her native Serbia. Margie thinks for a moment, every thought crystal clear in her eyes (the show is only giving us broad hints about who Margie was before she met Bill, and it’s probably better that way), then admits to Ana that she’s a polygamist, describing her entire family and her husband (the first word she thinks of to describe him is “thoughtful” -- an unusual one for someone she knows is contemplating complicating her life even more). Goodwin plays the moment as a huge relief -- as though Margie had been waiting to make this confession to a friend for a long, long time, and her giddiness afterward, when she sweeps Nicki (Chloë Sevigny) of all people into a hug, is palpable.
Read more here.


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