It’s true, I do. And if you haven’t seen it yet, know that this post will spoil the episode completely. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Bill has been a martyr from the start of the show, always gunning (pun intended) for a better life for his family, and a better worldly perception of polygamy. And while it was easy to root against him because of the stigma surrounding his lifestyle, the show did an admirable job of making Bill a sympathetic character at least some of the time. But Bill was also a character who was far too ambitious, far too big a dreamer, and far too deep in several life-threatening plots not to come out of it unharmed. So, of course, it made sense for him to get “whacked,” to borrow a term from another HBO show, in the season finale. The scene still made me cry, even if it didn’t surprise me completely. Seeing the three wives there, united and strong, yet helpless and completely broken, was an incredibly emotionally-charged scene, and the fact that Bill, in his dying moments, gave in and let Barb give him a blessing, was quite poignant. Beautiful, even.
But am I really the only one who thinks that it should have been Albie who shot him? For all the work that Matt Ross put into the show, for all the significance that the compound had to the Henrickson family, for all of the terrifying scenes between the two men, why was it Carl who shot Bill? No one cares about Carl. Carl wasn’t even a character with a memorable name until this episode, and if there’s one thing that Big Love did well, it was bring back characters from other characters’ pasts to stir shit up. Carl is not one of those guys, nor was his Dark Passenger ever foreshadowed in past seasons. Carl was, simply, not important enough to give Bill the axe. It should have been Albie.
That said, Albie also should have been killed off, in big Big Love fashion. I actually would have loved it if Nicki got to do the deed. Or even Adaleen. Instead, the last thing we know about him is that he went to jail. How anti-climactic.
But enough about the shoulda, woulda, couldas. This show took an incredibly hot-button topic—one that was probably hard for some viewers to reconcile investing their TV-watching time in—and made it fascinating. Not addicting, necessarily, because this is not the type of show that is fun to marathon. (Trust me.) Fascinating really is the perfect word. It’s the type of show that piques your curiosity and satiates it with fantastic acting. Even if non-fundamentalist Mormon polygamists are nothing like this, we still got a glimpse into their lives, which were always tumultuous, always dramatic, always high-stakes, and that makes for intriguing television. Even at its most absurd moments (see: the entirety of Season 4), the show was compelling. I applaud it for that.
The finale also made me re-evaluate the show’s entire message. With that final scene, I realized that the show wasn’t even about Bill, even though it couldn’t have existed without him. The show was about the wives, and while I’d like to think that the focus had been on them the whole time, it seems like the writers found some sort of lady-inspired groove part of the way through the show’s run and gave the women these different interests with the hopes of developing them into more sympathetic characters. If you recall, the show used to be more about sex and relationships, but it slowly turned inward on itself. The compound became a distant memory, the high-piled hairdos and prairie dresses became real relics, and the Henrickson kids got more screen time. It was a bumpy ride, but Big Love arrived at its female-centric destination, and we got to know Barb better through her spiritual journey, Nicki better through her efforts at restoring the compound, and Margene better through her business endeavors. By the end of the series, Bill was a figurehead to everything and a participant in nothing. His departure, however unfortunate, proved that the wives were capable of greatness without him. I just hope they all stay married to each other…. “after all this family has been through.”
Adieu, Big Love.