At The Moth Chase, some insightful analysis of the theological issues at the heart of the fourth season of Big Love, America’s favorite “polygamist melodrama”:
In general, I’m not a huge fan of shows switching opening credits for a new season. There is something ritually attractive about the regularity of the credits framing each new experience. The one show I appreciated diversity on was The Wire – and even there they kept some images throughout, just bringing in new pieces of the widening puzzle with each season. So realizing that that bizarro teaser I posted this weekend is the actual credits, albeit with a slightly more upbeat musical background, took me by surprise. It also signaled that the show’s creators/writers think they are up to something pretty damn new this season, and I am intrigued to see if they can deliver. Of course, there are continuities too – Bill and his wives coming together around the image of hand-holding, only to find that their bonds break. In the original credits, the ice cracks and the family is divided, only to be re-found as Bill pulls each wife through the veils of eternal life to a happily ever-after on their own eternal planet (this is a pretty basic take on traditional Mormon theology of the afterlife). We get the same premise here, but without the promise of eternal perfection. Now the family is floating through outer darkness, unable to reconnect, potentially sundered forever.
What I love about Big Love is the ability to weave the mundane, earthly affairs of a complicated family structure with the seriousness of theological and religious commitments. The potential fracturing of the Henricksons, is, on one level, a story we can all relate to. The polygamous nature of the family only heightens many of the problems all nuclear families face: how to balance individual needs against the family collective, how to cling to each other despite pressures to disintegrate, how to effectively communicate without jealously or rage, how to seek first both financial security and success and familial unity and peace. That the Henricksons also struggle with the theological doubt that their way of life might lead to an eternal kind of fracturing, raises the stakes of their earthly endeavors. And Big Love might be one of the few shows on television that takes the religious beliefs of its characters seriously enough to assume they are actually motivated by them, even if at the same time, we can see all the other concerns, doubts, and petty selfishness that motivate them also.
Read the entire Big Love conversation from start to finish here.