Bill Paxton and Jeanne Tripplehorn in Big Love by Lacey Terrell/HBO
Sundays are seldom as busy during the regular TV season as was the case this weekend, with season and series finales all over cable. So much for summer being the sleepy season. If you'd been watching any of these shows this summer, you wouldn't have wanted to miss the payoffs.
So much drama and trauma on HBO's increasingly addictive domestic melodrama about a family man and the three wives who alternately adore and tolerate his whims, schemes and transgressions. One reason I love the show is that it has lines of dialogue you could never hear anywhere else. Here's Nicky: "Our husband's dating life is none of our business." Bill to Barb: "There are two other people in this marriage." Bill to Margene: "You are not having the neighbor's baby!" Barb to Bill: "I don't want a fourth [wife]." Margene: "Boss lady outed us to the neighbors!"
So twisted, and yet presented in such a way that it almost seems normal. The juicy, funny, scary
helped redeem HBO's lost summer, squandered on the self-indulgent
John from Cincinnati
, a so-so season of
(am I the only one rooting for the fictional "Medellin" to be a bomb at Cannes because it looks so very hissable?) and the quirky cult item
Flight of the Conchords
, whose scruffy charms completely escape me (though I've grinned at a few of the music videos).
The malevolent Roman Grant recuperating in Nicky's home under Bill's watch, was the catalyst for the final hour of family-vs-compound intrigue, spiced up by the diabolical Lois (the great Grace Zabriskie) bringing the deranged Wanda some industrial-strength antifreeze poison and urging the addled lass to finally polish Roman off. (We already knew Wanda was "struggling with [her] impulses," as a week ago she nearly sprinkled cleanser as frosting on the Bundt cake for her own new sister-wife.) On this show, sometimes the line between humor and horror is perilously thin.
Among the other developments: Margene brings Ana into the houses, leading to the inevitable passionate clinch with Bill and more dismay from "boss lady" Barb. Ben rejects sister Sarah's entreaties to abandon his polygamist ambitions, sending a disillusioned Sarah into the amorous arms of her older boyfriend Scott. And while the kids put on a Pioneer Day pageant in Bill's backyard and all appears hunky-dory, back at the compound the despicable Alby has his father arrested, along with Joey and Adaleen, in the latest round of the deadly power struggle. Great cliff-hanger. Great season.
Lifetime's biggest hit ever (so we're told) ended its first season with a potential bang, as a jilted husband shows up at the bar - where nearly every major series regular who hasn't shipped off to war has gathered, naturally - wired to explode with dynamite strapped to his body. While I try to ignore unfortunate parallels with suicide bombers, this triggers memories of the glory days of the prime-time soap. (I still remember the aftermath of a similar explosion on
, after which the widow of the incendiary spouse explains that she hasn't left the house for days because "there are pieces of him all over the front yard.")
Up to that point, the episode had steered relatively and refreshingly clear of melodrama, instead wallowing in satisfying sentimental farewells as several of the Army husbands were suddenly deployed. This was especially wrenching for Roxy (my favorite character) and her young husband Trevor, who's the first real dad her little boys have ever known. I'm sure all loyal fans of this show are hoping for his safe return.
With a backdrop of a terrorist alert in the wake of stolen munitions on the post, we see one pregnancy scare averted (Claudia Jean's college-bound daughter Amanda) and another pregnancy confirmed (Joan, who tells estranged husband Roland to go off to Chicago regardless). It's business as usual - up until that wacky bomb cliff-hanger - for a show that hit its stride instantly and is destined to be one of cable's more reliable draws for years to come.
The Kill Point:
Spike TV's bank robbery/hostage thriller miniseries wrapped its tense eight-hour run with a nerve-rattling two-hour climax of violent twists and turns that might have been even more effective if they'd come a little sooner. (A few of the middle hours felt awfully padded, a symptom that's beginning to affect FX's
as well, especially evident in last week's episode.)
As we might have expected, things didn't end well (with one exception) for the veterans-turned-criminals, with one of the crew dying in a bone-crunching hand-to-hand battle with his own superior officer. The Wolf-Horst negotiations (always well played by John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg) took an unexpected detour toward the end, as Horst became the gang's final hostage, with the policeman's pregnant wife along for the final endless showdown and shootout. And was I the only one reminded of ABC's poor
toward the end, as the bank officer emerged with the other freed hostages and found himself the only one without a greeting party to welcome him? As he poignantly shuffled off, I couldn't help but think fondly of
's John Billingsley, who cornered the market on pathos as Egan Foote.
probably would have been better off conceived as a limited-run miniseries like
The Kill Point
. But still, it deserved better than it got from ABC, especially during the summer off-season, where it barely got a chance to reemerge from a long hiatus before it was pulled off the air for good. Talk about your kill points.