Goodbye, 'Big Love.' You almost made the idea of polygamy attractive.


Tonight we bid farewell to one of television’s first (and until recently, only) polygamous families, as HBO’s Big Love ends its fifth and final season. It’s going to be tough to say goodbye to the Henrickson clan which, despite their questionable lifestyle, managed to be one of the most functional — and moving, surprising, and entertaining — families on TV.

It’s hard to see how Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) and his wives will get a happy ending — when last we left them, each was in crisis: Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and Bill are at a standoff over her belief that women can hold the priesthood and her decision to leave Bill’s church; Nicki (Chloë Sevigny) is devastated that her misguided attempt to end Cara Lynn’s relationship with her teacher has instead destroyed her daughter’s self-esteem; and Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) is heartbroken after choosing her family over her career selling Goji juice. As for Bill? He’s about to face charges on statutory rape, seeing as Marge neglected to tell him she was only 16 when they got sealed.

I’ve given a lot of thought — arguably way too much thought — about how I want Big Love to end. Click through for my wish list for Bill and the sister wives, as well as clips of some of Barb, Nicki, and Margene’s best moments.

Ok, here’s what I’d like to see happen with each of the Henricksons.

Bill: Look, there’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it — Bill should go to jail. Not because he’s a bad guy — and it’s a testament to Paxton’s consistently amazing performance over the past five seasons that Bill doesn’t come across as a bad guy. (Where is this man’s Emmy?) No, Bill should go to jail because that’s most likely what would happen in real life — and for all of its unevenness (let us not discuss season four), Big Love has almost always managed to view this unusual family through a real-world lens. Plus, if Bill goes away, it makes it easier for his wives to discover who they are without him, and that’s something each of them desperately needs to do.

Barb: It’s time for her paper divorce from Bill to become a real one. She hasn’t been happy in a long time, her kids are grown (except maybe Teeny… but she’s vanished), and she clearly feels a strong spiritual calling to become a religious teacher or leader of some kind — which she’ll never be able to do if she stays as Bill’s first wife, once-removed.

Margene: Goji may have been a pyramid scheme, but its value was real – thanks to her success selling the juice, as well as the attention and admiration bestowed on her by Goji’s charismatic CEO (oh, Grant Show, when will you get your own series?), Margene was this-close to accepting once and for all that she’s more than a babymaker. Unfortunately, pressure from Bill and her sister wives drove her to leave sales behind, and now she’s clinging to the hope that she’ll get pregnant one last time before Bill takes a trip to the big house. My hope: Margene’s baby plan will fail, and she’ll use Bill’s incarceration as an excuse to give herself a major life do-over, and strike out on her own (with her passel of kids, of course) to build a QVC empire.

Nicki: Sure, Nicolette is selfish, manipulative, and brusque to the point of rude, but she’s also fiercely loyal to Bill, and I actually think the only thing that would make her happy is staying by his side — at least in spirit — as his legal wife. And with the other wives and children moving on, the chaos would be quieted in the Henrickson home, and perhaps poor Cara Lynn (Cassi Thomson) will finally be able to adjust to the world outside Juniper Creek.

So, Big Love fans, how do you want to see it all end? And to prepare yourself for tonight’s sure-to-be shocking send-off, check out some of Barb, Nicki, and Margene’s best moments.

Newly-elected senator Bill reveals his family’s secret:

Barb is excommunicated:

Margene’s Christmas dinner bombshell:

The best of Nicki (she has too many good moments to pick just one):

Comments (223 total) Add your comment
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  • lauren

    this season is a snooze fest

    • Kenneth

      Although I like Bill Paxton, I found this show to be boring. I look forward to seeing the new season of ‘True Blood’.

      • Aaron

        True Blood! My god I can’t wait for season 4!

    • Mathieu

      Well, it’s Charlie Sheen’s favourite show, so it’s got that going for it.

    • Uncle Joe

      We can thank god it didn’t end with a cut to black while Journey sang “Don’t Stop Believin.”

      • Donna

        @Uncle Joe: That is hysterical!

      • Marin

        So true!!!

      • Donna

        You have to admit though, it would have been kind of funny- and a gigantic nod to The Sopranos. Imagine; Bill, Barb, and Nicky sitting in a booth in a diner while Margene tries to parallel park outside…

    • Jason

      I wanted a few extra minutes to get into how their lives were changed after Bills death, but it was a decent send off.

      • Yesenia

        If only all shows ended like Six Feet Under

    • McFly

      Wow dude, you must lead a very exciting life because this season was not in the least a snoozefest.

  • ks

    I can now stop boycotting HBO-not that it mattered….

    • mj

      Me too! Polygamy is disgusting and HBO should never have aired this show (along with the deplorable TLC for airing a REALITY show about real polyg’s breaking the law). I watched the first season to see if they would at the very least portray polygamy truthfully and as usual, they did not, so the boycott began. I grew up around polygamy and it is NOTHING like on Big Love people, don’t let it fool you. It is horrible, oppressive, sexist, abusive, and a way to brainwash women and children. I knew some families that were the more “modern” polyg’s, like the Hendrickson’s, and their lives are not like this…there is no equality between men and women and the wives wouldn’t dare speak out like they do to Bill. The Juniper Creek storyline is how the writers get away with saying “Oh, see the Hendrickson’s aren’t bad…they’re MODERN.” Untrue. Their beliefs are the same, no matter what the show tries to tell you. Adios Big Love, thanks for making everyone think that “some” polygamists are okay, just because they don’t rape children. Ugh.

      • Nick

        Right – I’m sure HBO noticed your “boycott.” It’s just a TV show. I’m a huge fan and it never once made me think that polygamy was okay. Not every viewer is that gullible.

      • SirLizard

        “Big Love” was about these specific characters. Its purpose was NEVER to glamorize polygamy or to claim that this is the way that all polygamists live. The series showed many examples of horrific polygamist experiences, particularly the Juniper Creek scenes, that depict the lives of people who live on cult-ish compounds in a very frightening and unappealing way. If anything, you should think that this series was a positive thing for shining a light on the existence of such horrible places, which most Americans probably didn’t even know still exist. This series is fiction… Why shouldn’t HBO, or any other network, be able to tell interesting stories about complex characters? Some of us like to be entertained AND also think for ourselves at the same time.

      • iheartpoco

        Nobody with a brain sees any equality between Bill and the women, or that Big Love in any way presents polygamy as normal, positive or fine. Perhaps you should try watching a show before you release your ignorance upon it.

        The setting, in this case, is the vessel for the drama. I bet you’re with the Parents’ Television group. Or maybe everything you like is meant to preach and teach. Real world ain’t like that, chickie. Nor is art…but I get the feeling your idea of art probably includes a nice Velvet Elvis against the wood panelling. Or perhaps you have a wall of Sarah Palin commemorative plates from the Franklin Mint?

        Sorry to be such a hater on you, but people who think things shouldn’t exist because they don’t like them (especially when these opinions are based on ignorant assumptions about content and theme)are dangerous. Seriously.

      • idahodave

        Bigots are Bigots are Bigots, Get over yourself it was just a show

      • Donna

        You go, iheartpoco!!

      • Julie

        Boycott HBO? They are one of the only networks who would air a show so thought provoking. You are offended by this HBO show but not shows with brutal violence like the Sopranos or the Wire? (both great shows by the way) Big Love and many HBO shows open a tiny window on ways of life many of us could never imagine. That is why people enjoy them. You say you came from a polygamist environment. Since Big Love came out, I have seen tons of books and articles about people escaping from these type of oppressive polygamist families. They are being published and given an opportunity to tell their stories because Big Love shone a light on the topic and people want to know more.

      • Shasta Rhymes

        I have some beef with this article. Why the ***k are we targeting polygamists in the United States when so many polygamists from international countries are getting away and no one is doing a damn thing about them? I mean seriously, WTF? Some African guy can have a wife in a small remote village in Kenya, and still have a wife in the United States. Look at Obama’s dad for specifics.

        It doesn’t have to be African. You can swap Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Eastern European into the equation. I haven’t heard much about Latin American. Maybe because the women over there are ready to attack their men when they cheat on em. Every third world citizen laughs at US.

      • Karate Pants

        Uh, yeah. What iheartpoco said.

      • nownow

        “It is horrible, oppressive, sexist, abusive, and a way to brainwash women and children.”

        Many traditional marriages (one man, one woman) are like this.

      • BN

        Polygamy is all about men sex desires. When Nikki was having a fling with her boss, that was not OK. But… it was OK for Bill to bring a 4th wife into the picture, which after all, the law only recognized Barbara’s marriage.
        Bill’s last speech was a propaganda for polygamists to be accepted now and in the future.
        I enjoyed the show but I’m glad it’s over now.


        I agree with Sirlizard and I believe people have the right to decide what they want to believe in. Even though it may not be what we believe in. It is a TV show anytime you turn on the TV it is a choice of what you watch no one has a Heaven or a Hell to put anyone in.I think if you believe in GOD you need to just pray for people. What would Jesus do? So how can you watch True Blood which is another series I love along with Big Love. and I do not believe in polygamy or vampires etc… But how can you watch one and then say the other is not ok to watch. People are going to be influenced one way or another. We need to pray that They read their Bible because there are some people who do not believe in that either.

      • @ccsmith

        Oh man. You just gave out your real email address, didn’t you?

      • McFly

        Blah, Blah. If a guy wants more than one wife, let ‘em. If he wants to put up with that much crap, that’s his business.

      • Alan

        Yes, because GOD FORBID a show airs on TV that features people who do something you disagree with. Are you so offended by seeing people who have different beliefs than you? Under your thinking, we should boycott all shows that feature criminals, the mafia, gangs, rednecks, people who talk while eating, Republicans, people with goiters, etc.

      • abraniffneeley

        I totally agree – but don’t stop the boycott. They have True Blood still on saying that it is totally okay to be a vampire. Being a vampire is BAD and you shouldn’t want to be one

      • abraniffneeley

        For the record, much like Victoria Jackson and her anit gay rant, don’t get me wrong. I have vampire friends and we love each other, I just think that everything about them is disgusting, they should be locked up and are going to hell, but I still love to hang out with them and exchange fashion tips.

    • Dinjab

      Moron. But you subscribed to HBO all those years they showed Real Sex documentaries?

    • Mole

      Yeah, I guess now you can return to watching HBO’s current wholesome family shows like Boardwalk Empire and True Blood.
      …not to mention reruns of Oz, The Sopranos, Rome, Deadwood, The Wire, etc., etc…
      (Because Big Love was the only HBO show that had content that some people might find offensive. Yeah…)

    • Matt W

      I don’t like murder but that doesn’t mean I boycott every show where someone gets murdered. It is a fictional show.

    • Oakdaddy

      Most women like polygamy (in practice) more than most men. Because women would rather attach themselves to 1/10th of a first-rate man than all of a third-rate one. Most men would favor monogamy because even the worst man gets at least one woman.

      • cecina

        Hey you’re so right…
        there’s should be a valid undisputable mathematical description to validate your argument
        like this!

  • Jimmy

    I have never seen so much crying from Margene. Although I loved the first 2 seasons, I have really only hung on with all the lunacy and unrealistic plots out of curiosity. I am actually glad it is ending tonight, I can’t take all the ridiculous stories anymore. Smuggling birds, Indian Casinos, Politics, it all is out of control and needs to end.

  • Ian

    Great show. Unforgettable. The consequences the Henricksons have faced are just exactly what they would face in the real life. I agree, the wives need to find their true calling without Bill.

  • outside agitator

    my comments pretty much echo the article’s. I don’t think Bill would necessarily do jail time in real life. with all the mistresses and page scandals haunting the Capitol’s halls, Bill’s family would only grab a few headlines in between Charlie, Lindsay and what country the US is bombing that week. a great show and I disagree about season 4. it was the weakest season but by no means as bad as was reported or as poorly written as the last few seasons of The Sopranos or Lost or seasons 2 & 3 of the now unwatchable True Blood. viewed as a whole in years to come, it’ll be more like Buffy season 6. Big Love will be missed.

    • Aaron

      How is True Blood unwatchable?? And season 3 of Lost was ridiculously awesome. It just got off to a slow(ish) start in with the first few episodes. I do agree about Buffy season 6 tho!

  • Trixie

    Grant Show had his own series……….. Swingtown :D. (RIP. Gone too soon. *Fat sparkly tear down cheek.*)
    Anyway, I’m sad to see this show end. Last season was terrible–melodramatic, filled with many moments that had me rolling my eyes–but overall, I have enjoyed this show very much. I would love to see more for Barb; I think she has felt, and has BEEN, trapped for a long time.
    Anyway, I’m disappointed it’s coming to an end, even though it kind of feels like it’s time for it to go.

  • Jancis M. Andrews

    I cannot believe any intelligent woman would support a polygamous show, even though it is make-believe. Unfortunately polygamy is all too real and exists among us in the form of the rapist-pedophile Warren Jeffs, his many underage “celestial wives (some as young as 11 and 12)and his many male elders who teach girls and women that they can only go to Heaven if they become concubines in the elders’ harems, make themselves subservient to men, and “Keep Sweet” i.e, “Shut up, woman, and don’t you dare suggest that women should be allowed to have many husbands, and therefore enjoy the same sex-fest as polygamist males!” The fact remains that polygamy comes from the dark ages when women were chattels, without rights. It should be outlawed, just like the thumbscrew and the rack have been outlawed. The year is 2011 AD, not 2011 BC.

    • outside agitator

      I in no way condone polygamy, esp where minors are involved. but I see no greater sin in the consensual relationship the Henrickson’s have than men(or women) with many secret adulterous relationships. or men and women who marry and divorce multiple times. Polygamy is merely a by product of religion. unless you outlaw religion, you have to tolerate much of the idiocy it fosters whether that involves God justified wars, refusing medical treatment, racism or other things in a very long list.

      • SaraJ

        Your point doesn’t make sense. 99% of religions don’t condone polygamy either; Muslims, Buddhist, Christianity… the thing is, marriage doesn’t simply lie within the church, it’s also the state. If the government has been able to “outlaw” gay marriage for so long, they should be able to do the same thing with multiple marriages to the same man.

      • outside agitator

        my point was that polygamy is justified by religion as are 100s of other crazy behaviors. polygamy was definitely practiced in the Old Testament and some claim that Christianity does condone polygamy. as well as racial superiority, male superiority, war and a host of other odd views. what the Bible actually teaches no two persons agree on. I doubt you’d feel very comfortable with Muslim views on women, either. and unless you like praying to statues, Buddhism’s a little goofy, too. religion is the soil for foolish seed.

      • Dub

        outside agitator-
        it shows how little you’ve read or understand history if you think there has been a single war fought about God. That’s an atheist talking point–you’re as bad as Fox News.

      • Aaron

        @Dub Seriously? Ever hear of The Crusades?!

      • catty

        @dub can you say jihad?

      • outside agitator

        Dub, most wars ever fought claim the blessing of deities on the kings who declare them. from the Crusades to “God With Us” on German WW1 helmets to modern jihads. I personally bought a US army issue pocket New Testament at a yard sale with a forward by a Catholic bishop claiming Christ’s support for the US. and I’m not an atheist…I just loathe corporate/organized religion.

      • outside agitator


      • the_girl

        @SaraJ – Islam allows a man to take up to 4 wives. So Muslims do believe in polygamy.

      • A Regular Person

        @ Sara J. I would like to point out that the Muslim and Hindu religions do indeed believe in polygamy, in fact most Muslim nations practice polygamy to this day. Buddhism is not a religion, it is a philosophy, Buddha was a man, not a God and Buddhists are accepting of most other beliefs as long as no-one is hurt and it is compassionate. I predict that polygamy will become the next civil rights issue in the US after gay marriage. I agree with whomever said that it really isn’t that different from serial monogamy or even people who have affairs. I do not condone it but it doesn’t bother me too much except for the compounds and the pedophilia which are a perversion. Of course, if you made it legal, that aspect of it would probably go away.

    • Donna

      @Janice: I am an extremely intelligent woman, and I love Big Love. It has been very interesting to see a view of a lifestyle that I never would have otherwise had the opportunity to see. And to watch these characters evolve, has been a great ride. The Henricksons are not Polygamists who approve of or tolerate the underage ‘marriage’ of girls. They make that very clear, and in fact, they have taken action to put a stop to it in Juniper Creek. You would know this if you were to actually watch the show, rather than making judgments without having all of the facts.

      • Donna

        Love your post…And your name! This sums up my views exactly. This is the most riveting family on TV right now, and there have never been characters like this–especially Nikki. I’m really bummed that it’s ending and I think there were many more stories to tell.

      • Linda

        i agree wirh Donna. I will miss rhis ahow vry much. As a matter of a fact it is rhw only reson i vuy HBO now that the Sopranos are fone. i hward that they are cloaing up due to preasure fom FDLS. Does anyone know if this is true?

      • Linda

        sorry for spelling i can”t see the print on my phone ir is too small. i’m not an idiot:)

      • Xine

        Linda has it exactly right. We had an opportunity to explore new thought that we never would have except for HBO

      • Marikins

        Minor Point : Bill did marry an underage girl (margene). He was so lustful he didn’t even confirm the teenage babysitter was of marrying age. I don’t think the show is pro polygamy at all but a kind of study of how we compromise ourselves for love, security etc.

      • Donna

        @Markins: I honestly believe that Bill did not know about Margene being underage. Because there was no legal wedding, there was no paperwork, and therefore no ID required. Margene said that she hid the truth. I fully believe that if Bill had known, he would have ‘held off.’

    • SirLizard

      If something exists, why shouldn’t writers and actors be allowed to explore its themes? Just because YOU don’t like it? I’m sorry, but that’s not a good enough reason. I personally find polygamy to be completely unappealing, but a person doesn’t have to condone something to make himself aware of it, to educate himself about it, or to enjoy a fictional account of it. No topic should be off-limits if handled the right way, and “Big Love” handled its subject matter in a very compelling way.

    • Ginger

      As an intelligent woman, I appreciate seeing a television show with so many good roles for talented actresses.

    • Stefanie

      I consider myself an intelligent feminist and I watch Big Love. I don’t think the show glamorized polygamy at all. The Henricksons suffered dearly for their choices on the show. I don’t want to give away any spoilers for those who haven’t seen the ending, but I will say that I the writers were trying to tell us that the women & the family could only be happy without Bill in the picture.

    • Zakry

      It was not “a polygamist show.” It was a show about characters who happen to be polygamists. The story was never pro or con polygamy, because polygamy was never the point.

  • Karen

    My husband and I will really miss Big Love. We know it was like a soap opera, but those are meant to entertain, and entertained we have been for 5 years.

  • Sydney

    I will miss this show! The season started out rough but it got exciting toward the end. I will miss these characters.

  • Aaron

    I’m glad it’s ending. Great show (at times), but I want to see Chloë Sevigny in other roles. I LOVE her!!

  • Laura

    Wow people are really stupid. Watching a show about polygamy is condoning it? Well I guess I also condone New Jersey Mobsters, Vampire Slayers, Time-Traveling Doctors, Smoke Monsters, and Serial Killers.

    • dman

      no but it sounds like you are a nerd lol

      • Chloe

        What’s wrong with being a nerd? Better than being a moron.

    • jared4ever

      Great comment, and don’t forget Dirty Cops (The Shield), Drug dealers (The Wire) and racists (All In The Family)

    • Green

      People who watch Mad Men also condone alcoholism and cheating on your wife

  • jared4ever

    I’m ultimately glad it’s over. It hasn’t been that good for a while now. The whole marriage feels like they are just being forced to tolerate each other. I’m so sick of Bill and is self-righteous attitude. Loved the show in the beginning but SO over it now.

  • Buffy Freak

    Seasons 4 was a huge mess and it’s not much better this season. I actually appreciated Chloe Sevigny’s honesty about it last year. I don’t know what if it is the writing or the editing but the shifts from scene to scene seem to be so disjointed. They go to all the trouble of recasting Teeny and realize they botched it so they ship her off to live with Sarah, who is barely mentioned, let alone seen. And hardly a mention of Joey. Killing off Roman was great drama but it didn’t serve the show well in the long run.

    So many scenes the past two seasons just made no sense, most recently the big confrontation with Albie at the Senate building. After Bill’s big lecture to the family about staying close to home and not going out unless absolutely necessary all three wives go off at night to eat subs in Bill’s office, leaving the kids home alone with who, Ben?

    Then there were the stories nobody cared about like Ben’s romance with Tina Majorino’s character…I cared so little that I can’t even remember the character’s name. There was no real reason for Rhonda’s return other than to break Ben and his girlfriend. Yeah it also provided Albie with a pawn but there really wasn’t much of a payoff there either. Anybody who didn’t see Albie killing him coming from a mile away hasn’t watched much TV. And Cara Lynn’s affair with her teacher went nowhere.

    It’s too bad because the first three seasons, especially season 3, were just amazing. I hope things wrap up plausibly and entertainingly but I have my doubts

  • Neng

    I think Barb will “kill Bill” HA!! Barb has a gun and might use it because Bill is against a woman in the priesthood. It may be by accident, but it sure would be a kicker to the end of the show. I (age 62) really enjoyed this off the wall show. Hats off to HBO and getting me addicted to Sunday night TV. It has such imagination and powerful story line. I feel as badly about Big Love coming to an end as I did about the Soprano’s……….writing just does not get any better….hats off to the cast for pulling off such as great series.

  • João Paulo – Brasil

    Big Love is great, the series is excellent script, my favorite caracter is Margene, after Nicki and Barb. I agree with the good text, but i wait to see a happy final, the family suffer a lot during five season, so a happy end i expected.

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