Cable channels - both premium (Showtime, etc.) and basic (FX and others) continue to be find success by taking risks, whether it be comedic (FX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia") or dramatic (HBO's "Big Love", which is now in its fourth season on the network.)
The series was created by Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer, and stars Bill Paxton as Bill Hennrickson, a practicing polygamist who lives with a trio of wives - Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), 2nd wife Nicki (Chloe Sevigny) and 3rd and youngest wife, Margene (Gennifer Goodwin.) The series deals with Bill's attempts to live his life and run his business (a chain of home improvement stores called Henrickson's Home Plus), while also trying to balance out a home life that includes relationship stress and troubles with Nicki's father, Church prophet Roman Grant (Harry Dean Stanton). Bill also tries to go about his personal business being widely known by neighbors and others he sees on a daily basis, but secrets eventually have a way of surfacing.
The series also focuses on the family dynamic; while the family follows the "The Principle", the meshing and merging of three separate relationships is not always smooth, and while the women love Bill, they understandably have conflicts, and are understandably conflicted when they find out that Bill is dating another potential new mate in the form of Ana (Branka Katic), a young Serbian waitress. Bill's two children - daughter Sarah (Amanda Seyfried, of "Mean Girls", who continues to prove herself just as skilled a dramatic actress as a comedic one) and son Ben (Douglas Smith) - also have their share of problems, as well.
The third season of “Big Love” brings financial troubles for the Hennrickson’s as well as a new wife. After his store faces hard times, Bill decides to start up a casino and sets off to find potential partners to see his plan put into action. This season follows Bill through the ups and downs of starting a Casino and the complications that come into play. Meanwhile, Nicki, Margene and, surprisingly, Barb help Bill court Ana. While the courtship and eventual marriage between Bill and Ana is a large focus of the first part of season three, the season turns its focus more towards Bill’s casino, Nicki’s secrets, and Roman’s trial by the time the season wraps up.
A lot happens with Nicki’s character this season. While her dad, Roman is on trial, Nicki goes to work under a false name to discover the main witnesses against her dad. This leads to more troubles and revelations, including a secret about Nicki’s past as well as some present-day flirtations. The struggles Barb has this season regarding her position in the family and with the church are some of the more interesting, as is Margene’s newfound self-assurance. The last few episodes reveal a lot of new information and will definitely leave fans of the show wondering what’s next for the Hennricksons.
Without giving too much away, there are certainly a lot of twists and turns during this season including new power struggles, betrayals, revenge, shaky friendships and even shakier relationships. While the season does get to be a bit heavy-handed on a couple of occasions, this is otherwise another compelling effort from all involved. The performances are the most promising thing about “Big Love” especially Tripplehorn as Barb. The writing is also well thought out and offers believable dialogue and an unending supply of situations for the Hennricksons to face.
Season 3 Episodes
25. 18 Jan 09 Block Party
26. 25 Jan 09 Empire
27. 1 Feb 09 Prom Queen
28. 8 Feb 09 On Trial
29. 15 Feb 09 For Better or for Worse
30. 22 Feb 09 Come, Ye Saints
31. 1 Mar 09 Fight or Flight
32. 8 Mar 09 Rough Edges
33. 15 Mar 09 Outer Darkness
34. 22 Mar 09 Sacrament
VIDEO: "Big Love" is presented by HBO Home Video in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The show looked quite good here, as sharpness and detail remain consistently fine throughout the running time. Some minor shimmering was spotted, but the picture looked clean for the majority of the running time. Colors looked bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other problems.
SOUND: The show's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack sounded just fine, with crisp, well-recorded dialogue and - as one might expect - not much for the rear speakers to do.
EXTRAS: Only two features accompany the complete Season three DVD set. “Their Stories So Far” is good for new viewers, considering that the characters Bill, Margene, Barb and Nicki all briefly share information about their characters, in order to help catch you up with where they are when season three begins. “Three Past Midnight” is the other feature which is actually a collection of three mini-dramas following some of the characters as the practice of polygamy is attacked. The mini-dramas may appeal to fans, as they offer an up-close look at how several different characters feel regarding the event that take place. As far as bonus features go, the “Big Love” DVD set falls short, however fans may enjoy the “Three Past Midnight” and new fans will appreciate “Their Stories so Far.”
Final Thoughts: While the season does get to be a bit heavy-handed on a few occasions, this is otherwise another compelling effort from all involved. The performances are the best thing about “Big Love” especially Tripplehorn's superb performance as Barb. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality, but only a few minor extras. Recommended.