Did ‘Big Love’s Series Finale Deliver A Fond Farewell? Critics Weigh In

by | March 21, 2011 at 9:25 AM | Big Love, HBO, TV News

Big Love (HBO)

Big Love (HBO)

[SPOILER ALERT: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT THE OUTCOME OF "BIG LOVE'S" SERIES FINALE.]

After five seasons of plural marital turmoil, Bill Hendrickson’s wish that his family remained intact was granted in Sunday night’s “Big Love” series finale. Too bad he wasn’t there to witness it. In the final moments of the episode, Bill, awaiting trial on charges of statutory rape, was shot to death by his disgruntled neighbor Carl. In a scene flashing 11 months into the future, we see all three wives – Nicki, Margene, and Barb – still supporting one another as each takes on the roles they always wanted but were unable to achieve with Bill alive. Was this a satisfying conclusion? Here’s what the critics had to say:

The Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara had big praise for the End: “It was a perfect finish to an astonishingly ambitious show that often careened through genre, narrative structure and believability like they were false walls on a stage.”

The New York Times’ Ginia Bellafonte argued Bill’s death was necessary, if only to highlight the importance of family: “That he was partially redeemed in the final hour, granting his first wife, Barb, the religious autonomy she craved, seems peripheral to the larger matter of his actual death. In the end the series chose to affirm the idea that families must exist, as much as they can, as democracies.”

Watch The Cast Bid “Big Love” Adieu

HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall was disappointed by Bill’s martyrdom: “In dying, Bill is spared the indignities of a trial, and time in prison, and having to live each day knowing of the public humiliation he had brought upon himself and his family…After two sloppy, ill-conceived final seasons of the show, all I really wanted from the finale was to see Bill finally forced to see the error of his ways. And while giving Barb the priesthood is no small thing for a man who was so aggressively, obnoxiously paternalistic, it also didn’t feel like nearly enough.”

New York Magazine’s Chuck Zlotnick thought the finale lost momentum built over the course of the past season: “The closing moments of the show addressed pretty much every plot thread from the last season, but in a way so pat it took some of the fun out of the finale.” Finale aside, Zlotnick went on to commend the series for its exploration of the meaning of faith: “No TV drama (not even the megachurch theology of ’7th Heaven’) has ever put faith at its center like ‘Big Love.’ The writers never mocked its characters’ beliefs, and avoided the potshots regularly fired at Mormons. Struggles of the spirit were respected, like poor Dale’s agony over his sexuality and Barb’s grief over excommunication. Yes, ‘Big Love’ got silly more than once — several times in the finale alone! But it was never ironic about religion. The show’s greatest achievement was its compassionate, complex portrayal of faith, and the doubt that comes with it.”

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