This season of Big Love has been fantastic. I got a little exasperated with it last season when it got heavily invested in outside tension, because I always preferred it when it focused on Barb, Nicki, and Margene, the sister-wives. You really can't get any more adorable than Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, and Ginnifer Goodwin rotating in each other's orbit.
I still fail to understand what attracts these three women to their husband, Bill, the grounding body they all circle about, but, whatever. This season drove the show back on track with multiple difficulties for each wife -- deeply personal issues that they had to struggle with alone and in tandem. The taking of a fourth wife, community ostracizion, the loss of a parent, excommunication from the church, illness, and potential affairs. As usual, it's Chloe Sevigny's Nicki who has to stretch the limits the furthest, breaching the trust of her chosen family (and committing multiple felonies) to serve her ever-unappreciative parental family. Nicki is a tough character, laced with plenty of hardness and treachery, and in less capable hands she could easily be a hateful shrew. But the writers have been careful to keep her motivations, if not completely sympathetic, at least understandable, and to also make her devoted and loyal in her own twisted way. When Chloe puts that sideways tilt in her jaw you don't know who it's going to be trouble for, but you do know it's going to be fireworks, and it's going to be riveting.
This year, Ginnifer's Margene has had to stretch way beyond the charm of her perky-cute oversized ears and shown herself to be both surprisingly competent in business while grieving and showing serious cracks in her foundation. Meanwhile, Jeanne's Barb has had to move beyond her occasionally faltering "rock-solid" status to potentially allow a complete breakdown of everything she's believed in.
It's still not enough to make me want to enter plural marriage, but it is plenty enough to make HBO's previous reigning sisterhood show, SATC pale in age when it comes to depth, if not laughs.