'Big Love' series finale: Parting thoughts on the ending the Henrickson women deserved

There was a lot to love in the final episode of HBO's "Big Love" -- a show that many fans and most critics feel went off the rails a while ago.

We could rehash the worthwhile minutia -- Bill ( Bill Paxton) becoming a modern day folk hero to polygamists, Barb ( Jeanne Tripplehorn) abandoning her baptism, Lois' ( Grace Zabriskie) heartbreaking assisted suicide, Sarah's ( Amanda Seyfried) return -- but it's ultimately inconsequential in light of the ending.

Bill's death, however grim, was an appropriate end-game for "Big Love." It's the only way his family could survive. His passing offers them sanctuary from the malicious outside forces -- backwoods mafiosos, manipulating politicians, homicidal brothers-in-law -- he constantly lured towards them, and allows the sister wives, all of whom he was holding back in one way or another, to reach their full potential.

Barb spent the bulk of the series' final season receiving only rejection from her husband when she needed him most. Her spiritual crisis was only resolved in his final moments, when he asked for her blessing, more-or-less passing on the family's priesthood holder status to the wife.

Margene ( Ginnifer Goodwin) came into the marriage an actual child. She had no idea what she wanted from life, so she found comfort in the large family she never had. Bouncing from project to project, the pyramid scheme shilling Goji berries finally opened her eyes to the spirituality and purpose that always evaded her. Even with his support, the bond to Bill would have kept her from going out into the world.

And there's Nicki ( Chloë Sevigny), who, despite her Juniper Creek upbringing, was probably the least equipped of all the wives to handle a plural marriage. Her constant need for pull and affection seemed gone in the final scene. No longer struggling to share Bill with Margene and Barb was the only thing that could bring her close to them, allowing her to finally relax a little.

Listing all of the perks of Bill's demise shouldn't vilify him completely. The spectral image of founding Mormon wife Emma Smith seemed to imbue him with an almost-too-late respect and appreciation for his better halves, proving, despite all of his selfish actions over the course of the series, he was a good man.

Nothing illustrates this better than the fact that he met his maker at the hands of Carl ( Carlos Jacott), the perpetually emasculated neighbor who you knew they were keeping around for a reason. With the implosion of Home Plus and his likely jail sentence, Bill and Carl had more in common than they realized. But Bill had the strength and conviction to manage those problems without letting his family down or going off the deep end. Being murdered by Alby, for example, would have underscored his less savory characteristics.

So he leaves us alone with the women who made "Big Love" such an incredible series, even when the storytelling got a little muddy.

The only image more satisfying than the parting scene of the three, empowered wives embracing in the living room was one that occurred halfway through the episode. Barb, Nicki and Margene driving down the highway in the new Mini Cooper convertible offered a beautiful moment of peace and bonding between the characters and actresses who kept us coming back each season.

The portentous shot of them driving off to points unknown, without their husband, seemed to make it clear that this was the path they were meant to take. And as much as they all have their reservations, they'll be better for it.
Photo/Video credit: HBO