The great cable dramas — Mad Men, The Sopranos, The Wire — on some level all glorify male potency, but to say the same of Big Love almost seems ridiculous: Of course it does. It’s about man with three — going on four — wives. The swinging dick isn’t cloaked behind some intricately patterned loin cloth of brilliant dialogue or digs at patriarchy: It’s free ballin’. But it’s balanced, too, by time lavished on the women’s concerns at home. (It’s all those children, thankfully, whose perspectives we’re spared.) With this premiere, we dive deep into season three, and even deeper into this gender-polarized world, from Anna, whom “we want to formally date,” to matriarch Barb, secretly confronting cancer.
Naturally, though, the dicks keep swinging. There’s Alby, feeling the “potency in this room” as he contemplates taking over his father’s office — and narrowly avoiding an attempt on his life, apparently orchestrated by his mother as revenge for poisoning his father, after he’s lured into a bathroom for gay sex. Bill — who, we are reminded more than once, serves as the “hot-dog man” at the annual block party — is feeling his Oedipal oats, confronting his father over Frankie, the teen brother-from-another-mother who shows up in the back of Bill’s SUV after getting kicked off the compound by his pops. (Bill’s mother still thinks he’s a sissy.) Princess Nicki, meanwhile, goes so far as to take a position as a lowly temp at the county services office in order to collect information that might aid her father’s trial for, you know, violating young girls.
And the polarities are only starker with the next generation: College-bound Sarah looks to escape Utah entirely, never mind polygamy; Ben, bless his heart, seems oddly confident that he can handle more than one woman. The only thing they share is that look — the one where it seems like they might burst into tears at any moment. (You almost want to slap them just so they’ll let it out.) And through it all, the hot-dog man abides: Using Margene, pure Margene, to help close a deal on a casino; and slipping it to Anna after some big, unmanly talk about getting a ring on her finger — another deal that will go through thanks only to Margene. As always, Bill’s magic penis draws him deeper into the rabbit hole.