As the fourth season becomes more overstuffed than a Martha Stewart Thanksgiving turkey, I'm starting to wonder just where all this operatic muck is going to take us.
Let's dispense with the big thing first. At the very end of the episode, we found out that Alby's conflicted boyfriend Dale had hung himself in the little loveshack apartment Alby had rented for them. He'd been outed to Bill and, I think we're to assume, his wife by Alby's horrid spouse, played by the always-excellent Anne Dudek. So that's horrible. Lots of folks are talking about what a big surprise it was, but I don't see it that way at all, really. I mean, what were you expecting? That the tortured and illicit gay love between two Mormons on a show that is pretty cruel to all of its characters would end with a happy gone-marryin' trip to Iowa? Maybe the hanging thing was surprising in its suddenness, but I'm not shocked it ended up there. What Alby does now — to his wife, and possibly to Bill — is what I'm worried about.
The rest of episode was creepy and bleak and sad as well. We got a glimpse of a seedy motel where a bunch compounders were gathered for some fabulous sealing ceremonies. Scared young women cowering and crying in hotel rooms while gross old men knitted their doom. The whole Kansas compound folks are appropriately gross and crazy, and it was especially disturbing to see Cara Lynn being stroked by some creeper with six other wives. Luckily Nicki, regressing into a teenagerdom she never had (or something — there was a crazy outfit, that's all I know) came to the rescue, and wasn't stopped by an oddly sedate JJ. I assume we'll get an explanation for all of that, namely why JJ kept saying "It isn't what it looks like," and I'm sure his reasons aren't terribly noble. Oh, and how masterfully creepy was Zeljko Ivanek in the scene where he "seduced" Nicki's mom? The mumbled song and long underpants and strange blue glow... Ugh, it was all terrifying. And that was a grown woman who'd done all this before. Imagine a thirteen year old in the same situation. Or, you know, don't, actually.
Moving on. The whole Ana plotline I thought was a bit... Well, I just don't know why they would add yet ANOTHER element to this crazily crowded season. Was Ana ever really that compelling of a character anyway? And now she has to be pregnant with Bill's premaritally-conceived love child, giving Barb yet another thing to be angry about? Maybe they're going to hook this story in with another one and by season's end we'll say "Ohhhhhh, that's why," but right now I'm just not seeing it. They have enough balls up in the air right now. We don't need another big pregnant one.
Perhaps the wackiest of all the wacky stories is Ben's new-found "independence," which involves him hanging around with his grandmother and creepy, rabbity grandfather in Mexico. You know, eating authentic Mexican shrimp cocktail in a dusty parking lot. And meeting with fat, gay exotic bird smugglers who want nothing more than to touch Ben's hair. Oh, and said fat, gay exotic bird smuggler? Well, he just happens to be hooked up with the menacing Green clan, who popped up at the end to take Ben and his grandparents away for messing with their bird trade. The scary cross-dressing wife lady had a Luger! While a bit over-the-top, the complete insanity of Hollis Green and his brood is delightful to watch.
Honestly, I don't find much of the casino/Sissy Spacek stuff terribly engaging. Maybe because I don't really understand what's going on. I liked Sissy saying "There's nothing here to scary anybody" because it was funny and Barb's monologue about the ocean because it was melancholy, but other than that the most I can glean from the plot is that Sissy is there to help them with, like, Politics... and stuff.
What I do know for sure is that Barb is slowly (or not so slowly) becoming the head of the whole gaming operation and designing ice cream bars and self-actualizing and all that, so good for her. Same is going down for Margene, who's giving lady-positive (but not feminist!) speeches at Toastmasters meetings. Nicki is the only one not branching out, because she doesn't know how, so I suppose that little outfit (sideways ponytail, raccoony eye makeup, scandalously short skirt) was her sad little attempt at being like the other wives. This season is sort of about woman power, but only sort of.
Honestly, I don't really know just what the heck the major theme is here. Maybe there isn't one! Maybe there are lots of little ones. Or maybe the theme is that everything is weird and unpredictable and often times more unpleasant than pleasant. Maybe it's about the cost of secrets, the price we pay to compartmentalize ourselves and segregate certain parts of our heart from others. Naturally Bill's grand dream, revealed toward the very end, is to come out as polygamists and go live in a laughably big mansion situated on top of a winy hill, all together, finally smooshed into one. There was something a little Norman Bates or Addams Family about the gigantic and strangely wild Victorian, and I kind of doubt that they'll actually end up moving in there. Would the wives really want to give up their own houses? Increasingly, it seems unlikely.
But, yes. Dale is dead. What will this do for all the UEB stuff? How does Alby explain the dead guy in an empty apartment that he's renting? Is he going to exact revenge on someone or, also possible, everyone? We shall see! Last night, Wanda said she had "a great foreboding." Well, so do I. I think this whole season does. Though just what that dark mass looming there on the horizon is exactly, I still don't know.