Scoop: Big Love Bosses on the Season 4 Backlash and the Shocking Series-Ending Twist

You already know that, as of this Sunday, Big Love is back, as in “back on the air.” But what you don’t know is that it’s also back, as in “back on top of its game.” Yep, having seen the first three episodes of the HBO drama’s fifth and final season, I can say with great relief that the new stuff is as grounded and focused as last season was overstuffed and schizoid. The Hendrickson clan itself, however, is a big pile of mess. In the following Q&A, series creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer respond to season 4’s critics (Chloë Sevigny among them) and tease what’s in store for Bill, Bark, Nikki and Margene as they approach the home stretch. Hint: doubt, drama and big decisions.

TVLINE | Did you learn any lessons about season 4 that you applied to this season?
Olsen:
Of course. We went back to the writers’ room, as we do every year, and did a post-mortem. We looked at what we did during season 4 and we looked at how it was perceived, critically [speaking]. We had some agreements with [the criticism]. And we also ad some very strong disagreements with it.
Scheffer: This season [we set out] to refocus on the family and bring things into this very intimate place. Last season was kind of an operatic fever dream for us, which we felt was right for the season to get us where we were going, which was [Bill, Barb, Nikki, and Margene]  coming out of the closet [as polygamists]. And we also wanted to use a lot of our ensemble last season, and this season we wanted to focus [on the core cast].

TVLINE | Did you take the critical knocks personally?
Olsen:
We did not take it personally, but it was confusing because [the show] wasn’t received as we saw it nor as we intended it. So it was baffling and frustrating and irritating. It was like, “Were we all watching the same thing?” At the end of the day, it was a really invigorating exercise for both of us. We read everything. We do. We haunt the boards, we read the blogs, we read it all.

TVLINE | How’s your relationship with Chloë? Did you start the season off with a group hug?
Olsen:
We had the group hug with Chloë the day after she made the comments. We love that woman. We get it it. We get what she said.
Scheffer: Chloë is a company girl. She’s so not the fashionista-diva that is her image, so for her to get a little bit drunk on champagne and speak bluntly at a party and then to have it come back to bite her…
Olsen: If anything, we felt bad for her.
Scheffer: She called us in tears. Yes, we were angry that it had made the press and it started to [spiral]. But more than us being angry, we felt bad that she felt so bad about it. And we immediately wrapped our arms around her; she was just a mess about the whole thing.

TVLINE | When did you make the decision that this would be the final season?
Olsen:
We’ve always known where we wanted to take the family, the characters, and the story. What we didn’t know is exactly how long it would take and how much story we had to roll out to get to that point. And when we sat down in the writers’ room at the beginning of the season the question was, “Do we have two years in us, or is it one year?” We ultimately decided it was a one-year thing.
Scheffer: It was very much a mutual decision with HBO.

TVLINE | What’s the theme of the season?
Scheffer:
It’s about the [family's] struggle to understand their faith. That question of faith becomes a very centralized theme for the entire season.
Olsen: It’s the ultimate chickens coming home to roost. The bargains and deals that [Barb, Nikki, and Margene] made in their lives, with their identities and how they came into this marriage, are all tried by fire. All of the characters have a journey this season, a journey that [bookends] where they began the series five years ago.

TVLINE | Out of all the wives, Barb seems to be the one questioning her faith and lifestyle the most.
Olsen:
Absolutely. This is the season where Barb doesn’t back down.

TVLINE | Will Bill still have three wives when the series ends?
Olsen:
Hmm.. Do I want to reveal that? [Pauses] Yes. Yes, he will… [But] there are some good twists.
Scheffer: Something happens that you’ll never see coming.

TVLINE | What’s the title of the series finale?
Scheffer: “When Men and Mountains Meet.” It’s a William Blake quote. The whole quote is, “Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” It was a quote that seemed to really symbolize the pioneer aspect of the show. And when you see what our hero does by the end of the season, we feel that greatness has been achieved.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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21 Comments
  1. Eve says:

    Finally, it’s back !! The wait was insufferable ! ;)
    So Bill will still have 3 wives at the end of the season?
    Hmm.. I really wanted Barb to leave Bill and choose her own life.
    Not sure how much I trust that statement.

  2. Quey says:

    They said he’d have 3 wives . . . they didn’t say it would be the SAME three wives. I’m hoping Barb leaves him.

  3. Gabriela says:

    Ugh. Now I am angry I read that last question.

  4. Diane says:

    Just because Bill will have 3 wives, doesn’t mean they will be Barb, Margene & Nikki – it could be 2 of the wives plus a new one (maybe the Russian woman pregnant with his baby will be back – sorry, 10 month old with teething issues is making it tough to think). I think Barb will be done with the whole thing.

  5. rip van winkle says:

    lol @ all this stuff about Chloë. if you read the interview, she just kinda spit out that the show was awful. she wasn’t provoked or drunk or anything.

  6. Joe B. says:

    Loved s4, it’s actually the only season of which I’ve seen every episode.

  7. Rolfe says:

    I thought that season four was for sure the series weakest, but I never thought it was awful. I think they just bit of more than they could chew. I can’t wait to see how the series wraps up. Glad to hear it is once again top notch.

  8. Jane Q. says:

    I don’t think Season 4 was terrible exactly, it was just too much. 9 episodes was just not enough time to do everything they wanted without it being super exhausting. I hope Ben is in this season and maybe even bring back Sarah. Sort of sad this is the last season, I hope they send it off properly.

  9. Nathaniel says:

    Why do you keep giving people associated with Big Love opportunities to throw the AV Club under the bus without even calling them out on it?

  10. Matthew says:

    You know what – season 4 was awful, terrible, and I actually decided never to watch the show ever again. Then it was announced that season 5 would be the last season, and I thought I might watch it just to see how it ends.

    But now, seeing how these jerks decide to throw The AV Club under the bus and just out-and-out LIE, and claim it was a drunken comment at a party – I don’t care to ever see another episode of the show. It was a published extended interview, published in a verbatim Q&A format, not some overheard drunken conversation. http://www.avclub.com/articles/chloe-sevigny,39476/ There is no justification for challenging the professionalism of an publication that has always worked hard to maintain a high reputation for entertainment journalism.

    And frankly, Ausiello, you should be ashamed of yourself for allowing the showrunners a forum to unjustifiedly attack the AV Club without challenging them any further on the issue. And this is the second time you’ve done this – since you were also the person who allowed Chloe to criticise the way the interview was conducted. (And I notice in Chloe’s explanation there is NOTHING about it being at a party; she claimed to be “exhausted during a press junket.”)

    • Well... says:

      It doesn’t look like anybody is attacking anybody in this interview. Why are you getting so defensive? Are you in bed with Sean O’Neal? Hot.

      • Matthew says:

        Fine, so no-one “attacked” anyone. But when they claim the comments were made while “a little bit drunk… at a party,” and that they were “angry that it had made the press,” they are at the very least implying that the reporter behaved inappropriately. As opposed to what actually happened, which is that a reporter accurately reported a prearranged interview. Meanwhile, the AV Club have, so far as I can see, been completely open about this, even posting audio of the relevant part of the interview – http://media.avclub.com/audio/articles/article/39609/chloe-sevigny_excerpt.mp3 – and frankly that does not sound like a party, and she does not sound tipsy in the least.

        But the thing that I’m really angry about is the fact that Michael has twice now offered, first Chloe, now the showrunners, the opportunity to throw the reporter under the bus. I mean, he must have known the kind of response he would get to that question, he must have known he would not get a truthful answer, and frankly he didn’t have to ask the question if he didn’t want to. But having asked the question, he had a responsibility to follow it up and question them further. At this point, Michael should at the very least be aware of the counter-arguments of the AV Club, and for him to knowingly offer the showrunners an opportunity to lie without challenging them at all on their (frankly absurd) assertions just shows that Michael’s interests lie more in preserving his relationships with showrunners and people in power than in actually reporting the truth. Which makes this site little more than a puff-piece promotional website, and I’m not sure why I should bother visiting a website that has so little interest in the truth.

  11. DW says:

    It’s a shame Ausiello doesn’t have the guts to call the showrunners out for blatantly lying about the Sevigny interview. An actress admitted a terrible season was terrible. Who cares? If she just would have stood by her initial comment all this debate could have been avoided.

  12. MH says:

    I’m disgusted that Auseillo would let the producers lie and throw the reviewer under the bus when there is proof they are liars. Not a great start to the website. What else is he going to lie about or let slide?

  13. Ben Kabak says:

    Michael should be embarrassed by this.

  14. Craig Ranapia says:

    Michael:

    I think it would be super-classy if you asked Chloe to confirm Scheffer’s claim, and if she doesn’t to retract and apologise.

  15. Matt says:

    An absolutely despicable act of “journalistic” cravenness. I get that Michael isn’t a journalist; he’s a paid shill who has to kiss the a@@ of showrunners to get the access he needs, but still. Blatant lies should not be tolerated.

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