"You Bring Me Nothing But Heartache"

“You’re irritable Nicki. Try to find time for a nap this afternoon.”

– Rhonda Volmer, “Where There’s a Will” S.1 E.11

Big Love is the greatest show to ever air in the history of television. Even the sociological realism of The Wire, which I have praised in the past, pales after comparison to this exploration of “the Principle” (of plural marriage). It’s a show about how deep-seated conventionality can co-exist with “outrageous” sexual breaches of the Liberal Kinship’s chosen arrangement, the couple-form. Simply put, the show’s greatness is due to loathsome Chloë Sevigny, who plays the buttoned up 2nd wife of the Henrickson family. A “compound” girl through and through, Nicki’s derangement, barely sublimated Mormon rage, paranoia, and composing self-righteousness become the major plot engines of the show. Every single thing she does is appalling. If only HBO didn’t monitor youtube so closely, I’d love to post her soliloquy about the unholiness of oral sex or even her tight-lipped delivery of the following lines as she lays it on the line to her “sister wife” Barbara about the inappropriateness of Barbara’s part-time job as a substitute school teacher. Chloe’s stage presence practically drips with condescension in this scene:

Nicki: If I die and Bill dies, I doubt your commitment to The Principle. And that’s the way I want my children raised, pure and simple.

The only reason you’re able to go off and work is because you have me and Margie here as backstops. I know you hate to hear this, but women are designed to tend to the chicks in the nest, while men go out early to gather worms. Women go out to gather worms, who will take care of the chicks?

Barbara: That’s just not the world we live in.

Nicki: It’s the world we should live in. One mother can’t do it alone. It really does take a village, Barb.

Nicki is the most self-deluded character of any piece of fiction I’ve had the pleasure of reading or watching. A few episodes of her conniving and interference, you’ll either be agreeing with her mother Adaleen’s advice to husband Bill and 1st wife Barb that sometimes it’s necessary to give Nicki a good smack, or you’ll be completely won over by the commitment to a higher cause that allows her to buck any authority presented to her. Her compulsive catalog shopping and secret, out of control, credit card spending are a kick as well.

The writers must have realized they hit a goldmine with Nicki; by the second season, they gave her a Bingo addiction and an opportunity to completely unleash by driving a monster truck over a refrigerator as an aggressive fuck you to her mother. Someone put together a tribute to the insanity that is Nicki’s life, and it’s a shame that for legal reasons they had to dub music in over most of her classic lines.

Also available is the famous cheese scene with Nicki’s father Roman and mother Adaleen.


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