Series finales are always a big gamble. After five seasons, HBO's polygamy series "Big Love" went off the air Sunday night with a bang and the requisite reactions have been fast and furious. It was not on the scale of the controversial "Sopranos" show ender but it was bold and it was absolutely final.
Spoiler alert: Stop reading now if you have haven't watched!
Series star Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) dies. He gets shot by a neighbor who resents him for resodding his lawn without asking. "I wonder if you think I can't do that for myself? If you think I'm unworthy or inadequate? I can't take care of my wife?" Cut to Henrickson's three wives in the kitchen preparing an Easter feast. BANG, BANG the polygamist who staunchly defended "the principle" and seemed to believe he was becoming a prophet, is dead.
Bill Paxon wasn't happy about getting killed off according to an interview with the creators of the show that aired on NPR's Fresh Air. Show producer Mark Olsen said that initially Paxon "had trouble that his character was going to die." He said it took the actor awhile to "come around and see it differently."
Olsen explained that they "didn't want Bill to go out a loser or a failure or an unrepentant fundamentalist. And we wanted to find that thing that would render his life's existence the most successful. We felt the greatest testimony to Bill would be that he had created a family that endured."
Not everyone loved the arc of the show and in the end Henrickson's conviction on plural marriage left viewers as confused and conflicted as the show itself. As The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman reflected at the start of the final season, it came down to Henrickson's compassion - or lack there of.
"It was difficult to have any for Bill Henrickson, the polygamist husband who found out that three wives were a lot but not exactly enough," Goodman wrote. "Part of the blame might be that the Henrickson character never gives a compelling argument for plural marriage. Paxton plays him with a certain strictness that doesn't allow anyone to embrace him. Beyond that, the biggest problem might be that polygamy does not elicit sympathy. People think it's "weird," and, well, it's not legal either. "
Indeed, The New York Times titled its review of the finale "A Comeuppance for the Man," and noted that the show concluded "with an unambiguous sense of resolution that "The Sopranos" vetoed." It seems Bill Henrickson had to go. "In the end the writers "chose to kill off their protagonist in a lionizing fashion, almost as if they had grown guilty for spending so much time soliciting our contempt for him," the Times wrote.
But the Los Angeles Times called the finale a "perfect finish."
One thing that everyone can agree on - a gunshot gets people talking and reminiscing about series finales gone by. A look some other recent series finale stunners:
Made in America
The mob war aftermath is brutal, leaving several members injured or dead. Tony Soprano confronts Junior one last time, and tries to deal with returning to normal family life, but the episode ends in a puzzling and stunning black screen at a diner, as Meadow comes to meet Tony, Carmela and Anthony Jr. Did Tony get shot? Nobody seems to be in agreement on what happened.