Big Love’s seventh episode of its second season, “Good Guys and Bad Guys,” written by series creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer and directed by Michael Lehmann (yes, the Heathers director), bounced back and forth between the series’ best and worst impulses, often irritatingly. Even the scenes at Juniper Creek, often the series’ Achilles’ heel, bounced back and forth between very good and overstated and over-obvious. The war between the two sects of polygamists arrived as promised, and if it wasn’t quite as bad as the audience might have feared, it didn’t work entirely, either.
At least the episode crystallized the season as being the Ginnifer Goodwin show. The other actors have all turned in great performances from week to week, but Goodwin has taken her character, Margie, to new heights this year. From her adoring glances toward her mother during that awkward get-to-know-the-family-you-don’t-know-is-my-family meal to her near meltdown when Nicki (Chloë Sevigny) outed the Henricksons as polygamists to Margie’s mother, Goodwin took her meatiest script yet and knocked everything she was given out of the park. It’s rare to have a show that has, effectively, four lead characters, but the one thing Big Love does better than just about anybody else is balancing those characters and their storylines. The show has subtly shown the selfishness of Bill (Bill Paxton), increased Barb’s (Jeanne Tripplehorn) claustrophobia, redeemed Nicki’s shrewish character from the first season and given Margie more to do, all without losing track of the other leads (or the Henrickson children).