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Scott D. Pierce: HBO's 'Big Love' runs off the tracks

Bill (Bill Paxton) confronts J.J. ( Zeljko Ivanek) on "Big Love." The season finale airs Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO.
Bill (Bill Paxton) confronts J.J. ( Zeljko Ivanek) on "Big Love." The season finale airs Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO.
Lacey Terrell, HBO

A few weeks ago, I told you that "Big Love" was having an outstanding season.

I'd like to amend that a bit. Maybe more than a bit.

In the weeks since that Feb. 13 column, it has remained true that "there's been more action and plot in a single episode of 'Big Love' than in the entire third season of 'Mad Men.' " And that the series has "been burning through plot at a remarkable rate."

The problem in recent weeks has become that the plot has careened out of control. Like a train that's run off the track, some crazy things have been happening.

And the plotline that led many of the characters to Mexico turned into a huge train wreck.

It didn't start out that way. When Lois (Grace Zabriskie), Frank (Bruce Dern) and Ben (Douglas Smith) fell into the hands of the murderous Greenes while illegally trafficking in birds south of the border, it was edge-of-your-seat stuff.

(The Greenes are the fictional, "Big Love" equivalent of the murderous, real-life LeBaron clan.)

It even made sense that Joey (Shawn Doyle) wanted to kill Hollis Greene (Luke Askew), given that Hollis was responsible for the death of Joey's fiancee.

And that Bill (Bill Paxton) would try to stop Joey, because all he wanted was to get his parents and his oldest son out of the Greene compound safely.

But the climax of that storyline was, well, ridiculous. Lois picked up a machete and cut off Hollis' arm — declaring, "How dare you lay a hand on my boy!"

It was gross and weird.

And then kind of, well, stupid. Because, instead of grabbing the Hendricksons and just shooting them then and there, the Greenes let them go.

Every television series asks us to suspend disbelief. But this was asking too much.

And now we've got this totally weird, as-yet unexplained thing going on with crazy polygamist J.J. (Zeljko Ivanek), who — we've been told — has impregnated his new wife, Adaleen (Mary Kay Place). And Adaleen used to be his mother-in-law, because J.J. used to be married to Nicky (Chlo?Sevigny).

It's not the ick factor of the weird polygamous relationships that's so hard to take, it's that Adaleen — a woman in her 50s or 60s (Place is 62) is supposed to be pregnant.

Something odd is going on, and it's possible they'll still pull this one out when the season finale airs Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO.

But given recent history — think of Hollis' severed arm laying on the ground — I'm far less confident than I would otherwise be.

On a purely local note, the ongoing political campaign is outrageously ridiculous. Bill's bid for a state senate seat has a higher profile than most actual Utah elections — including congressional and statewide offices other than maybe governor and U.S. senate seats.

Huge campaign headquarters, televised debates, big media buys — it's crazy.

This one we'll have to forgive them for, because anyone outside the state of Utah isn't going to know how crazy it is.

But, at the same time, it was laugh-out-loud funny last week when a huge vote-for-Bill sign hung off the side of the ZCMI Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

The ZCMI Center was, of course, demolished in 2007.

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com