When I think of Big Love's fourth season, I imagine a train on a mountain pass. The conductor, for unknown reasons, decides to increase speed even though there is a decline soon. Once the train reaches the decline, it's already picked up plenty of speed and begins to barrel downwards. At this point, there's nothing the conductor can do but try and keep control. There's no use, however, as the train goes off the tracks and later flies off a cliff. Somehow, all the passengers are still alive, groggy but otherwise in good condition.
Here we are at the beginning of the fifth and final season, with the Hendricksons fully revealed to the public. Every member of the family, from Bill in the State Senate to the kids in school, is ostracized and/or terrorized. The poisonous climate drives the family further and further apart, as Barb turns to alcohol, Nicki dives into her self-righteous hypocrisy, and Margene flounders without her job. What I like most about Big Love is when the wives are together and talk about things, and "Winter" certainly delivers in that regard.
On the other hand, it wouldn't be a Big Love review without some Bill bashing. Right at the beginning of the episode, Bill manages to pull this gem from his ass. Talking about Margene, he says, "We need to give her a little love and care, just didn't think she'd have so much trouble with the publicity, I mean of all people." You mean you didn't think she'd mind being called names? After Bill fires a disrespectful employee, Don tries to reason with Bill, saying that they are already low on man power and that he is popular. Bill goes in to jackass mode and blows him off.
Later, Don confronts Bill and Bill finally breaks down, admitting that he's caused grief to so many people over his dreams. The problem with Bill's big speech to Don, despite his own admission of guilt, is that he'll probably be back in the public spotlight again trying to get others to respect him. Actions speak louder than words and Bill hasn't shown any sort of decency yet.
You know, Bill, if you were truly sorry for all the shit you've put everyone through, you'd resign your senate seat, move away, and hide with your family in a remote location where no one can bother you. But no, you're a self-absorbed ass who wants everyone to accept your beliefs and you're willing to drag your family through the mud to get there.
There was very little of the ridiculous Juniper Creep stuff, but we see Alby stewing in his hatred and Adaleen released from lockup, still with J.J.'s baby, so the writers haven't forgotten about them completely.
Several polygamists show up at the end of the episode to express their support for Bill. It's not much, but considering all bad things that have happened, it's better than nothing. If this snowballs the way the fourth season plots did, this can end very, very badly. Imagine: Bill gathers enough support from polygamist families who come out of the woodwork, starts his own polygamist compound, and essentially becomes Roman Grant.
As an individual episode, "Winter" was a tad above average, without too many highs or lows. There are plots and conflicts set up for the rest of the season, and they all seem fine so far. It's up to the writers to develop them and avoid what happened last season.