Murder and mayhem on HBO's 'Big Love'

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Ginnifer Goodwin, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny in HBO's

Ginnifer Goodwin, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny in HBO's " Big Love " . HBO / Lacey Terrell Photo Credit: HBO /HBO

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"Big Love" about an ambitious and entangled Utah businessman with three wives, a lot of kids and a mess of problems ended last season with the false prophet of Juniper Creek, Roman Grant (Harry Dean Stanton), stone cold dead. How cold and stonelike will be revealed Sunday. He's strangled by Bill Henrickson's (Bill Paxton) bro, Joey (Shawn Doyle), who was avenging Roman's murder of his betrothed Kathy (Mireille Enos). Roman's son Alby (Matt Ross) - a chip off the old block - also tried to whack dear old Dad in the finale to assume control of his empire.

What Sunday's about: Several key threads, and I'll be brief. Foremost, the Blackfoot Magic Casino - the joint venture between Hendrickson's church and a local Indian tribe - is about to open. But the FBI is breathing down the neck of Bill's semi-estranged wife, Nicki (Chloë Sevigny), because they want to know where her dad, Roman (under indictment), is. For once she can claim deniability - she doesn't know.

Meanwhile, Barb Henrickson (Jeanne Tripplehorn) will be forced to take a more active role in the casino because the tribe suspects Bill has less-than-ethical financial motives.

Bill's third wife, Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin), is making headway as a budding pitchwoman for a shopping channel. Suffice to say, Bill has grander ambitions than running a casino.

My say: "Big Love" can be one of those incredibly rare shows that works as drama or comedy. It's either Chekhov or the Marx Brothers; a sturdy and studious exploration of faith and human affairs . . . or "Duck Soup." Take your pick.

Story lines are so convoluted, mind games so twisted, family ties so fraught and frayed that it all starts to get very silly after a while. But two episodes in, "Big Love" takes a deep breath, as if to say, let's calm down and figure out where we're going from here. And with the chief malefactor out of the way, the show needs a new archvillain. Alby? Who else?

Bottom line: Fans will love every minute - especially Roman's fate.

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Grade: B+

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