The Zabriskie Principle: Why the ‘Big Love’ Finale Wasn’t Really a Shocker

It’s so obvious now: Grace Zabriskie is TV’s harbinger of doom

Sunday night's "Big Love" finale goes down as one of the better series enders in recent memory. But lost in the hoopla about the surprise ending is the simple fact that we totally should have seen — spoiler alert! — Bill Henrickson's murder coming.

The reason? His mother was played by Grace Zabriskie.

Zabriskie, of course, came to cultish TV prominence on "Twin Peaks" as Sarah Palmer, the twitchy mom of Laura, the high school student whose mysterious killing sets the entire series in motion. That's murdered TV child No. 1.

Later in the 1990s, she turned up in a handful of "Seinfeld" episodes as Mrs. Ross, the visibly smoldering mother of George Constanza's fianceé, Susan. Her daughter's twisted fate on that landmark sitcom? Death by wedding invitation — an improbable result of licking envelope glue that Costanza fully knew to be ancient and potentially harmful. Murdered virtual kid No. 2.

The final scenes of "Big Love" certainly would have lost their punch if Bill Henrickson's wives — who seemed surprised and saddened to find that their husband had been shot to death by a crazed neighbor — had access to Zabriskie's track record with TV offspring. That's because, when seen through the lens of what we'll call the Zabriskie Principle, his untimely demise is entirely predictable. Yet for some reason it was anything but, for even the most jaded of viewers.

All we know is that if the delightfully quirky actress turns up in another series in another maternal role, we're not going to invest five seasons' worth of time into it, because we'll already know how it will end.