- David E. Kelley
- Running Time
- 334 minutes
- Sundays 9pm
- HBO, HBO Canada
For our individual episode reviews of Big Little Lies season two, click here.
“The lie is the friendship”, Madeline tells Celeste in the season finale of Big Little Lies’ second season. She’s referring to the 5-way friendship that formed between them and the three other women who witnessed Celeste’s abusive husband Perry tumble down a set of stairs to his death, setting off a storm of anxiety, blame and…. not much else.
It was hard not to feel a twinge of concern after HBO announced that a second season of Big Little Lies was in the works (conveniently after winning most of the Emmys in the Limited Series category). After all, the first season was based on Liane Moriarty’s book of the same name, so the writers would be going off into unwritten territory, a place that other shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale and Game Of Thrones have navigated with mixed results. But the series also made some big, alluring promises upon its return. The entire cast would be returning for another seven episodes, filmmaker Andrea Arnold would be stepping in as director, and the casting of the legendary Meryl Streep as Celeste’s mother-in-law Mary Louise was enough to make even the biggest skeptics curious.
What made Big Little Lies such an incredible marvel in its first season was the bond formed between the women all in the shadow of the power men held over them, especially regarding Celeste and Jane. The series was always at its best when we watched Madeline and Celeste bond over their lost careers, Jane open up to others about her rape, or even when Renata would snipe insults to the other mothers from behind a large glass of wine. Season two had the women split up more than stuck together, to marinate in the anxiety of the lie all alone.
What could have been some incredible scenes involving these characters dealing with this trauma together, we instead got solo plot lines for each, like Madeline and her marriage, Renata’s financial issues, Bonnie and her mother’s health, Jane attempting to date again, and Celeste at war with Mary Louise. To make things even more confusing, extra scenes were added in that amounted to nothing, like Madeline’s daughter’s reluctance to go to college, or the weird, macho, posturing between Ed and Nathan. Even the introduction of Bonnie’s psychic mother was more disorienting than being an intriguing dive into her character. The scenes between Celeste and Mary Louise, or even Jane opening up to Bonnie about the difficulties of dating after trauma was Big Little Lies at its best, but they were too far and few between.
That being said, you can’t deny the delectability that Big Little Lies provides in pure entertainment thanks to its cast. Streep was a welcome addition to the cast, drowning her scenes in awkward, passive aggressive malice as a mother who refuses to see her son as the monster he truly was, making a deeply engrossing watch. Dern’s Renata is HBO’s reliable GIF-machine, providing her lackluster plot with hilarious and incredible meltdown moments that never got old. Kidman continues to put some of her best work into the show, giving Celeste’s fragility from the previous season a new coat of armor as she deals with the mixed emotions from the loss of her husband and abuser.
The season (and most likely the series) ends with the women getting together one last time to admit their lies to the police, a frustrating move since Celeste literally just won custody of her children that same day, or Madeline had finally patched things up in her marriage. Perhaps it goes to show that these characters are willing to drop everything to support one another, but it didn’t feel earned after an entire season of them working on their own personal dramas. Personally, a third season would be welcome but these last few episodes showed that continuing a story from beyond the source material isn’t so simple.
At least we’ll always have endless GIFs of a screaming Laura Dern.
Follow me on Twitter.