***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Big Little Lies through Season 2 Episode 2 follow. Spoilers***
As the wonderfully terrible Edgar Allan Poe story goes, somebody — maybe everybody — is going to break, and we’re all just sitting around waiting to witness that eventuality. Between the soul-crushing guilt that Bonnie can hardly bear to carry another day to Renata’s paranoia; from Mary Louise’s endless poking and Maddie-jabbing to Celeste’s broken-hearted trauma, these five women who share such an awful bond all teeter on the edge of … everything.
Spurred by her daughter’s not-so-big-boy husband’s call, Bonnie’s mother Elizabeth (Crystal Fox), who can hardly hide her disdain for Nathan, pays a somewhat unwelcome visit that only makes things worse. Spectacularly dressing down her son-in-law because it’s obvious what event (though Howard obviously doesn’t know the whole story) sent her daughter spiraling, Elizabeth attempts to help out with a little witchcraft, but no one can save Bonnie from her own conscience.
Similarly and even though her husband is physically gone, Celeste is still stuck in the psychological cycle of abuse that kept her trapped in a violent marriage so long. Though she can play Dr. Reisman’s wouldn’t-you-protect-your-friend in-an-abusive-situation? game and she’ll not allow her sons to follow their father’s path, between Celeste’s internal struggle and Mary Louise’s constant manipulations, Wright is teetering on the edge in more ways than one. And speaking of Grandma …
… Meryl Streep continues to dominate in every way — though Reese Witherspoon is a fierce force to reckon with. Every single scene between Madeline and Mary Louise is delightful, deliciously wicked, and only whets our appetites for another such scene. Still, the waving away of her son’s violent nature and Celeste’s desperate (too-forgiving) confessions about the nature of the Wright’s marital relationship was as heartbreaking for viewers as it must have been for Celeste. And perhaps hidden in Mary Louise’s rationalizing and denials is yet another dark secret … what happened to Perry’s younger brother — or should I ask who happened to him?
In alternate, multiple tragedies — and again giving Laura Dern the chance to shine like the magical diamond she truly is — just as Renata is celebrating landing a big magazine cover, Gordon is arrested for financial fraud and drops the news he’s squandered her individual fortune along with their shared assets. What follows is as glorious as Streep’s angry scream last week over Perry’s death, as Renata absolutely melts down and rages at her husband, “I WILL NOT NOT BE RICH!” Clearly and rightfully, all the Emmys will again be thrown at this powerhouse series.
As if that weren’t enough to bring the group to their collective knees, in the hour’s back half, Madeline suffers two simultaneous strikes that affect her whole family and two others. Having overheard a phone conversation, Chloe spilled (like mother, like daughters) the news to Ziggy, Josh and Max that they’re all siblings … and Ed overhears Abigail and Madeline discussing that little affair Maddie had with the theater director. Were this hour translated to an episode of the recently departed Game of Thrones, it felt very “The Winds of Winter“, as wildfire spread through the tunnels beneath King’s Landing and like Lancel, there was nothing we could do but watch the flames catch and engulf everything in their path.
The truth is unstoppable and whether by a single confession, the breakdown of some involved in the pact, or simply the pressure on all these women, the circumstances of Perry Wright’s death will come to light.
While each actress on this show is in her own way phenomenal, I can’t heap enough praise on Laura Dern and Meryl Streep. They both manage to transcend, and that is not in any way a slight on the rest of the group.
I loved the warm montage of Celeste and Jane blending their families, and I hope this sticks. Even when their secrets come out, it is in their holding together as friends that feels real and keeps us watching. That scene of them all sharing heartbreak, tragedy, and kindness felt so real and true.
Conversely, I’m not thrilled with Celeste’s therapist, either her methods or her advice. That little acting out bit that is supposed to illustrate a point for Celeste only created more trauma, both in the office and at home. And why on earth is that office so dark?
Adam Scott is excellent this hour, and Ed’s reaction to the news of Madeline’s secrets and affair was crushing.
Songs This Hour:
Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Down By the River
Brenton Wood, Great Big Bundle of Love
Charles Bradley (featuring Menahan Street Band), Let Love Stand a Chance
Alpha, Somewhere Not Here
Jimmy Ruffin, What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted
Elle King, Good Thing Gone
Sufjan Stevens, Redford
Villagers, The Wonder of You