Review: Big Little Lies (Season 2)

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Words || Jodie Ramodien

[Contains spoilers for Season 1]

Season 1 of Big Little Lies ended with a hint of foreboding at what was to come. In the wake of the death of Perry, Celeste’s abusive husband, we see the women of Monterey standing contentedly by the seaside, their children playing around them. The final shot of the women, looking joyful and carefree, is through the lens of a pair of binoculars. To an onlooker, their seemingly celebratory behaviour would be suspicious.

This suspicion is embodied when Mary Louise, Perry’s mother, arrives into town like a passive-aggressive hurricane of resentment. If you’re wondering how to add to an already phenomenal talent list which includes Reese Witherspoon, Nichole Kidman, Zoe Kravitz, Shailene Woodley, and Laura Dern, the answer is Meryl Streep. The author of Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty, decided to expand on the story because of the prospect of what a Meryl Streep character could be, even naming the character ‘Mary Louise’ which is Streep’s actual legal name. 

Wherein Season 1 felt like a build-up to something terrible, Season 2 handles the fallout, how does life go on after you cover up a murder? In keeping with the show’s overarching theme of domestic abuse we see how each of the Monterey Five (Madeline, Celeste, Jane, Zoe, Renata) deals with the aftermath; the suspicion, trauma, and guilt. 

Celeste and Perry, whose story was the centrepiece of Season 1 — earning both Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard Emmys — continues in a mournful way in Season 2. Though Perry is gone, his abuse continues to haunt Celeste, something made only more confusing and difficult by the fact that she loved him. Despite one battle being over, Celeste now has to face another one, being believed. There’s a depressing paradox to this aspect of domestic violence. In loving Perry, and in wishing to uphold the facade that her life was good and normal, Celeste constantly tried to conceal the signs and evidence of abuse. Now in coming forward, she battles the disbelief of others that her seemingly perfect husband Perry would be an abuser and a rapist. Much despicable victim-blaming ensues. 

Madeline made her bed last season with the whole sleeping-with-the-music-teacher fiasco and is now uncomfortably lying in it. I still love Madeline though, how can you not? Straight talking, easy to anger, and always reacting in self righteous indignation to pretty much everything and anything. It goes to show how one big-little-lie, cheating on Ed, can destroy a family’s life. 

JANE. Jane and Ziggy had a rough go of it in Season 1 but Season 2 sees Jane further down the path of recovery. Having faced her abuser, she has now moved on to greener pastures, in particular one very good looking Aquarist (Douglas Smith hello). 

In comparison, Bonnie has a hidden wealth of trauma that reawakens in the wake of Perry’s death at her hands. We get a slither of a hint at Bonnie’s less-than-perfect past in Season 1 when Ed asks her to be understanding of Madeline’s behavior to which Bonnie replies to the effect of “everyone’s dealing with something.” Generally, Season 1 Bonnie was an undeveloped side character. Most of what we saw of her was through Madeline’s perspective which made her out to be the too-perfect, young, hot yoga instructor and the new wife of her asshole ex-husband. In Season 2 we see so much deeper into her past, and get the answer to the question of why the hell would an emotionally intelligent woman like Bonnie choose a dickhead like Nathan to marry? A valid question I’ve had since the first season. 

Renata makes this season. She is by far the funniest character. As the newest member of the Monterey Five she proves that she is as formidable as the rest. I don’t want to say too much on Renata lest I spoil any of her scenes. 

In short, go watch Big Little Lies, it’s awesome. Or you know, read the book, reading’s fun also. 

Around graduation time you might see Liane Moriaty’s name floating on the banners around campus. This is because SHE WENT TO MACQUARIE UNIVERSITY. If you’re an Arts student like myself this is a fun fact to say as a way to validate the worth of your degree. 

Liane entered into the Masters of Creative Writing program in 2003 which was supervised by the current convenor of Creative Writing at Macquarie Uni, Marcelle Freiman. During this program she worked on piece called A Room of One’s Own which was set on the North Shore of Sydney. Soon after this she submitted the manuscript to an agent and the publisher Pan Macmillan picked it up and published it under the name Three Wishes within the same year. The book quickly became an international success and went to the top of The New York Times Best Seller List. 

Big Little Lies also had its roots in Sydney being set in Pirriwee, a fictionalised suburb based in the Northern Beaches area. The translation to an American context definitely works with a similarly elitist society being depicted in Monterey, California. However, how cool would it have been to see the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Zoe Kravitz traipsing about Sydney and doing their best Australian accents? An accent which, by the way, Meryl has apparently already attempted in the 1988 film Evil Angels. It could have been a possibility is what I’m saying. 

There’s no plan yet for a Season 3 of Big Little Lies and there doesn’t need to be. Season 2 perfectly concludes the run on this limited series.