Rating: 3 out of 5
The past few weeks have revealed a number of noteworthy controversies and shake-ups within the showrunners of this latest season of Big Little Lies. I was hot on the first three episodes, the addition of Meryl Streep was ingenious, she is cunning, stubborn, unforgiving and most dangerously she can sniff out the bullshit in Monterey Bay without even trying that hard. For the following three episodes I do not share quite the same positive feelings. Andrea Arnold’s presence is greatly diminished in these later episodes and the series takes a hard dive into stagnation. So few of the plots move forward in meaningful ways and the characters run the risk of ending season two in a very similar spot in which they concluded the first season.’
There are some easy highlights from these episodes, Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman) and Mary Louise Wright finally grow physical with one another to the boiling point of violence while Mary Louise attempts to wedge herself into the lives of Ziggy and Jane Chapman, victims and consequences of her sons dark sexual life. The Jane Chapman romance (Shailene Woody) has become increasingly interesting as her new beau’s motives are called into question, yet she is still not receiving the screen time or attention she deserves. Celeste’s court testimony make for some gut-wrenching scenes, this is where Arnold’s vision is perhaps still occasionally felt, Celeste is only being condemned due to the societal standards that every character in the show fails to uphold internally but is able to sustain in appearance, there are no “bad mother’s” just people holding their image together better than others.
Laura Dern continues to stun as Renata Klein, her dungbeetle of a husband is still around and she’s not very happy about it, she’s in a frightening limbo where she no longer knows which image she needs to preserve and the one she can is becoming increasingly inaccessible to her. Madeline and Ed have been wading through the muddy waters of almost-divorce and I’m with Madeleine when she says “If you’re going to leave me just do it already”, even for Ed’s fiercely lovable beta-male persona he’s taking entirely too long to either cheat on his wife, get back together with her or beat up her ex-husband, all options would be welcome just as long as something happens. The children have taken on a reduced importance in this season which is a shame, because one of the strongest ties binding these mothers in the first season was there children, they don’t lie simply for the sake of themselves, they do it so their children can have seemingly normal childhoods, and continue to engage in the privileged yet conflicted lifestyle that Monterey Bay provides.
Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) is arguably one of the shows greatest triumphs. She was a season one character whose importance only drew attention in the seasons final minutes but she has quickly become one of the most troubled and sympathetic characters in season two. She is a good person. When Kant was searching for a pure good will, Bonnie is the type of human he had in mind, even her “murder” was one of a distinctly moral high ground, some might call it revenge others may say a happy accident. Watching her wrestle with the lie she has to live and pretend to be is always a tension-fueled and uncertain experience, she could crack at any moment, the women around her have built their existence on falsities and half-truths but for her this is new territory. This continues to be a show after the late Nicolas Ray’s own heart, season two takes the themes of repressed physical violence and expands upon them, arguing that perhaps they are not innate but inherent, the products of our parents expression or lack thereof.
This season is not shaping up to be a flawless viewing experience and the “Arnold-cut” would be incredible to view but as is, Big Little Lies remains ludicrously watchable and incredibly well-acted television. Week after week the actresses bring it. Even when the scripts and showrunners don’t always support quality, the ladies on this show hold it together. Big Little Lies with a lesser caliber of talent would be inconceivable. No soap-opera has this budget or attention to detail, but perhaps they should. As the season builds towards it’s finale, a show that probably shouldn’t have received a second season, continues to be entertaining, dramatic and bold television but not without its shortcomings.