With four episodes down and three to go, Big Little Lies looks to be heading towards a scintillating and conflict-driven finale. With this weeks installment spending most of its time drawing clear battle lines, the show looks geared up to deliver on its final three episodes.
In true Big Little Lies fashion, episode 4 starts off with a seemingly innocent conversation that contains no shortage of sinister wink winks and “they’re saying this but really mean that” dialogue. From one of Celeste’s sons stabbing his pumpkin in the head to Bonnie remarking “there are no gangs in Monterey,” the opening scene features some of the less subtle double meaning dialogue on a season chock full of it. This episode is filled with well placed moments of intense drama and narrative implications. It is no small deal that in an episode with instances as intense as Celeste slapping an ever more smug, ever more evil Mary Louise in the face, the most intense sequence (and maybe the best so far this season) is the disco party. From the costume design to the writing, to the understated direction, and glorious use of juxtaposition, this whole sequence feels like perfect midway blow off of a lot of the steam established so far this season. Instances like Ed drawing attention towards the inherent fake-ness of the proceedings are utilized perfectly to bookend the dark humor of the scene. With all the main cast present and firing on all cylinders, this scene serves as an intricate commentary on the lifestyle these people live.
For the first time this season, the camera turns a judgmental eye towards the so-called Monterey five as it addresses their penchants for throwing money and a fake smile at their problems (Renata and Madeline) and their deep-seated guilt and unhealthy methods of coping (Bonnie and Celeste). In an effort to throw some love towards a group who does not get enough, the costume designers of this episode need to be addressed. All the characters are perfectly overdoing their 70’s style costumes as they hilarious cover their problems with wigs and clothes in the interest of showing out for the birthday of a fourth grader. Whoever decided Adam Scott’s Ed should be in a fake mustache and Afro wig as he awkwardly pouts about his wife’s infidelity deserves a raise for the picture perfect moment that created. Other highlights of this sequence include Laura Dern’s incredible performance, the first signs of tension between Madeline and Celeste, and more Ed and Bonnie “something might be going on there” clues that definitely catch the eye of both Nathan and Madeline.
Once again, the direction, editing, acting, and writing all lend themselves towards creating a narratively tight and emotionally gripping episode. The overarching theme of parental guidance and where it leads is still at the forefront of every plot point. At the end of this week’s forty-five minutes, we are left wondering who Jane is going to side within the Mary Louise v. Celeste battle for the boys. Also, whether or not Bonnie’s mother is psychic or if it is, instead, her own belief in the supernatural as a problem solver that has led Bonnie towards being emotionally distant and unable to cope with certain ills in her life. In other words, the writing leaves a lot to unpack. From an editing perspective, clever quick cutaways were the staple this week when it came to displaying the emotional breakdown of the five leading ladies. Whether it was Jane’s horrific flashbacks, Renata seeing her daughter in the mirror, or Celeste seeing Perry peering around the corner, each instance of hallucination lends itself towards a Lynchian sense of dread and detachment from reality amongst the main cast.
With so much to establish and so little left to go, this episode could have felt overdone, and jam-packed with exposition but instead its utilization of small hints and prods forward make it a well-paced, never dull installment to an already scintillating season.