Big Little Lies Season 2 Episode 5 is gripping and intense, but sadly only for about the last five minutes.
For a show that has done so much right in the past two years, it is disheartening to have to point out its flaws. While it has come to be known for its clever writing, adept direction, and, of course, flawless performances, this week suffers from a problem that is normally picture perfect; pacing. A lot happens in this week’s episode. With no restraint on spoilers, Bonnie’s mother asks her to kill her, we get a giant clue that Corey may be an undercover agent for the Monterey police department tasked with finding out the true cause of Perry’s death, and Ed heavily considers a vengeful fling to get back at Madeline. The problem is, all of these happen in the final five minutes. Clearly the writing staff plans to use the final two episodes as the go home push that fleshes out all of these intensely dramatic scenarios, but this episode suffers for it and ends up feeling like a placeholder for what is to come.
With that said, there is enough other stuff going on to make the episode not completely dull but B story lines like more violence from the Wright boys (now including Ziggy), Mary Louise being awful for no reason in particular, and Renata putting on a strong face while she melts down inside feel vaguely familiar because they have all happened before. Celeste’s worries over her sons’ penchants for anger was a unique and interesting plot device to highlight the show’s themes on parental control and genetic predispositions for even the most awful traits, but has slowly become more of a cliche at this point. We as an audience are on board with this theme and are ready for it to be fleshed out more, rather than just constantly repeated. The same can be said for Mary Louise’s arc. She is without a doubt the driving force and main antagonist of this season. It is for this reason that it is so disappointing how much they have reduced her character since her introduction. In episode one, she was mysterious and vaguely evil, but her intent was unclear. Now here we are, five episodes later, and she is still bickering with Madeline and sending pot shots at Renata for being poor. Her development has disappointingly stalled at “she’s the bad guy.”
In positives from this week, Jane’s storylines have been some of the strongest of the season and also some of the harshest. Shailene Woodley has thrived in the meatier role her character has taken on. Her traumatic attempts at creating a connection with Corey are so well directed and acted, they are almost hard to watch. Adam Scott has continued to provide comedic relief in a deadpan, straight man way that feels so necessary amongst the more dour topics covered recently. His visit to the hug parade couple’s therapy elicited some of his best eye rolls of the season.
While this episode may not have been the strongest in BLL’s second season, it does set up what looks to be a wild conclusion packed with the development we missed this week.
- Celeste telling her sons all the details of the custody hearing seemed too easy. That will backfire in the next episode.
- Nicole Kidman lets a bit of her natural Aussie accent out while screaming at her lawyer. A rare occurrence in a flawless performance.
- Is Bonnie’s mother actually psychic? I’m getting some Twin Peaks vibes from the constant cuts to drowning imagery.