For weeks I have been writing about how Big Little Lies has been building itself towards a big pay off, and its penultimate episode did everything in its power to prove me right. From intense drama, perfect narrative weaving, and some character development for the ages, the second to last installment of an up and down season was nothing but up.
A common writing cliche is to say the best villains are those you can understand. Meryl Streep’s Mary Louise toes that line and then some. We as an audience always root against her, but you are lying to yourself if you did not, for at least a moment, see things from her perspective during the masterfully shot courtroom interrogation of Celeste. Due in equal parts to Nicole Kidman’s triumphant performance as a deteriorating woman fighting to hold on to all she has left and a surprisingly sinister turn from Denis O’Hare, this scene felt like a true battle. Extra points for some of the best uses of objections in a fictional courtroom. If anything is a cliche at this point, it is the use of an objection in an intense battle of lawyers. This scene, however, turns that notion on its head as it never even bothers cutting to the objector, and has the objections themselves feel meaningless. Some are sustained, some are overruled, and we never even hear the reasons for most of them, but all of that is unimportant as they serve to perfectly portray Celeste’s lawyer’s desperate attempts to save her client from impending doom. They tell us all we need to know; Celeste is losing.
In the same vein as Celeste, the other four member of the Monterrey five are given their own opportunities for breakdowns. Madeline’s comes off as a bit of shock but definitely has been building for the first five episodes, Jane’s is interesting and potentially a nod towards a major twist in her storyline (see Stray Observations), Renata’s is explosive and so perfect as her husband takes over for Nathan as the new biggest dope on the show, and then there is Bonnie’s. Bonnie’s is what needs to be discussed. Bonnie’s is the culmination of everything. Since season one ended, people have both criticized and lauded the decision to have Bonnie as the one to push Perry to his demise. After this week’s episode, it becomes readily apparent why that decision was made. For the first time, we are given a deep dive into the mind of Bonnie, and it cannot be understated how much Zoe Kravitz takes advantage of her moment. From the swerve at the beginning of her confession to the final moments of her admittance, everything about this scene was so perfect because of when it finally came. To hear Bonnie’s story told and to hear how it influenced her decision that night, while she sits at the bedside of her own abuser who recently asked to be killed herself, is a moment of narrative brilliance.
If last week’s episode served to cool down my excitement over what has been such a strong season, this episode did wonders in stoking back up the fire. Big Little Lies second season is heading for a raucous conclusion that feels almost like the pay off to a great pro wrestling storyline as after all the drama, all the betrayal, and all the close calls and back and forths, we finally get to see Celeste V. Mary Louise. The stage is set, and with that picture-perfect side-eye glance in the episode’s final frame, it is unclear if Mary Louise is ready or scared. Either way, it looks to be well worth the price of admission.
- Jane: “I came to Monterrey in search of a good man. A good man who happened to have a bad night.” That isn’t referring to Perry is it? What does that mean? Is Jane’s story about to take a big twist?
- That was a tear from Bonnie’s mother, right? She heard, right?
- Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over” plays twice in this episode, in both a diegetic and non-diegetic capacity. It serves as the end credits song and the soundtrack to Jane visiting Mary Louise to bizarrely repeat her dialogue word for word from a scene in episode five. Does this mean something? Is it a coincidence that one line of the song is “Your baby won’t be near you any more?” I do not think so.
- I’m worried the writer’s have no idea what to do with the Corey character.
- Quick recap of all the the times the dumb kids on this show couldn’t keep their mouths shut:
- Madeline’s daughter told Ziggy he was Perry’s son.
- One of Celeste’s sons told Mary Louise there was a strange man in his mother’s bed.
- Ziggy told Mary Louise Jane owns a gun.
Nice gong, Kids. Nice.