This penultimate episode of Big Little Lies has been overshadowed by news of the production problems behind the camera. According to reports, season two director Andrea Arnold’s vision has been distorted to fit the visual style of season one director Jean-Marc Vallée, which is unfortunate to say the least, because while this season began with a bang and has tackled some deeply thoughtful material in its sophomore run, it has recently begun to suffer from a disjointed narrative. Scenes shuffle in rapidly edited form, which leads to a sense of bemusement when none is remotely necessary. That confusion is more disappointing than anything else because there is so much good here that I cannot help but wait eagerly for the next installment.
“It’s getting to you, isn’t it?” Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) asked Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) but that question could be applied to any of our characters. Everyone is buckling and cracking apart because the mirages they built for themselves are shaking so strongly that it seems almost inevitable that they come crashing around their heads. Bonnie herself confesses to her mother but it remains to see if that confession leads to anything else. It is a confession dripping with guilt, anger, and a strong desire to want to be cleansed and see what the future holds for her after that.
Celeste (Nicole Kidman) is trying her best to steel herself together and in a way she does, making her most drastic and decisive decision yet at the episode’s closing. She requests that as an attorney, she be given the chance to cross-examine Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) to see if she herself is fit to be a guardian of her children. The judge’s potential decision at that moment is cut off. It is a soapy twist for a show that has embraced those elements, albeit sometimes at a distance, but it is thematically fitting perhaps for Celeste to want to have an opportunity to cross examine a woman who has brought such misery upon her life. Perhaps she wants to know why there was such cruelty in her husband. It’s reasonable that she believes that there simply will not be a better opportunity to know. Maybe it’s also a strong desire for vengeance.
There is only more episode of Big Little Lies left this season. If next week is the series finale, then there are quite a few threads that need to be wrapped, along with quite a few secrets, and several confessions in dramatic fashions. The revelation of Gordon’s (Jeffrey Nordling) infidelity sent Renata into a delightfully acted scene from Laura Dern but it also signalled that perhaps there is more to this story than one more episode. I don’t know if that would be the best move for this series but if there is more than an hour, I certainly believe that the series could always say some valuable things about our society as it learns how it could be better at telling the stories it has regretfully sidestepped. Hopefully it does so by honouring the value of a storyteller’s vision.
Big Little Moments
- “I know how you feel. It’s like they put us on a list.” The series is at least blithely aware of the racism the majority of its characters likely harbor.
- Celeste’s parental hearing was a devastating critique of how society will weaponize a woman’s sexuality to paint her as being less deserving and whole. Nicole Kidman played that pain beautifully.
- Jane (Shailene Woodley) finally snapping at Mary Louise over her son being a rapist was a gratifying moment. Mary Louise needs to hear and confront the true reality of who her son really was.