The second season of Big Little Lies concludes with an hour that encapsulates both this season’s strengths and weaknesses. The performances are simply incredible – this series is what it is because its actors so fiercely inhabit every single facet of their characters. The music is on point as always. The writing for these characters is often strong enough to where even when the plot is wavering, the show never feels too stagnant because the audience is genuinely invested in these characters’ lives. The show often has strong things to say about the cycles of abuse and how they intersect with sexism and even when this season seemed to spiral out of control, those powerful scenes remained intact and may very well be this show’s greatest and frankly, well-deserved legacy.
The trouble with the second season is that it has seemed disjointed so often, like a series of beautiful narrative vignettes strung together by the loosest of yarns. The beginning was quite promising but as the season went on, the narrative seemed to lose itself in all of those constant Monterrey waves. A part of the problem was that the reported behind the scenes production mess lent itself to a show so heavily edited in order to fit the vision of a man, that a much touted vision from a woman was lost in the mix. The irony of Andrea Arnold’s voice being lost in a series about the power of women sticking together is not lost on the audience and the show’s choppiness suffers from it as a result.
Things seemed to just happen in this season of Big Little Lies. Scattered amongst them were powerful scenes whose power ironically only seemed to be heightened because the rest of it was lost in the editing. The season finale, perhaps series finale, makes it clear what these characters’ respective journeys were supposed to be, but that also in a further bow to irony only makes it more obvious what we were missing. We were missing a sense of walking alongside each character as they made their journey, which wouldn’t be a problem in a mass ensemble epic series, but that’s not what Big Little Lies is. It’s supposed to be an intimate series about trauma and the power of women who support each other.
The finale is an odd episode that reflects all of that. Celeste (Nicole Kidman) questioning Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) is powerful emotional material, even if it narratively doesn’t make much sense. Madeline’s (Reese Witherspoon) journey comes full circle to her becoming the person she was always chasing and there at least was some sense of time that was properly handled and built. Jane (Shailene Woodley) gets a well-deserved moment of respite whose emotional change is earned. Renata (Laura Dern) steals every scene as always and finally gets to let loose with a baseball bat against her useless husband. Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) is finally able to be honest and leads the moment where it seems that the group of five are going to confess. It is an ending that is thematically faithful even if like much of this season it has lacked the buildup and the power to make it leave a long, lasting impression.
Big Little Moments
- Laura Dern’s pronunciation of “Wrought”
- “Keep your eyes on your own fucking paper, Mary Louise!”
- Nicole Kidman’s pink suit
- Celeste getting custody
- “I’m not in love with you… I’ve never been.”
- Renata’s red suit
- “Maybe you should have shown a woman a little respect!”