WARNING: If you haven’t binged this series yet, bookmark this review because spoilers.
The second season of HBO’s breakout hit, Big Little Lies, picks up right where the previous season left off. Our leads, now known as “The Monterey Five,” have agreed to keep the secret of Perry’s cause of death in order to protect Bonnie, but at what cost?
With the added pressure of newcomer Mary Louise, a suspicious detective, and prying husbands, will secrets spill out? Those are the questions this season attempts to answer on top of dealing with the everyday problems our characters face.
Does it Need to Exist?
You’d be right to be apprehensive at first when coming into this season. The source material the show was based on had run out (as in, Seasons 7 and 8 of Game of Thrones), so this was entirely new material being helmed by a new director.
With the behind-the-scenes drama that caused the show to be edited drastically different from what was originally intended, it’s a miracle that it still turned out this great.
Not as good as season one, but a worthy continuation that proves its necessity right from the first episode.
Big Little Lies is a show that thrives on staying raw and true. To just end after Season One and ignore the lasting trauma these women endure would be an injustice to that. In real life, these women don’t just have a nice beach day and forget about the past while becoming best friends.
For anyone who has dealt with grief, guilt, and societal pressures, you can see yourself in each of these characters. This show doesn’t shy away from those associated feelings either. We get to see how it festers in these women’s heads and slowly eats them up, allowing for such honest and heartbreaking performances from the entire cast.
Season Two is Great
There are two reasons this show continues to be engaging, even through some minor hiccups. The characters and the actresses playing them. The television academy must hate this show, because every other episode you’ll have a new favorite performance.
Whether its Meryl Streep’s quietly instigating and frightening presence or Laura Dern being gloriously unhinged, there’s no clear standout and that’s a good thing.
Each of these women get to play such layered and well-rounded characters. Even when the show doesn’t seem to have a clear drive, it’s so easy to fall into these performances and struggle along with these characters who feel so real that it hurts.
With great characters comes both great performances and great writing that is easy to spot throughout this season.
The main connective tissue of the plot threads this season leads to the relationship the children have with their parents.
- Madeline’s parents messed up their marriage so now she feels like she can never be happy.
- Renata’s constant stress starts to give her daughter anxiety.
- Bonnie’s mother abused her as a child, building up so much anger in her and morphing her into who she is today.
- Jane’s child is the product of a rape so she’s constantly trying to make him feel like he’s more than that.
- Most importantly is the relationship between Celeste and the twins and how Mary Louise fits into that.
The plot line that starts to appear later in the season is Mary Louise attempting to take custody of Celeste’s children as she sees her unfit to be a mother in the wake of her husband’s death. It’s a very complicated situation that illustrates how the show is able to tackle trauma and grief in ways where nobody is the hero.
Celeste is a mess, as she she should be, and then add in two kids plus a dead abusive husband they still idolize? She doesn’t even know what to do, and who would?! She makes mistakes and Mary Louise tries to exploit each of them.
There’s one reason Mary Louise doesn’t end up with the kids and that’s because her parenting track record isn’t great. She mothered the man who raped Jane and who almost killed Celeste. She killed one of her sons in a car crash, and despite all this, she never takes responsibility.
This is the most stunning example of how our actions as parents and how we deal with trauma will forever change us as human beings.
Still Not as Great as Season One
Like I said earlier, this season isn’t as good as the first, even though it’s close.
The editing was one of the best parts of Season One. Conversely, that is probably the worst aspect of this season. The episodes do not have a visible structure. We bounce from scene-to-scene making the entire new season as tight and cohesive as the first.
This season sometimes lacks a drive. There’s also some questionable threads that feel out of nowhere like Ed and the reasonable woman who suddenly turned psycho. The best episode of this season is the most structured episode — Episode Three.
It has a drive in its commentary on climate change and how much we should tell our kids about this terrible world while also drawing emotions from the weakening bond between Ed and Madeline which leads to her heartbreaking monologue about how perfection is a fantasy. It is densely written and fast-paced while also being thought provoking and emotional, which is everything I love about this show.
In summary, despite some nitpicks, Big Little Lies 2 is another great season of television that ends in the most satisfying way possible. In a show all about secrets and scandals, it ends with all of the leads finally cutting through the bullshit and refusing to let the past define or control them anymore.
A show all about the lies, ends with the truth. I couldn’t think of a more poetic way to end what is now one of my all time favorite series.
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