'Big Little Lies' season 2 episode 1 review: Rage, inner conflict, and women in solidarity makes Monterey Five's reunion exciting
Season 2 of Big Little Lies kicked off with heavy themes such as gaslighting, spousal confict, and the biased suspicion of mother-in-laws, being tackled more gracefully than ever.
This contains spoilers for 'Big Little Lies' season 2 episode 1.
A slightly updated title sequence, a riveting cover-up, and a beyond phenomenal Meryl Streep help create the perfect concoction for season 2 of 'Big Little Lies' that premiered this Monday, June 9, on HBO. It has been over a two-year wait for the second season of the Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon starrer after a very successful debut run but the sheer essence of rage and agony acting as underlying catalysts bearing the premiere on its shoulders makes up for all the time spent anticipating. In short, the season 2 premiere is everything we hoped it would be and never for even a split second does it disappoint.
The second season takes a shift from the first one which was based on the Lianne Moriarty book of the same name. The story for season two comes from series creator David E. Kelly but a whiff of the first one is also quite alive in this installment as Moriarty contributed to the plot too, which focuses primarily on the aftermath of the gritty death of a central character that season 1's finale ended on. The finale revealed that Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgard) had raped Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley), thus making him as the father of her child, Ziggy (Iain Armitage). As he was brutally abusing his wife Celeste (Kidman) while she attempted leaving him, the rest of the Monterey Five tried fighting him off, until Bonnie Carlson (Zoe Kravitz) pushed him down the stairs and he was impaled by construction rods, leading to his death.
The second season kicks off with Perry's mother, Mary Louise Wright, aka the season's prime attraction - Streep's character - entering the story as she comes to unravel the mysterious death of her son. This just amps up the risk factor for the Monterey Five as it adds another person on the lookout for their suspicious movements, which only further the thrill of the episode and the season in general.
Shots of Bonnie walking alone on the beach at night, while Celeste is woken up from her nightmares by her mother-in-law, Mary Louise, strike the perfect balance between the two sides of the story. The Monterey Five might think they have gotten away with the 'accidental death' of Perry, but there are people constantly watching them - thus setting up the background for what's about to unfold hereon. The beautifully dysfunctional ladies get on with their lives, driving their kids to school and reuniting with each other, but nothing can beat the curiosity and conviction of a suspicious detective and a scorned mother-in-law - both of which are very, very actively present around the ladies at this point.
But the intense drama and suspense of the premiere episode are also balanced out by subtle jealousy and nuanced rage which we see amply in episode 1 of season 2. On one hand, Tori is trying to get back at Madeline (Witherspoon) for the latter's affair with her husband while on the other hand, Celeste is being comforted by her therapist, Amanda, as the newly widowed character blames herself for her abusive partner's death. Through Celeste, the episode tackles the issue of gaslighting in toxic and abusive relationships, as Amanda's insightful words ring an alarm for all victims in general when she tells Celeste: "Even in death, his message lives on. You're always to blame."
The themes of spousal disconnect and conflict find their way into the episode with Bonnie taking aggressive long runs to contemplate what they did last season, as her husband grows increasingly displeased with her being gone so often. And then we have Renata (Laura Dern) just wanting to do a photo shoot at her home, while her husband Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling) decides to prioritize drinking and working on his model train.
One of the biggest highlights of the episode was Streep channeling her inner Miranda Priestly - her widely acclaimed character in 'The Devil Wears Prada' - as she just goes around being subtly mean and authoritative towards everybody she believes is her daughter-in-law's friend. But don't let the biased mother-in-law appearance deceive you from what the character is truly obsessed with. Like most parents of abusive offsprings, Mary Louise is also blinded by her love for her darling late child, Perry, and she uses that as an excuse to pull off whatever snide behavior she wants to dish. Talk about a reality check, 'Big Little Lies' season 2 isn't holding back at all on that department.
Despite the predicament, they have landed themselves in, at its core, the Monterey Five still represents all that's going for women in solidarity. As Jane tries to comfort Celeste in her own way, even though it's now out in the open that she had slept with Perry, Celeste says 'it's complicated' for her to hate them, or to be even glad that a man as abusive as her late husband is now finally dead. Rage mingles with inner turmoil in this scenario and all of them try to excuse what they have done, but there's no denying that at heart, these women aren't evil. So obviously the stinging reminder of what's right keeps hitting them every now and then. And with a hovering mother-in-law asking questions like "So, who are we going to kill?" it's not hard to imagine why!
'Big Little Lies' premiered on Sunday, June 9, and will air every Sunday at 9 p.m., only on HBO.