'Big Little Lies' season 2 episode 3 explores conservative rape culture and a terrific Madeline breakdown you can't miss
The clouds are getting darker for the Monterey Five without even a visible hope of a silver lining and with the unexpected outbursts, breakdown, the threats just keep coming in from all directions.
This article contains spoilers for episode 3.
Meryl Streep's Mary Louise Wright on season 2 of 'Big Little Lies' says all the things one is specifically not supposed to say to a victim of sexual assault and rape. But there she goes, being symbolic of all that's wrong with the rape culture prevalent in our society and shows how far the older generation - well, some of them at least - still have to go when it comes to the stigma surrounding a survivor, or a former victim. The most recent episode 3 of season 2, 'The End of the World', digs deeper into the Monterey Five as they meander through the consequences of what they did to Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgard), Mary Louise's now dead, abusive son. And clearly, the clouds are getting darker for our leading ladies, without any hope of a silver lining, with unexpected outbursts and breakdowns and threats coming in from all directions.
The episode kicks off with romance blossoming on one end and the good old razzle-dazzle of spousal conflict brewing elsewhere. While Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) tries her hardest to get her husband Ed (Adam Scott) to forgive her for her affair, Renata (Laura Dern), on the other hand, is invested in tackling all that's going on, while keeping her husband Gordon as far away from things as possible, after his major FBI bust. As the two mothers' individual marital issues start taking a toll on their respective children, we see an older generation of mothers trying to make things alright for theirs - something that just might not be the best thing for the Monterey Five. But the only silver lining after months of suppressed torture in the episode was for Jane, as she finally agrees to go out with her coworker Corey (Douglas Smith), even though the slight catch is that the man keeps looking stranger by the day.
Episode 2 introduced Bonnie's (Zoe Kravitz) mother, Elizabeth, to the show and with episode 3, it is established that she has arrived in town to sort things out for her baby. Bonnie has been pulling disappearing acts, consumed by the thoughts of what went down between her, the rest of the Monterey Five and Perry (where she ended up pushing Perry down the stairs and accidentally killed him.) But contrary to her husband's beliefs, this draws in flashbacks of her mother's morbidly extreme ways to teach Bonnie basic life lessons, like swimming. What was supposed to be her mother stepping in just as the right moment to help her cope, instead turns into another stressful scenario for the young woman. But there's another mother who has stepped in to help her now dead son and Mary Louise is not messing around when she asks the detective, “You don’t believe my son just slipped, do you?”
But none of this sympathy or nurturing nature is showed from Mary Louise's end when it comes to accepting the harsh, cold reality of the monster that her dead son was. She continues with her victim shaming nature from the previous episode and even as she suggests Jane's (Shailene Woodley) son Ziggy (Iain Armitage) undergo a paternity test to prove he is Perry's child, Mary Louise manages to shame Jane in the worst way possible. When Jane says there's no doubt about who Ziggy's father is, as she did not sleep with anybody else at the time, Mary Louise curtly says "That you remember." It's everything one is not supposed to say in that scenario, but such is the blinded nature of conservative rape culture. And this is a grieving mother feeling scorned by the death of her son whom people are now marking as a rapist.
It is understandable why Mary Louise is the way she is; despite her sneaking up on Jane and snooping through Celeste's drawers looking for God knows what. But why is Celeste (Nicole Kidman) still so reluctant to let go of her horrible dead husband's memories? At therapy, Celeste is told by Dr. Amanda Reisman (Robin Weigert) that she is holding on to the good memories of Perry exclusively - treating him like a drug, but the newly widowed mother of two admits the truth behind it all in a conversation with Madeline earlier in the episode. “As dead as he is, sometimes I think maybe I’m deader,” Celeste tells her friend and a lot of things are put into perspective.
The truth behind the lies of the Monterey Five took a part of them when they decided to accidentally take Perry's life and the random outbursts and breakdowns they have been facing in season 2 are just further examples of what they have lost to save one of their own.
Which is wonderfully relayed via Madeline's major outburst at a school assembly, after Renata's daughter Amabella suffers a panic attack at school, upon learning about the impending doom climate change is going to unleash on the planet. Madeline is asked to address the issue of climate change over a school assembly, but owing to whatever sh*tshow her life has been currently, she goes on a full-fledged rant about parents lying to their kids to protect them, but instead screwing them up with the facade further. “I think part of the problem is we lie to our kids,” Madeline says, among other things, continuing with: “We fill their heads full of Santa Claus and stories with happy endings when most of us know most endings to most stories f***ing suck. Right?” Right. But not right now, Madeline, just go home. Which she does, and then asks her daughter to get her some wine, which basically has been the mantra of the Monterey Five all this time. Just burst out and suppress, no big deal.
'Big Little Lies' season 2 airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. only on HBO.