'Big Little Lies' season 2 episode 6 review: A thrilling attempt at instilling fear while tackling the reality of women reporting abuse
Mary Louise's horrifying pursuit in clearing her dead son Perry's name off the sexual abusers' list takes new turns through the custody battle she is fighting with daughter-in-law, Celeste.
This article contains spoilers for season 2 episode 6: 'The Bad Mother'
This week on 'Big Little Lies' we get all the answers. From Jane Chapman's new man Corey's involvement with the police to what Bonnie Carlson was really thinking when she pushed an unsuspecting Perry Wright to his death - everything has been answered in episode 7. But amidst all of that ensues a custody battle so dark and twisted that it's difficult to pick sides with just one person. But mostly, the episode is about instilling a fear in you - a fear for how twisted the people closest to you can get. And much like the title, leaves you hanging with the question, who really is the worst mother of all?
The episode kicks off with Jane (Shailene Woodley) wasting no time in confronting Corey about his little trip to the police. Jane straight up asks her new beau if he is a cop, to which he answers in the negative. Corey talks about how Detective Quinlan asked him to show up and subsequently informs Jane that the authorities know about her past with Perry (Alexander Skarsgard.) But Corey also warns Jane that the police are on to them as they know someone or the other from the Monterey Five is bound to 'crack.' That was the first instance of fear being fed into them, and by extension, viewers too, as the shots are skillfully panned in this segment of the episode, with us finding out at the very end that all this information is being leaked to the cops by our very own Mary Louise (Meryl Streep.)
But Mary Louise's horrifying pursuit in cleaning her deceased son Perry's name off the sexual abusers' list takes new turns when the episode showcases the custody battle she is fighting with her widowed daughter-in-law, Celeste (Nicole Kidman.) From citing her as a mentally unwell mother, Mary Louise's lawyers are now shifting focus to paint her as a dazed, and promiscuous mother. At the custody hearing, the lawyer keeps asking Celeste about the men who have been in and out of her house in the recent past before quickly bringing up the question of whether she enjoyed Perry's abuse. And as this episode instills fear in you about the twisted nature of Mary Louise's vindictive mind, it once again opens the discourse for victim shaming and mothers doing what they do for their kids. “I stayed to survive,” she said after the judge implies she is addicted to sex, and questions why she stayed with her abuser. “I stayed for my boys," she says signifying the very idea behind most women not reporting abuse.
We have seen Mary Louise fiercely protective of her son's memory, but this side to Celeste was not only a powerhouse comeback but also leaves one worried because of the far extremes her love for her children can push her to. But while Big Little Lies has always been a show about mothers doing it all for their children, episode 6 showcases how wrong they can go too when it comes to parenting. Another trip down Bonnie's (Zoe Kravitz) past shows her wanting to suffocate her abusive mother Elizabeth who for some reason wasn't kind to her own child. And later in the episode, after Bonnie almost cracks in the Monterey Five meeting that Celeste calls, we see her seated in her mother's hospital cabin, confessing to the older woman: “When I lunged at him (Perry), I was pushing you. And that push was a long time coming.” That's fear number three, purely for Bonnie's murderous instincts as we already know it was her push that killed Perry.
This episode also showed it was Jane's turn at giving Mary Louise a piece of her mind regarding the custody battle, like Renata (Laura Dern) and Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), have in the past, and of course, Mary Louise turns it into a whole other situation. When Jane tries reasoning with the older woman about Celeste struggling, she asks Jane back if she is struggling too, with her "conscience." Jane's son, whom she conceived after Perry had raped her, also told Mary Louise about Jane having a gun, and instead of being confronted, Mary Louise turns this into a whole other confrontation, suspecting that Jane had moved to Monterey to punish Perry for his abuse. Fear number four - kids and their lack of filters.
In other areas, we have Madeline and Ed trying to reconcile after she tells off Bonnie for being an emotional baby with feelings at their secret meeting. Things are definitely not going great for Renata on the marital front as she discovers their previous nanny has come forward with implications of a sexual relationship with Renata's husband, Gordon. But the one thing we have to look forward to in the coming episode - aka the big season 2 finale - is Celeste's mystery witness that the certified lawyer wants to bring in at the end of her testimony in this latest episode. Let's hope they really are able to save the Monterey Five's case, especially with the detectives being on to Bonnie.
'Big Little Lies' season 2 returns with its season finale on Sunday, July 21, at 9 pm, only on HBO.