'Big Little Lies' season 2 focuses on Renata's pain in a whole new manner, breaks stereotypes of women in power
This contains spoilers for season 2, episode 2.
Season 2 of HBO's Big Little Lies might have gifted us with the scary, intimidating and extremely conspicuous Mary Louise Wright, played by the exquisite Meryl Streep. But the season also gifted us with a side of Renata Klein that shows pain in a very unseen manner. In that, the character played to perfection by Laura Dern is not only a vivid contrast from the motherly, affectionate roles we are accustomed to seeing her in, but also channeled an insane amount of infectious energy when her entire world came crashing down - something that even ardent viewers of the show will find unusual but unique for her.
In short, Renata is obsessed with assets. And when we say assets, we just mean the extravagant life she has built around herself, thanks to the high-powered job as an executive, which she aces. . Renata has a lot of money - more than the rest of the Monterey Five combined, probably. But all of this is her hard earned money - something she has spent her entire life acquiring. Unlike the rest of the group, Renata has an extremely demanding career outside her home life - something that also leads to her feeling ostracised by her friends circle. But even with her posing for top magazine covers and basking in the glory of resplendence, she is grounded by the rest of the Monterey Five by her involvement in the accidental murder of Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgard.)
Yet, leaving all that aside, what Renata seemingly holds dearest, is her money. So when the FBI arrests her husband, Gordon, for fraud, and she finds out that he had also wasted all of her life's independent savings in the same, she blasts him. She doesn't hold back during their conversation in the jail, as she reminds her husband, and very sternly so, "I will not, not be rich." And while her anger and rage is every bit understandable, it is her pain and grief acquired from losing all of her money is what stands out.
The reason why Renata grieving over her money becomes significant is that she treasures her money not just for material reasons. In the same episode, Renata tells Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) that her purpose behind working so hard to acquire what she has so far was to escape from her troubled childhood. Despite her expensive outfits and over-the-top house in Monterey, California, at the end of the day, she sees her wealth as a symbol of how far she has come - all that she has achieved. So to lose it all was nothing short of losing a loved one, as materialistic as that might sound to many.
As a reaction, she does shriek and scream, like the typical man in power stereotype on the screen. But then we see her in the courtroom, feeling so small as she imagines everybody laughing at her, mocking her misfortune owing to the predicament she has landed in. So far we have seen Renata as the fierce, rich mother who can take down anybody and shut everyone up with her money. But in season 2, episode 2, we see Renata's pain taken seriously. From kicking her husband out of the car to shrieking at honking vehicles, yelling at them to "give a woman a moment!” - Renata goes on a very out-of-character spiral because the one thing she valued the most, the one thing that actually made her feel strong, was taken away from her.
Things get absolutely heartbreaking even amidst all of the quippy comebacks Renata shoots at people testing her in dire times like these when we see her in her final shot of the episode. Cuddling her daughter, Renata squeezes her eyes shut - almost as if blocking out the rest of the world that perhaps sees her as a rich woman scorned. But her pain is so much more valid than just that. In that one shot, 'Big Little Lies' breaks stereotypes and defies all societal norms associated with women in power.
'Big Little Lies' season 2 airs on Sundays, at 9pm, only on HBO.