ARTS AND LIVING

“Big Little Lies” Gives Little More than Closure this Summer

By Paige Reddington '21 || Issue 149-2

In its return season that aired this summer, “Big Little Lies” catered to fans while still missing the mark on adressing the issues that affect its characters, writes critic Paige Reddington ‘21. Photo courtesy of Una banda di cefali.

Based on Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same title, “Big Little Lies” set out to be a limited series with just one seven-episode season. However, the hype surrounding the show resulted in a season two, giving fans what they begged for. Did the second season live up to its praised predecessor?


After the death of Perry (Alexander Skarsgaard), witnessed by the five women at the show’s center, the police are investigating to find out who killed him, refusing to believe the death was an accidental fall.


Madeline’s (Reese Witherspoon) marriage with Ed (Adam Scott) is deteriorating after he finds out about her affair. Madeline’s not alone, as Renata’s (Laura Dern) marriage also falls apart when her husband Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling) becomes entangled in legal troubles, forcing the family to file for bankruptcy.


Meanwhile, Celeste (Nicole Kidman) is coping with the loss of her abusive husband — Perry — and Jane (Shailene Woodley) seems eager to move on now that he, also her assaulter, is dead. Perry’s mother, Mary Louise (Meryl Streep), shows up, seeming to help Celeste but instead planning to take custody of Celeste’s twins. Through all of this, Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) copes with the reality that she was the one who pushed Perry down the stairs, but she must bury this horrible truth as a result of the lie Madeline originally told the cops — that Perry stumbled and fell.


The second season of “Big Little Lies” is not an essential one, but it does provide us with some of the closure we need after reeling from the drama of the first season’s finale. It does not hold the same thrill — especially since we now know the identities of both the murdered and the murderer. It loses the quality of leaving more to be desired that made the first season so well-received.


The first season cultivated this trait through its rich web of characters; we grew attached to these characters and would not rest until we knew that everything would be okay. And the second season came along because fans needed more answers as to why they behaved the way they did in season one.


While character development in the second season remains relatively extensive, certain stretches in the plot that attempted to create this closure actually took away some of the suspense and believability, instead imparting questions and confusion.


In the dramatic custody trial between Mary Louise and Celeste for the twins, Celeste shows a video of Perry beating her the twins supposedly took.


However, in season one, Celeste seemed sure that the twins had never witnessed the violence and ensured it occurred behind closed doors. And even if the twins bore witness to the violence, I find it hard to believe, at such a young age, that their natural response would be to whip out their iPhones and film such an atrocious act.


The plot line falters once again when Tori (Sarah Sokolovic), the theater director Joseph’s wife, meets up with Ed for a coffee date at Starbucks, where she suggests they should begin a sexual relationship as revenge for Madeline and Joseph’s affair. Ed even seems to consider the offer. While this world of “Big Little Lies” does include many surprising acts, I desperately wanted to believe that these two characters were better than considering this act of revenge. This plot line attempts to show some maturity in Ed, as he eventually decides to turn down Tori’s offer and rekindle his marriage, but it simply stretches the plot in an attempt to give us closure.


Instead, I was thrown out of the plot and into disbelief that these adults would resort to juvenile tactics in order to move on, which did not exhibit much growth for me.


But in the end, Ed and Madeline renew their vows. In an emotional court battle, Celeste triumphs, retaining full custody of the twins over Mary Louise. Jane and Ziggy finally find stability and happiness in Jane’s new job and relationship. And Renata, despite the damage Gordon has done to their marriage, has the last word, ending the season in a refreshing and honest tantrum towards Gordon. I find myself satisfied with these answers.


Though the plot is stretched in a few instances to achieve these moments of closure, each of these characters does eventually tie all their loose ends on the show. Despite the cliff hanger end of season one, the end of season two is comforting, especially after the ups and downs we witness with each of the characters. We know they will be okay, even if the plot line getting there is a little rocky.


However, Bonnie’s character was not done justice. She spends most of the season coping with the truth that she killed a man and hiding this truth from her loved ones. She is isolated from the other characters on the show, particularly the women involved in the lie.


We never fully understand why. Bonnie did murder Perry, but both Jane and Celeste are also coping with traumas. One would suspect that such a trauma would typically bring them even closer, which seems to be the case for everyone but Bonnie. Her mother comes to visit her to help her get through this difficult time, and only she seems to understand her isolation.


She furthermore notes that Bonnie is the only black woman she’s seen in Monterey. While the writers of the show could have explored Bonnie’s isolation in Monterey was a result of her race, they merely brush off this point and leave us confused and wanting more for her character. While this season does offer closure on each of the characters following the murder, the season would have been more memorable had it delved into real issues that would affect the characters in real life.


Even though Kidman and Witherspoon are making big moves for women in the television industry, season two of “Big Little Lies” still shows that there is immense progress to be made.


The show encapsulated powerful and strong women, but there was enormous potential to explore issues that are prevalent and complex, and exploring them on such a popular platform would have called much-needed attention.


Exploring the racial issues of Monterey would have been a way to make the plot line more believable and real, while also exhibiting to a wide audience the racial issues that do occur. I wanted this for Bonnie’s character, and I wanted more depth in the answers for her feelings of isolation in Monterey.


It would not have been a stretch in the plot line and would have only made the show more realistic, and it was the biggest lack of closure and disappointment for me.


While season two of the show attempts to make steps forward for women, it still had immense room for improvement, failing to call any attention to intersectional feminism.