As great as the first season of Big Little Lies was, it did suffer from one glaring problem. The show was inconsistent. While the acting never faltered, the story sometimes did. This led to scenes that came off very dry and included an entire episode that felt like filler. The season two premiere seemed to have addressed these issues, but one episode is not the best sample.
The first twenty minutes of episode two moves at a quick pace. This is something of the norm with BLL since it deals with so many characters. Still, the show usually manages to weave between its cast deftly. In ‘tell-tale heart’, the story jumps between a series of major incidents. There is hardly any time for anything to register. Things just happen and then move on. It is almost as if the writers are trying to force in more story than is necessary.
The episode slows down for a while to allow the audience to catch their breath. However, it is a brief respite before a series of shocking moments. The second half of the show is filled with people learning secrets. After trying to wrap their heads around the events of the first part of the show, the audience now goes through a cycle of reveals and outbursts. Two of them are even done in the exact same manner with a character off screen setting up the conflict.
This is quite surprising from a show that has always done a good job of relaying its information. The previous season saw a pointless subplot about Abigail, but nothing ever seemed forced. Yet, that is what happens the entirety of episode two. Along with the odd new storyline that has so far only succeeded at making Renata look materialistic instead of independent, there is a scene about dreams and spiritualism. It is quickly dismissed by one character, but it seems like it will be a major part of the second season.
The end result of all the revelations and outbursts is BLL is watered down to being just another prime time soap opera. There is infidelity and mistrust played out in opulent homes and settings, but there is no charm. The premise of the show was not all that original to begin with. It managed to put its own interesting spin on the complicated lives of the rich. The only thing the separates ‘tell’tale heart’ from The Young and the Restless is its superb acting.
The writing also diminishes the importance of two potentially interesting themes. Last season, BLL briefly brought up how Jane was different than the other rich mothers. This was quickly forgotten about in lieu of the greater mystery. This second episode of this season presented another opportunity to examine the importance of wealth, image, and self esteem using Renata.
Instead, it seems as if the point is to make viwers pity Renata. There is a backstory hinted, but the entire episode makes Renata and her husband come off as conniving and self serving. Treating the ordeal with forced comedy also weakens the importance of everything. It is as if the writing is stuck between showing Renata’s strength while also trying to get a laugh. Renata clearly cares about her daughter, but she seems to have no other redeeming qualities.
Denial has been a big part of BLL. Using Celeste as an avatar for the impact of not facing the truth has been one of the show’s strengths. It was one of the highlights of the premiere and continues to be done well here. What makes the show great is that while Celeste is the face of literal denial, the entire cast of the show is dealing with it in less obvious ways. Introducing yet another character to be in direct opposition to Celeste seems pointless. While it makes sense the character would have these feelings, it also seems like ground that has already been covered.
The second episode of this season of Big Little Lies is very disappointing. Acting wise it is as strong as it ever has been. Pacing and writing negatively impact the show. There are way too many major reveals giving a Melrose Place vibe that the show has never had. The episode alternates between corny and insulting. When Meryl Streep cannot save your writing, you know you have done something wrong.