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Big Little Lies Season 2 Premiere: ‘What Have They Done?”

Can the second season escape last season’s shadow?

Warning! Spoilers for Little Big Lies ahead!

The second season of Big Little Lies has big shoes to fill. The debut season was a critical darling that garnered many awards. Earning accolades for acting and writing, the show featured a strong story and performances over seven engaging episodes. Even though it was called a miniseries, another season seemed inevitable. Now that it is here, can the HBO hit avoid the dreaded sophomore slump?

The story so far: The first season of Big Little Lies introduced audiences to Madeline Martha Mackenzie, Celeste Wright, and Jane Chapman. The three live in affluent Monterey, California. The season is about a murder mystery, an accusation involving a choking at an elementary school, and themes of control and abuse.  The shocking ending to season one reveals one of Celeste’s twin sons is responsible for attacking a fellow student and Celeste’s abusive husband, Perry is revealed to have raped Jane. This ends with Bonnie Carlson murdering him. The women tell the police his death was an accident and move on with their lives.

The acting in Big Little Lies is phenomenal. It would not be a stretch to call it the best acted show on television. Each scene seems to bring a new highlight. This is no surprise considering the cast includes Meryl Streep, Reese Wetherspoon, and Laura Dern. Somehow each performance stands out and never lets the viewer take any moment for granted. 

Dern returns as Renata Klein and is just as dynamic as she was in the first season. Renata is a powerful women who is also a very concerned parent. In the same episode, viewers could hate her while at the same time thinking they would do the exact same thing. The second season premiere gives more of the same. Renata has found new friends, but that still does not prevent her from dressing down her daughter’s new teacher. 

Streep plays the passive aggressive Mary Louise Wright and is a wonderful addition to the show. In an episode filled with outstanding moments, the ones with Mary Louise may be the most memorable. She is incredibly funny while also being someone a person would not want to spend too much time with. It is a risk adding such a powerful voice to the already strong cast, but it works.

Strong acting can be rendered useless without an interesting story. Big Little Lies was in a particularly difficult place. The first season seemed to wrap up the story very well. Was there anything interesting left to say?

The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Mysteries were resolved at the end of the premiere season and now season two is going to deal with the aftermath. There is still the death of Percy to deal with. Thought it appears the police have accepted it was not murder, the always gossipy town have taken to calling the group the “Monterey Five”. It is also clear that Mary Louise’s reason for being around may be more than taking care of her grandsons.

The second season looks like it is going to be as deep as the previous one. There will be more to the show than whether someone is allowed to get away with murder. The women still have their lives to live which include their own struggles. Regret, parenthood, image, and the future are some of the things the premiere episode touches on. Each seems equally important making the entire show better.

A great example are the scenes between Celeste and her psychiatrist. The one weakness of last season may have been the interactions between the two. They were important to the overall story, but the moments themselves came off as flat. This has already been improved upon. When Celeste sees Dr. Reisman in ‘What Have They Done?” their conversation is much more interesting. It also adds to something previously explored.

Season two of Big Little Lies is off to a great start. The show retains its biting wit and engaging story with a new conflict to deal with. Meryl Streep has already proven to be a great addition and there is some interesting potential foreshadowing. The show’s first season certainly casts a very long shadow, but this season looks ready to improve on it.

Big Little Lies S2 E1: 'What Have They Done?"
Is it good?
A strong premiere that sets up the next story arc. An engaging story and strong performances are the show's highlights.
Music and director add to great atmospheric setting
Strong performances from the entire cast
Great writing
Improves and adds upon first season
It worked the first season, but how will all the strong screen presences mesh?
9.5
Great
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