Warning! Spoilers for Big Little Lies below.
The story so far: Mary Louise makes a major decision involving the twins. Renata deals with her financial problems while trying to ensure there are no family problems. Jane continues to get closer to Corey. Ed seems to be moving farther away while Madeline tries to bring them together. Things in Monterrey are becoming more tense. Plus, someone sees dead people.
Violence and it’s far reaching effects has been a theme of Big Little Lies since its first season. Episode five shows just how far away its impact can be felt. Many of the episodes have explored how Celeste’s toxic relationship has impacted her. From her marriage to how she treats her sons, she has been scarred for life following her marriage to Perry. Celeste’s psychiatrist has questioned whether Celeste misses the thrill of the violence while Celeste herself has noted there is something wrong with her and how she liked the abusive marriage.
The custody battle over the twins has further demonstrated Celeste’s volatile temper. It is somewhat understandable. She is a woman who has already lost her husband and stands to lose her children, after all. She has also taken to self medicating to try to cope with what has been happening in her life. Still, her outbursts against Mary Louise seem like more than just normal moments of anger.
BLL has already shown how violent the twins can get with one of the big reveals of the first season basically being a commentary on how violence begets violence. Though Perry is no longer in their lives, his influence is still felt on his two boys. Though they act like sweet normal kids for the most part, they are prone to extreme outbursts. More often than not, this anger is directed towards their mother in very disrespectful ways.
Ziggy is also starting to be drawn into the violence of the twin’s world. BLL has gone out of its way to show how Jane’s son is different from the other kids. He is more aware of his surroundings, more in touch with his feelings, and more empathetic than any of the other kids on the show. An unfortunate (and poorly written moment that seems solely intended to shock) with another student leads to the twins bringing out a different side of Ziggy.
It is also interesting to see how Mary Louise factors into the Perry’s violent attitude. More than any episode with the possible exception of the premiere, ‘kill me’ shows Mary Louise at her passive aggressive best. She turns the tables on Renata in a scene that is wonderfully shot and also gets a strong reaction from Madeline after a single comment. What effect this attitude would have on a child – especially one who has lost his brother – is something worth exploring.
The scene between Renata and Mary Louise is well executed though not in the way most viewers would probably expect. Laura Dern and Meryl Streep have been amazing the entire season. Both have brought a biting humor to each of their characters along with powerhouse performances. Having the two of them share the screen for one on one confrontation almost seems like too much attitude to have on the screen at the same time.
Instead of overpowering the audience with the performances, it is the camera work that takes center stage. An overheard shot effectively shows how large Renata’s life and personality are while also showing how empty they have become. When Mary Louise comments on this, Renata has the expected reaction. The beauty of the moment is the show showcases how cunning and mean spirited Mary Louise can be. At the same time, viewers see how vulnerable Renata has become.
The closing montage is great. Though the episode touches on aspects of all of the “Monterrey Five’s” lives, the writing never seems erratic. There may be a lot going on, but everything is headed in the same direction. This becomes apparent in the last moments of the show. Almost every character on BLL is going through a major crisis. Through a a series of quick cuts, the conclusion shows this turmoil, foreshadows what may be coming, and plants seeds of doubt.
Big Little Lies continues to be a fine example of exemplary storytelling after its early season misstep. The show seems to be worrying less about leaning into its more soap operatic elements. There has been a great focus on story development and character progression. The aftermath of the shocking ending to the first season is starting to become a major factor in all the women’s lives. Most tellingly, the show becomes more interesting with each episode.