Each episode of Big Little Lies brings us closer to the inevitable storm that is going to destroy a lot of lives in Monterey. The anticipation is killing me. We know it’s coming, we know the truth will come out, we just don’t know when. I find myself breathing a sigh of relief after every episode when that moment doesn’t come, as I know I have at least one more week of preparing myself for it. The third episode of Big Little Lies Season 2, “The End of the World,” was very much about what we pass on to our children and how we push ourselves to be better parents (or at least what we think is a better parent).
As well as waiting for the lies to be exposed, I now find myself just craving more and more of Renata (Laura Dern) and her meltdowns. This week didn’t disappoint. Her daughter Amabella was the center of attention at school during Season 1 with the mystery surrounding who was bullying her. Now she has even more problems as she’s collapsed in class from an anxiety attack after learning about climate change and the end of the world. It’s a brave move to put this in the show as it’s a rare thing to see storylines surrounding a child’s mental health in TV shows. Sometimes people think that mental health issues only affect adults, so this could potentially be an eye-opener to people should they continue with Amabella’s story.
Renata is outraged and needs someone to pin the blame on, but perhaps on this occasion she should look a little closer to home. After hiring a child psychologist in the guise of Little Bo-Peep, Renata and Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling) learn that climate change isn’t the only thing that’s bothering their child. After we learned of Gordon’s dodgy dealings last week, Amabella has become increasingly worried that she’ll lose her father when he’s carted off to jail. She’s also noticed something else—something that we probably haven’t yet seen ourselves: a change in Renata’s behavior.
It’s interesting because to us Renata is still the same “Medusa of Monterey” that she always was, with the exception being that she now seems more determined to assert herself as an empowered woman. What change could Amabella be seeing in her mother? Renata probably gets a little less screen time than the others so I suppose there is lots happening off screen that we aren’t privy to yet. Even Gordon is suspicious of what it could be. Amabella is the most precious thing in the world to Renata so it’s natural that she would want to protect her from the bad things in the world. She hasn’t really prepared her for the dangers out there so it was a massive shock to Amabella’s system when she found out that one day the world would end. Renata thinks she’s the perfect mother and is doing what’s best for her child, but what we see in Amabella’s fragile emotional state is that trying to protect her isn’t working. But what we really need to know now is what toll witnessing Perry’s (Alexander Skarsgard) death has really had on Renata.
Renata should take a leaf out of Jane’s (Shailene Woodley) book as she is living her best life at the moment. She’s officially begun dating her work colleague Corey (Douglas Smith) and is taking things at her own pace. When he leans in for a kiss on their first proper date, Jane’s immediate reaction is to step backward and decline—not because she doesn’t want him or the kiss, but because she wants to be in control. Obviously she’s cautious these days when it comes to men. How could she not be after what Perry did to her? This is presumably her first date since Tom in Season 1 so she needs that control.
I wish we’d been given a little information as to where the bloody hell Tom and the Blue Blues Cafe have gone. He was Jane’s date to the trivia night, but he hasn’t been seen or mentioned since. Did she automatically reject him after discovering who raped her, or did he simply walk away? The Season 1 coffee shop was almost a character in itself as it was the place the women spent most of their time together. They loved it there, but now they drink and eat at new places. The original cafe is where the women confided in each other, helped each other, and had fun together. Maybe them not going there anymore is a sign that they aren’t spending the right kind of time together now. They only ever get together to discuss the awful things that have happened; they seemingly don’t get together for fun and normality. Perhaps that’s what they need to begin moving forward, or perhaps Tom was just a bastard to Jane in the end and they all boycotted his cafe.
While Jane does her best to live a happy life, there’s a looming threat to that happiness: Mary Louise (Meryl Streep). She approaches Jane outside work and expresses her doubts over Jane’s side of the story. Not only that, she wants Ziggy to undergo a DNA test so she can prove whether he carries the Wright blood or not. Her reasoning for wanting this test: “I’m presented with the idea that my son is both an adulterer and a rapist. And I am desperate to squash that idea.”
It’s hard to work out what Mary Louise’s true motives are. At first, it appeared that she simply wanted the truth of what happened to her son. Now we’re getting glimpses that this may be more about how this reflects on her as a mother than it is about clearing Perry’s name.
If Mary Louise admits or accepts that her son is a monster, she would only begin to blame herself for doing something wrong in his upbringing. She would feel like she’s failed as a mother. It is heartbreaking that she’s a mother who’s lost both of her children in suspicious circumstances. I’ve seen a lot of people saying they hate the character of Mary Louise and that she’s a horrible person. Are people just hating her because she’s disrupting the lives of the characters we’ve grown to love over the course of the first season? Or are they already blaming her for raising a monster? I like to think that the only thing she’s guilty of is being blind to her son’s dark side. There’s definitely a lot more to the story of Perry’s dead brother (who looks a lot like Ziggy). Did Raymond’s death lead to Perry becoming violent, or did his violence lead to the accident?
Mary Louise is also snooping through Celeste’s (Nicole Kidman) things and is shocked at how many pills she has stashed away. Celeste tells her that some are to help with the pain, especially the pain after Perry had kicked her. Mary Louise quickly dismisses what she’s heard and leaves. She claims that she’s still on Celeste’s side but for her to truly be on her side she seriously needs to consider that the abuse claims are true.
Celeste is so busy convincing Mary Louise of the abuse, yet she herself seems unable to remember how much Perry hurt her. Instead, she’s only allowing herself to concentrate on the good and happy times they had together. She can’t get over what happened or move on because she misses the good times. She doesn’t want Max and Josh to know that their father did bad things so she’s going out of her way to surround them with only happy memories. Watching videos of the fun times might be good for the children (considering their young age), but it certainly isn’t doing Celeste any good. By trying to keep the children happy she’s setting herself up for self-destruct mode. She’s masturbating over old videos of Perry and wishing he was there with her…this isn’t going to end well.
Even her therapist Amanda (Robin Weigert) is having trouble getting through to her. But this week Amanda has a couple of extra additions to her couch as Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Ed (Adam Scott) have sought out help after the collapse of their marriage.
Amanda is keen for the pair to realize that the problem of Madeline’s infidelity isn’t solely her problem. Ed has contributed in some way by not being emotionally present in the relationship, which has perhaps pushed her into seeking attention elsewhere. Neither of them is able to open up during therapy and Ed is naturally still on the defensive. He’s angry and wants to lash out at Madeline for what she’s done.
They touch upon Madeline not going to college, which was something we learned of last week. Her not going resulted in her having a diminished sense of self-worth, which was probably another contributing factor to her having an affair. Something good to come from this is that, while Ed keeps pushing her away, she is now reconnecting and growing closer to her daughter Abigail. Abigail feels guilty for revealing the secret to Ed and is clearly trying to make it up to her mother for doing it. In a way, she’s now becoming the adult that has to look after Madeline during the fallout. Madeline may think she’s failing as a parent if her daughter doesn’t go to college, but she needs to see that her daughter is now a caring and loving adult. Madeline did good!
After Amabella collapsed earlier in the episode due to finding out about the horrors of climate change, Renata has caused a fuss at the school. She doesn’t believe that children so young should be learning about it and so a parent assembly is called. During it, Principal Warren (P.J. Byrne) tells Madeline to get up and give a speech on the subject.
In a show that’s based on the lies we tell in life, it’s more powerful that Madeline’s speech is a rare instance of public truth. She speaks about the lies we tell and how these lies echo into our children’s lives. It’s a really emotional scene and finally gives Reese Witherspoon a chance to showcase her incredible acting range. When she goes on to talk about the rarity of a happy ending, we know that she regrets hurting Ed, but her words fall on deaf ears. In a room filled with people, all Madeline sees is Ed, but all he sees is his anger. He doesn’t get up to comfort her in any way and he completely misses what she’s trying to say to him.
Maybe Ed is a little too busy elsewhere with someone else…
Madeline catches Ed having coffee with Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) and is understandably upset over it. Are they meeting up because Nathan (James Tupper) had asked him to a couple of episodes ago, or has the situation brought them together in some way? Either way, their luncheon appears to be making Bonnie happy. She’s laughing when Madeline arrives and even she is shocked to see her looking well. Last week we saw Bonnie having a moment of normality with Jane and now here she is sharing one with Ed. Bonnie is probably struggling the most out of the Monterey Five, and whether she knows it or not, certain people are really good for her to be around.
She seems to be doing better, but we know she’s still in a bad way. I said last week that the darker dream sequences were getting harder to spot as they appeared more real now. This became even more apparent this week as we saw a daydream within a dream. Whilst remembering her mother dunking her underwater as a child, Bonnie was also imagining herself walking deeper into the ocean. With her mother’s premonitions from last week about somebody drowning I’m starting to question where this will go. Will Bonnie literally commit suicide to escape her struggles or are these visions more a symbol of her feeling like she’s drowning in the lie that she’s told?
It’s getting too tense. The more episodes that pass, the less time we have to prepare for the storm. I’m struggling to see how there can possibly be a happy ending for everyone in the show. With Madeline’s speech telling us that happy endings are a rare thing these days, is she actually just preparing us viewers for an explosive and upsetting end?