In Movies & TV Reviews

Renata is NOT happy about the lack of a ice cream toss in Sunday night's episode.

5 takeaways from an ice cream throw-less episode of "Big Little Lies"

Another week, another foreboding episode title for "Big Little Lies": "Kill Me." But this time, it seems to be truly leading toward trouble for the Monterey Five instead of staying at a mild boil. And speaking of trouble, is the HBO hit starting to crumble a bit along with the big lie at the show's center? Grab your ice cream cone: Let's discuss the big takeaways, revelations and questions from Sunday night's latest episode.

1. What was that ending?

Let's start at the ending, mainly because ... what was that? How did one of the best, most interestingly edited shows on television just throw up its hands for the final three minutes and become "Big Little Lies: The Music Video"?

The troubles began before the odd trailer within the episode, as the drama built to Bonnie at the hospital as her mom beginning to say her first post-stroke words to her daughter: "Kill me." A dramatic, nightmarish moment ... almost comically undercut by a soap opera-esque music cue that wouldn't have been out of place on an episode of "Days of Our Lives." The HBO show has always flirted with soapy elements but delivered with an artistry, performance, wit and sophistication to make the bubbles feel more like champagne than Irish Spring. This ... was not that.

Unfortunately, the show followed that up with a messy barrage of clips: Jane surfing, Ed at a bar, Bonnie tempted once again to go to the police station, various others gazing into the middle distance dramatically. Normally, the editing of "Big Little Lies" has a key purpose, using montage to get in characters' minds or memories or even at least setting a tone, but this was just episode salad. A really poorly assembled one at that – so much so I had to rewind the final minutes a few times to actually grasp who Ed saw at the table in the bar or who Bonnie saw leaving the police station. (The latter was Jane's new aquarium co-worker boyfriend – which would've been quite the intriguing and unnerving gut-punch of a twist if it was legible the first time through!)

Over the past few weeks, former Variety writer and Hollywood insider Kris Tapley has hinted on Twitter at a story going on behind the scenes of "Bigger Littler Lies" – one that might explain the dozen editors credited on each episode and the media silence from season two director Andrea Arnold, whose fingerprint has felt less and less distinct on this project as the episodes go along. Maybe this is just imagination gone amok, but considering Tapley's informed insight (he was one of the only Oscar prognosticators who hinted that "Cold War" could score the big category nominations that it did this past winter) and smart ear for a story, there might very well be a fire behind this smoke. And considering how this episode sloppily ended, it might be coming from a dumpster.

2. An ice cream headache

Where was it? Where? WHERE?! I demand answers. All season, even if we were concerned about the second season declining in quality, we knew that it would be all worth it in the end for this:

AND THEY CUT THE SCENE!? Make no mistake: This scene definitely happened last night. Madeline and Abigail were walking down a sidewalk licking ice cream cones, they ran into Mary Louise, a verbal confrontation occurred and then ... everyone just went in their separate directions. AND THE ICE CREAM NEVER LEFT MADELINE'S HAND. Never have I been so betrayed. If that music cue with Bonnie was melodramatic enough for this show, so was Madeline's custard chuck.

Apparently it's not dead yet as the full scene will be included in the DVD extras. (Physical media? What's that!?) But that's no excuse. I demand a full congressional inquiry into who at HBO made this decision.

3. Couples retreat

After a few weeks of sulking, Ed finally made a move toward reconciliation with Madeline – a sulking move, but progress is progress! The fragile couple drove off for a relationship therapy/workshop, led by a weird hippie guy encouraging his clients to wander about a room and hug. Unhelpful!

OK, maybe he was a little helpful, as on the way back home, the two shared a laugh about the new age goof – and a real conversation about their problems, with Madeline giving Ed a heartfelt speech about how she may still make mistakes in the future, but infidelity will never again be one of them. And it seemed to work! Yay! Who needs an old hippie and hugs when a Buick SUV and a roadside shoulder will do the job!

Or ... maybe I spoke too soon. During the episode closing flurry, an aggressively flirty Tori approached a not-unenthused Ed at the local bar – with what looked like her husband, theater director Joseph, watching from a nearby table. Is this some sort of revenge plot from the slighted Joseph, offering his wife as a temptation in the hopes of hurting Madeline even more? Or is this some bizarre kinky rich suburbanite swingers situation? No matter the case, I doubt a roadside discussion will be able to fix this again if it's Ed's turn to trip up. Or maybe it will! Monterey parents: What a bunch of oddballs!

Meanwhile, an Ed-Nathan Fight Watch update: This!

We may not get the ice cream toss, America, but hopefully we'll at least get Ed and Nathan's Rumble in the Suburban Jungle.

4. Renata takes her turn versus Mary Louise

Much of the joy from "Bigger Littler Lies" – and despite my growing concern about the show's drop in quality, it's still been a fun watch – has come from watching a new cast member each week take her turn verbally dueling with Meryl Streep's viciously passive aggressive Mary Louise. (Or, in Madeline's case, pretty much every week.) Watching great actresses going head-to-head with fanged material is a treat we don't get enough of on screens of any size, so much obliged to "Big Little Lies" for that.

This week, it was Queen of the Internet Renata's turn as she invited Mary Louise over for tea – and for a conversation about dropping her child custody lawsuit against Celeste. And somehow ... it was kind of a disappointment.

If there was any character you would expect to finally give Mary Louise a true fight (sure, Celeste may have gotten a slap in, but she's on such thin ice that she can't truly give her mother-in-law the verbally reckoning she's been owed), you'd have thought it was Renata, the show's most powerful queen with no concerns about flinging that power around. And true, that power's been sapped thanks to her model train enthusiast husband, but if anything, that gives her all the more reason to refuse to let an outsider talk down to her.

But instead, Mary Louise undressed Renata in her own home, not only eagerly pointing out the bankruptcy-depleted decor but then pouring salt on the wound by implying she chose her career over her kids – and now has an empty house to show for it. And Renata ... just kind of took the blows, flabbergasted off the offensive.

Here's to somebody next week finally getting on Mary Louise's level – and Renata, I'll just leave this here as a reminder and pep talk.

5. Finally getting somewhere – and nowhere good for the Monterey Five

After weeks of slowly (oh so slowly) simmering tension about the truth about Perry's death coming out, it seems the ultimate test is finally in sight: Celeste's child custody trial.

As it turns out, it's not just Celeste's parenting and mental state taking the stand; apparently, Perry's death could also be brought up at the trial, under oath. It seems this was a part of Detective Quinlan's strategy – in addition to just showing up at places and doling out knowing smirks. We'll have to see how our leading ladies' cracked facades hold up under harsh questioning in court.

And with that, we've finally found a focus in this entertaining if scattershot season – or at least that's the way it looks headed into the show's final stretch. Now to see if the last two episodes can stick the landing.


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