5 takeaways from a disco-dancing episode of "Big Little Lies"
"She Knows." You don't get much more ominous than the title of Sunday night's new episode of "Big Little Lies." But who is the "she"? And what does she know? Considering the amount of secrets tucked away in Monterey, it could any lie – or it could be The Lie? Or maybe it's all about climate change again. Who knows! But here's what we do know after passing the halfway mark of the second season last night.
1. These people have to stop throwing costume parties
At this point, throwing a themed costume get-together on "Big Little Lies" is like saying "Don't worry; I think we lost him" in a horror movie. In season one, there was obviously the big Elvis and Audrey trivia night school function that ended with Perry getting splattered across the stairs. And now this season we've got Renata's disco-themed not-even-close-to-her-birthday birthday party for Amabella. Because if there's one thing that'll get a second grader to take her mind off her parents' impending bankruptcy and the end of the world, it's The Trammps.
So as you might expect, the adults have a great time at the kids' party. That is, until the very end of the night when Bonnie's mom has a peculiar vision of her daughter that knocks her to the ground in a seizure. The official diagnosis is a stroke, putting Bonnie's mom unconscious in a hospital bed ... until the end of the episode, when she seems to be trying to say something to Bonnie. Because while she may not be able to say anything, she can see something: Bonnie drowning in waves. Hopefully she's not that savvy at reading deeply into metaphors; otherwise that might mess this whole thing up!
Also: Huh, we're really going into the whole psychic visions thing this season? That's a ... well, that's a choice. Seems wildly out of place for a show like this that, while definitely not grounded, has its feet pretty firmly in reality. We'll see how this plays out – for the show and for our protagonists.
2. Sorry, Thanos; we have the true villain of the year
Sure, the big purple meanie may have annihilated half of the living things in the universe with a snap of his fingers – but has he ever been so cold and thoughtless that Nicole Kidman had no choice but to slap him? Didn't think so.
That's why Meryl Streep's Mary Louise is the villain of the year – and this week, a kind-of master plan is emerging: She's coming for the kids.
While all her snooping around Celeste's house and pushing Celeste to the end of her patience hasn't netted her any evidence toward how her son actually died, it has given her enough selective ammunition – a bathroom drawer filled with pills, her pushing one of the twins while trying to break up a spat a few episodes ago, her general grief-stricken malaise – to go to a family lawyer and prepare for war in the courtroom to take her grandchildren away from their mother.
Plus, this week gave Mary Louise her two biggest weapons yet. First, there was Celeste's (A-grade) slap after Mary Louise showed up uninvited to Madeline's Halloween pumpkin carving party and then, in private, dug into Celeste implying that Perry was a raping, cheating garbage person because of something his wife did or wasn't doing. But the biggest one happened near the end of "She Knows," when Celeste woke up from yet another Ambien stupor to find Mary Louise and the kids returning home ... right in front of her handsome bartender from the night before getting dressed, a moment so awkward and potentially devastating, especially in Mary Louise's hands, that I had to pause the show, compose myself and stop going "Ooooh nooooo!" before continuing.
And while Streep's performance is great at finding the person underneath the sass and suspicions, revealed in her brief pause at the lawyer's office when she's told the depths that she will have to go to potentially win – calling all the other lawyers in the area to keep them away from Celeste – she also still does it. And she still, despite warnings, decides to live in the same complex as Jane in the hopes of getting closer to Ziggy – though maybe she has similar plans of swiping him away as well.
In conclusion: Sorry, Thanos, but you should've tried harder at villainy. Mary Louise has got you beat.
3. Ed on the way out
It seems all but certain that the era of Madeline and Ed is dead. And while Madeline's infidelity may have struck the fatal blow, Ed's not exactly putting much effort into resuscitating the thing. He's cold and unresponsive at home, despite Madeline's attempts at bringing up relationship retreats and making a move in the bedroom. Meanwhile, out in public, he passes on dancing with Madeline at the Renata's Amabella's disco party because he thinks she just wants it for show. At one point, he complains that when Madeline is motivated, she goes 100 percent for it – but that never happened for their marriage. Except now she is, dude! Participate in saving this thing, or accept part of the blame for letting it die. And also: He was definitely being, uh, friendly to Bonnie at the party, right? Madeline and Nathan certainly seemed to be getting that vibe.
One good thing involving Ed did happen during "She Knows," however: WE ALMOST GOT DUMB HUSBAND FIGHT! Nathan and Ed almost finally had the donnybrook they've wanted for so long. Renata was there to stop it, however. Boo.
4. Dern digs in
We've had a lot of fun over the last few weeks meme-ing Laura Dern's Renata into oblivion. And she's deserved it! "I will not not be rich" is a great line, delivered with delicious panache! Her rant at the principal in last week's episode declaring that she'll buy everyone in the school a polar bear? Brilliant.
But this week, Dern got to work on making Renata – easily the hardest of the leads to have empathy for – a complete character, diving deep under the flashy, fierce exterior and bringing more to the surface. One scene in particular gave her some impressive work: the bankruptcy hearing, where she has to listen as a frosty officer piece by piece takes apart what she thought was their life – eventually getting to her wedding ring. And for a moment, you realize it's not just fun and memes with Renata's financial crisis.
This is also why you hire Laura Dern, who can be hilarious and wicked sharp but is at her best bringing inherent deep and thoughtful empathy to her characters. Her characters always have a heartbeat.
5. At some point, something's going to happen
We've had a lot of fun with this unexpectedly solid and expectedly entertaining second season of "Big Little Lies." But we're past the halfway point of the season, and I'm ready for something to actually happen now. We've spent four episodes watching Mary Louise poke around and be suspicious (albeit to no avail thus far). We added a surprise second mother, Bonnie's mom, to poke around and be suspicious (also to no avail thus far). And then there's the constant threat of Detective Quinlan, who pokes around and is suspicious but – you guessed it – thus far to no avail. The show has set up plenty of intriguing paths where this lie can get tripped up, but so far they've stayed almost entirely in park on them all – especially Detective Quinlan, who at some point needs to do something more than show up in unexpected places and give a knowing, ominous smile.
Listen, the season's been fun. The world has been a better place for this cast getting another round of great performances, and the build-up has been intriguingly intense. But the sense of ominous possibility is now teetering dangerously on the edge of becoming tedious, as the show hasn't shown much interest in putting any pieces together at all. At some point, "Bigger Littler Lies" needs to finally reach where it's been building to instead of meandering through (very entertaining!) subplots.
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