"I will not not be rich!": 5 takeaways from a great episode of "Big Little Lies"
If last week's season premiere of "Big Little Lies" was the appetizer, then Sunday night's episode was a full feast, serving up drama after revelation after deliciously scathing one-liner. We've got Nathan and Ed getting spicy about maybe almost getting into a fist fight. We've got Meryl shamelessly throwing more shade at Reese – and vice versa. We've got Laura Dern creating about four new memes this week alone.
And that's just the fun superfluous stuff that doesn't matter; wait until we get into the story.
Here are the five biggest takeaways from "Tell-Tale Hearts":
1. So that thing I said about "Do we NEED a second season?"
Yes, we most definitely did.
After this thrilling breeze of an episode – featuring everything hilarious, juicy, tense, thoughtful and brilliantly performed you love about the show boiled down into a perfect 50 minutes, diving into the ramifications of last season's story and pushing the drama of this off-book journey in exciting and, in some cases, unexpected directions – I am now five million percent on board with the second season. I used to think, "Why do we need a second season?" Now I wonder, "Why isn't every show on television this good?" Give me more of this, please. No, really – why isn't the next episode, and then all the episodes after that, already available now?
2. Laura Dern: queen of the memes
Meryl may have won the internet last week with her dinnertime scream heard 'round the globe (and also with basically her every line of dialogue), but Laura Dern made sure this week was hers – and wasn't leaving any doubt. Renata didn't have the most screen time, but in classic Dern fashion, she made each scene count – and made sure we'd be seeing these scenes plastered all over Twitter for the next seven days.
Things took a hard turn for Renata this week as a lunchtime stroll with her husband turned into a perp walk as the FBI ambushed them and took Gordon away in handcuffs. I'm thinking Renata's not keeping that cover photo on the number one women's magazine now. After last week's sulky model train bit, I expected tensions between Gordon and Renata to boil over at some point – but not like this. Not with Gordon behind glass because he may have dabbled in some light massive securities fraud – and he bet the ranch on it. So it's not Renata's house – and she may not be living there anymore.
And with that, UNLEASH THE MEMES.
When I'm absolutely 100% done with your shit pic.twitter.com/qb4wLjlfTq— Erik Anderson (@awards_watch) June 17, 2019
I think that last one's my favorite, with Renata finding a middle finger to stick out through each of her Tesla's windows. But they're all gems – including the un-GIFable moments. (That's right; "Big Little Lies" offers far more than just Twitter fuel!) The scene in the courtroom was some terrific filmmaking, the courtroom characters uncomfortably staring not at Gordon but Renata, before breaking out into laughter – a nightmare as Renata and her life of power gets turned into an embarrassment, all thanks to her husband's dumb decisions.
That's the beauty of "Big Little Lies": Come for the viral fun and starry drama, stay for the incisive character work and thoughtfully told story.
3. Welp, there's always marriage number three
There was a moment during Sunday night's episode – watching Reese Witherspoon's Madeline attempt to talk her daughter into going to college yet again – when I felt myself thinking Madeline's storyline doesn't feel the most necessary or compelling this season. That while everyone else's characters were heading in new directions, she was stuck playing out basically the same script as season one while otherwise just serving as a spectator for everyone else's mental breakdowns.
Then Ed walked in on Madeline and her daughter discussing Maddie's secret affair with the theater director and WELP I guess throw that take out the window. It can go out to the curb on garbage day, right next to my "Is a second season really necessary?" take. Already feeling betrayed by Maddie keeping secrets about Ziggy, this latest blow to their marriage might be the last for Maddie and Ed as he's thinking that he's gone.
But the real emotional gut punch to this subplot would actually arrive during the closing credits – because what song did they select to play as the names scrolled through? Ed's sweetly crooning cover of Elvis's "The Wonder of You" from last season. Ooof.
4. The more moms, the merrier
Episode two introduced Bonnie's mom, played by Crystal Fox – and she must've been watching "Bigger Littler Lies," seeing how much fun Meryl Streep was having on the show flattening characters with her passive aggressive shade, and figured she might as well get in on that too. Because boy did she.
Called in by Nathan to help hopefully wake Bonnie up from her post-murder malaise, Bonnie's mom has a fairly inauspicious introduction ... but then she unleashes at dinner, letting everyone but the kitchen staff have it. She lays into her daughter and her "mope-a-dope" routine for being distant, creating an unhealthy environment for their marriage and their young daughter – and while she's at it, she also digs into the fact that she moved to Monterey, a city with a black population of, well, Bonnie. But she saves her true savagery, however, for the unassuming Nathan, who Bonnie's mom calls oblivious, emotionally incapable and a straight-up dumbass to his face as he waited a year into Bonnie's PTSD-esque daze to call for help – and then seemed unaware that the Trivia Night drama could possibly be the root of the problem. Hello, 911 – I'd like to report another murdered husband, please.
This is all deliciously juicy family drama, and Fox is clearly having a blast digging into this meal of a role – terrifically written as well. I love later on, as Bonnie confronts her mom about busting out crystals and some supernatural trinkets to get a read on her (she sees her daughter drowning, which fits with the flashes we've seen of water and Bonnie walking into the frothing ocean) the way their conversation hints at past problems – some old trouble for Bonnie, most notably – without having the characters explain it to one another or need to re-litigate it. You know, the way actual families talk about the past. The references obviously add to some bonus mystery to the story – but they also naturally bring a lot of color and lived-in richness to a relationship the audience just found out about, making the two feel even more like family with a life that exists beyond the parameters of the story being told.
So yeah, a pretty great introduction for Bonnie's mom this episode – and a pretty terrific tease for the future war between her and Meryl, who was once again great, and very stress-inducing, this week. Her scene with Kidman talking about Ziggy's true father was some breathtaking parrying between two great actresses, with Mary Louise all-too-realistically (and all-too-infuriatingly) refusing to accept that her son could've been violent and trying to pin the blame for his mistakes on others. Plus, in a Dern-less world, Mary Louise verbally demolishing Madeline once again with the unexpected help of her crucifix necklace would be the meme of the hour.
Alas, that will merely have to be one of the dozen of great moments from this episode.
5. Running out of (big little) lies to keep
The show may have to find a new name soon, because there aren't many secrets or lies left in hiding amongst the Monterey Five. Madeline's affair with the theater director is now out in the open, Gordon's financial faux pas have him wearing the ultimate fashion faux pas – an orange prison jumpsuit – and, the biggest of them all, the truth about Ziggy's father is making the rounds in Celeste's household and the kids' classrooms. (It shouldn't surprise you that Madeline's at the center of that reveal, as her daughter overheard her talking about it over the phone and, well, like mother like daughter.)
Tired of lying to Ziggy, and now faced with really no other options, Jane explains the truth to her son while Celeste has to tell Mary Louise – who takes it about as well as expected. Which is to say she doesn't. She first wonders if Jane is telling the truth, or if she's slept around too much to know the truth (as noted before, Mary Louise is painfully frustrating in a way that's way too familiar from the real world), before she moves to something bigger: If Celeste was already planning to leave Perry, and now she found out about him assaulting Jane during Trivia Night before his death, what actually happened that night? The lies are lining up all too neatly for Mary Louise, who plans to go to the police station with her growing list of suspicions. Little does she know that she's got somebody there who agrees: the mysterious Detective Quinlan, who's still snooping around – and was at Gordon's arrest for unknown reasons.
Lies in Monterey are like oil spills in the ocean: uncontrollable and everywhere in a second. And the biggest lie of them all looks like it might be up next.
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