In Movies & TV Reviews

Celeste preps to face Mary Louise in court.

5 takeaways from the drama with "Big Little Lies" (and the new episode, too)

Certainly nothing to talk about this week surrounding "Big Little Lies"! Nope, nothing to see here at all! All's definitely well! Anyways, let's talk about the drama – on screen and off – with HBO's hit.

1. Big week for drama – oh, and on the show too, I guess

It turns out "Big Little Lies" had a little lie of its own behind the scenes.

As reported last week by IndieWire, season two director Andrea Arnold apparently had the show basically taken away from her by producers and handed over to season one helmer Jean-Marc Vallée. According to HBO, this was always a part of the plan with the aim of making sure it had a unified visual style and tone to season one ... but apparently nobody told Arnold in the process, who filmed the new episodes with the impression she had creative control.

Frankly, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense – why would you hire an Oscar-winning and critically lauded director with her own particular style and PLAN to have reshoots and edit her work to death? – and sounds more like Arnold made her version of the show, the big wigs didn't like its artistic flourishes (aka much of Arnold's entire M.O.) and they sent it over to Vallée to "fix it." Little of this is surprising considering it's television, and television is more about a writer and producer's unified vision for a show than a director's singular vision.

What is surprising, however, is how obviously clunky HBO handled this all, seemingly failing to have basic conversations and operate with clarity. (Arnold's directed episodes of "Transparent," so it's not like she doesn't know how to form to a show's general style and work within a TV show's set vision.)

While there's still holes needing explanation in this behind-the-scenes drama, however, this first report helps explain some of the struggles with "Bigger Littler Lies": episodes not even coming close to an hour-long, each installment having almost as many editors as credited actors, the montage slurry that ended last week's show with a baffled shrug. No wonder the show's second season has been so formless and directionless: It lost its director. (Though series writer and creator David E. Kelley deserves more than his share of the blame, writing a story that's increasingly felt like what fans feared: an unnecessary add-on of a season that hasn't really known where to take anything since leaving the comfort zone of its source material.)

Ironically enough, with all of this drama swirling, "The Good Mother" turned out to be one of the better episodes of the season. All the issues were definitely there – individual storylines feeling on the own, separate from a coherent whole; rhythm-free editing hopping loosely from subplot to subplot – but it's nice that we've finally gotten somewhere with the show: the big courtroom showdown between Celeste and Mary Louise. And with Celeste taking the stand, the show had a pretty tremendous spotlight sequence as Kidman took ugly, probing questions from Mary Louise's wormy lawyer – including a stab at re-litigating Perry's death, complete with Detective Quinlan watching from the crowd. When the episode focused on this painful and potent sequence, and the terrific performances inside (if you want weaselly, you don't do much better than casting character actor Denis O'Hare), the show cracked with tension and reminded you that this show, and mainly these actors, can still deliver some really strong work here.

It even managed to retcon the lack of focus on Celeste's search for comfort and thrills with new men into a creative choice, these hookups lost in a daze of confusion, grief and Ambien.

Most importantly, the courtroom battle teased the ultimate showdown next week with the devilish Mary Louise taking the stand and Celeste questioning her. Sure, it's soapy – but I'll be damned if it isn't exactly what we've been waiting for this season. Here's to Madeline hopefully bringing her ice cream cone.

2. That's not generally how you use Kleenex

It's been a while, but here's your Renata Meme of the Week – courtesy of her husband Gordon somehow finding a new low this week and getting outed as receiving thousands of dollars of "stress relief" from their maid.

Underrated part of this scene: Gordon smiling like a full doofus when the first guy buys one of his model trains and talks about how it's extremely valuable. It's just the biggest, dumbest, "See, this guy gets it!" grin. It'd almost be adorable if he wasn't actively ruining his wife's life and reputation. Still, glad he found somebody who shares his bizarre passion for model trains. I'd say maybe he could see if that guy has a guest room he could stay in after this future divorce is all said and done, but I have a feeling Renata will not only throw Gordon out of their house but probably out of the entire solar system, so no need.

3. Let's feel free to forget the "revenge sex" storyline

So lost in the blender of edits that ended last week's episode was Ed in a bar getting seemingly hit on at a bar by Tori, the wife of the theater director ... who was also sitting nearby watching with approval. So far nothing's come from that night, but a paranoid Ed and Tori met back up for coffee this week to discuss what's basically a revenge sex situation: Tori wants to have sex with Ed in the hopes of seemingly punishing their duplicitous significant others or at the least leveling the scales of justice. And also she just wants to have sex with Ed.

Thankfully nothing seems to happen – Ed seems nervous enough just getting coffee and discussing this all, much less going through with it – so this odd, unconvincing and very late-breaking plot detour can now politely go away forever.

4. Corey: not a cop, but still crappy

Speaking of things that can politely go away forever: Corey aka Jane's now former new boyfriend. Not because of getting caught leaving the police station last week – which wasn't because he was a mole or a cop or something like that but, according to Corey, he was called in for questioning by Detective Quinlan, who I imagine just sat wordlessly in a corner and smirked during the entire interview. No, it's because Jane stopped returning his texts and calls because she's not sure she can trust him anymore – something she already struggles with trusting and letting men back into her life, for obvious and understandable reasons – and in response, Corey decides to make a little jab about her being prickly at their workplace to a bunch of random touring kids. Hey, that's a crappy thing to do! You can leave now too!

5. Bonnie got to do something!

Zoe Kravitz's Bonnie has spent the majority of this season looking dazed and disheveled, and while at first her guilt over literally pushing Perry over the edge that fateful night last season seemed intriguing and promising, after five episodes of pretty much staying at that point, a bunch of psychologically fraught edits with nowhere to go, it's grown a little tedious.

However, at the end of Sunday's episode, she had her big moment. No, not confessing at the police station; she apparently bailed again on that after seeing Corey leave last week, but she's still tempted. Instead, her big moment comes telling off her still stroke-ailed mother, giving her a big speech finally coming to terms and expressing her frustrations over how she grew up with an abusive mother – as we've seen in the show's micro-flashbacks throughout the season – then building to admitting to saying aloud that she killed Perry.

Cut to her mother unresponsive but crying a single tear in her hospital bed. Honestly, I was waiting for her mom to pop up with a tape recorder, yelling, "AH-HA, I KNEW IT!" but apparently that was where the line was drawn this season for too much.

Oh well; though it didn't land as cathartic as I think the show hoped, it was still a good showcase performance moment for Kravitz – and finally something for her character to do! Thanks, "Big Little Lies"; do Detective Quinlan next!


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