In episode 2 of Big Little Lies, Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) gives us a masterclass in victim blaming, Celeste (Nicole Kidman) suffers from mysterious black outs and Renata (Laura Dern) faces a life without luxury.
Poor Celeste. That woman has been through it. In season one, we saw her abused by her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) on a near-daily basis. Later, she learned that he’d raped her friend and fathered her child. Then, in the season finale, he attacked her in full view of her friends – before Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) pushed him to his death.
Since that night, Celeste has seen her boys begin to act in similar violent ways. And now his mother – sweet, loving, psychotic Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) – has the nerve to question whether her pain is real.
“Why didn’t you go to the police?” she asks Celeste. “I don’t know why you’re willing to assassinate his character.”
Now, in episode two, Mary Louise is told that Perry is Ziggy’s father and it doesn’t go down well (Madeline’s daughter Chloe found out about this and told Ziggy, which led to Celeste telling Mary-Louise).“What if she got it wrong?” she asks her daughter-in-law. “Aren’t you desperate for her to be wrong? Aren’t you desperate to know that he wasn’t unfaithful?”
It is a masterclass in victim blaming. By the end of the exchange, Celeste seems to be questioning the validity of her feelings, too. To add (a tacky) insult to injury, she insinuates the real reason for Celeste’s troubles is, in fact, her aloofness. That’s how Perry first described you to me, she says, “an enigma”. Ugh. Get some new cliches, Mary Louise.
Here are three more thoughts on episode two.
Can someone please tell me where Celeste has been?
The episode begins with an early morning car accident. Celeste is driving bleary-eyed down a tree-lined street when she’s distracted by what seems to be a flashback of her having sex with a tattooed man in a car.
She rubs her eyes — which, for some unknown reason, are heavily made-up — and crashes. When Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) collects her from the scene of the crash, Celeste explains she took an ambien at 3am because she couldn’t sleep and woke up in the car.
Did the pill make her pick up the eyeliner, go out and sleep with a stranger? Or is this just what she does now? Is she having amnesia-esque black outs? Nobody knows! It’s treated with the same casual shrug — and, in turn, realism — as many of the series most sinister scenes.
Renata Klein will not not be rich
Renata (Laura Dern) might just be my new favourite to watch. She ricochets between tightly-controlled Boss Woman and hysterical toddler who’s had her toys snatched away. Get her a massage, a chamomile tea, something! Or, as Madeline suggests, perhaps a xanax would help.
Renata finds out that her husband has gambled away all their money. He’s arrested by the FBI while she’s dressed as a Gucci doll (velvet belt bag, monogrammed leggings) and is boasting that she’s going to be on the cover of “the number one women’s magazine in the U-S-of-fucking-A” next month. A surreal this-cannot-be-happening spiral of panic ensues. (“Babe,” she says to Madeline, “this is not good”).
Renata’s identity is her wealth and she knows it. This is made plain when she visits her husband in jail and the sight of him looking poor in an orange jumpsuit, sans rolex, becomes a tad too much. “I will not not be rich!” she screeches, lunging at the pane of glass between them. Jaw clenched, eyes wild. It’s a scene crafted to go down in television history.
The cat is out of the bag for Madeline
Remember when Madeline slept with the theatre director last season? And then brushed that swiftly under the rug. No mind. Well, it’s finally come to get her. Madeline and her eldest daughter are having a playful argument in her sprawling, ocean-facing kitchen — I would argue she has the best on the show — when she suggests that, surely, family can’t be the most important thing to her because wasn’t she having an… affair last summer?
Her husband Ed (Adam Scott) overhears this and tells her they are through. A Madeline without Ed? The Gods of drama have blessed us. Where Madeline is volatile and dramatic, Ed is calm and steady and, without his grounding presence, I’d bet she’s liable to go a bit mad.
The message this episode is gloomy: wealth, love and friendship are never truly safe.
Season two of Big Little Lies airs in the US on HBO on Sundays and in the UK on Sky and NowTV on Monday mornings and again in the evenings.