In episode 5 of Big Little Lies, Celeste hires a silent lawyer, Renata paces her empty mansion and the Monterey Five’s lie finally comes to get them. Spoilers to follow.
Here is the thing about Big Little Lies: I’m not watching for the plot. Whenever we arrive at a moment where the narrative needs to be hurried along, it feels almost beside the point. Episode five is filled with these moments. We are first reminded that we’re nearing the end of the season by an eerie meeting of The Monterey Five at a car park beside the beach.
Celeste (Nicole Kidman) is about to go to court to fight for custody of her kids, and is letting them know she thinks Mary Louise’s (Meryl Streep) lawyers are likely to use it as an opportunity to ask them about Perry’s (Alexander Skarsgård) death. Can’t they just all stick to their story and lie, Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) asks the group. “No,” clips Renata, “that’s perjury, babe”.
The second involves Jane’s (Shailene Woodley) new love interest. He is a curly mopped, awkward man who has been gently pursuing Jane for the last few episodes. Even when she’s cried into his lap, this guy has persisted. I honestly thought his sole purpose was for us to watch Jane try to navigate intimacy again. I didn’t pay him much attention. He seemed boring.
But at the end of this episode, Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) catches him striding out of the police station late at night. Is he an insanely committed undercover cop? A concerned civilian ratting them out? Do we even care that much?
Here are three more thoughts on episode five.
Celeste should fire the silent lawyer
This episode, we’re treated to lots of shots of Celeste scowling. At her sons. At Mary Louise. At the girls. But the deepest furrow of her brow is reserved for her lawyer. The woman is supposed to be “the best” when it comes to family court, but has so far spent every meeting staring vacantly as Mary Louise’s lawyer slings insults Celeste’s way.
“We have a very smart judge,” she reiterates patronisingly when Celeste asks her to use her voice, “one that will see through [Mary Louise’s] performance”. “The best” or not, fire her, Celeste!
There is a really sweet moment when Celeste, exhausted after one of these meetings, tucks Max and Josh into bed. They seem anxious; snuggling close together, looking quizzically at their mother. They don’t want to live with Grandma. Celeste tries to reassure them that will never happen and that if the lawyers ask who they do want to live with, then they should tell the truth. “We’ll say whatever you want”, Max says reaching his hand up to stroke her cheek, “we’ll protect you”.
A moment of silence for Renata and her empty house
Renata is living in an empty mansion. The furniture has been taken away along with her financial security and - even worse to her mind - her inclusion in the Women In Power magazine spread. “We’re supposed to be on each other’s sides,” she yells when she gets this news, “and they’re backstabbing sluts!”
This episode, she invites Mary Louise over for tea where she places her on what is essentially a fancy bean bag, while she pulls up an office chair. She’s supposed to be telling her to leave Celeste alone, but is instead lulled into allowing Mary Louise to remind her of all the things she’s scarified to be sitting in her lavish, empty shell today. “There are so many, many moments lost,” she says, “and for what? The screening room. Maybe a boat.” It is as skilful as it is evil.
I’m scared of Elizabeth
We’ve already established that Elizabeth (Bonnie’s mom) is the enemy of Bonnie’s sanity. Since her stroke last episode this fact has become even more glaring. We watch as Bonnie tenderly washes her mother’s face, while she lays unconscious, and fight flashbacks of her abusive childhood. Her mother screaming at her. The fear in her eyes as a child. Her father nowhere to be seen.
When Elizabeth does come round, the raspy words she whispers are “kill me”. I feel she’s possibly the most unhinged character on the show. And that’s saying something.