Big Little Lies season 2 episode 4 review: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon deliver, and how
Big Little Lies knows how to confuse you as a viewer; it is perhaps one of their ways to ensure you keep coming back, episode after episode.
(For the reviews of the first 3 episodes, click here)
It is a truth universally acknowledged (in the Big Little Lies universe at least) that Mary Louise is a creepy woman, bordering on annoying. After the fourth episode of season 2, titled "She Knows," you can totally understand why Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Celeste (Nicole Kidman) can't stand her. And yet, there are several points in this episode where you find yourself questioning your hatred towards her (damn you, Meryl Streep!). Big Little Lies knows how to confuse you as a viewer; it is perhaps one of their ways to ensure you keep coming back, episode after episode. It is only fitting then, that things start to unravel (a word Renata uses time and again) in the best episode of this season so far.
[Some spoilers ahead.]
After an insipid episode 3, this one starts with a bang. The Monterey Five are at Madeline's house where the kids are having a pumpkin-carving party. Each of the women is on the brink of a breakdown, sharing a cigarette and talking about their problems. Jane asks Renata why she hasn't left her husband yet (he is filing for bankruptcy after financial fraud). Renata, dressed smartly (when is she not, though) with a cat-eared hairband and a cat-print blouse (channeling so much swag that I can't handle it), says, "We just stay, right? They betray us, and we stay; they cheat on us, and we stay." Right next to her, Madeline sits upright, giving her a glare — she is going through marital issues with her ever-loyal, taken-for-granted husband Ed, who she cheated on last year. "You didn't just say that," she says angrily, and walks away in a huff. Renata looks back at Jane and says, "Just stop me from talking."
Big Little Lies, ladies and gentlemen. A show that is never committed to just one kind of activism.
In just the next scene, perhaps the best one in the episode, Mary Louise arrives at Madeline's house unannounced. She also reveals that she has found an apartment in Jane's building, giving Jane and Celeste a mini heart attack. In a private corner, Celeste asks her why she is overstepping her boundaries, as Mary Louise raises her doubts about Jane's confession that Perry raped her. She asks Celeste what Perry was running away from (hinting he had issues with Celeste). "If there was one women, there are probably others," she says. This angers Celeste so much that she slaps Mary Louise. That's right. A loud, dramatic slap that throws Mary Louise's spectacles off her face. Instead of retaliating with anger, Mary Louise, while she wears her spectacles back, says, "And what should we call this? Foreplay?"
Big Little Lies, ladies and gentlemen. A show that pulls the rug out from under your feat when you least expect it.
Amid all this chaos, of course there is a costume party. That is our cue to know something is going to happen (if the finale of season 1 is anything to go by). It's Amabella's disco-themed birthday party, and behind the glitz, glamour, music and costumes, everyone is pretending to be happy. Renata and Gordon are filing for bankruptcy and don't know when they will ever throw another grand party like this for her again. Madeline and Ed want to dance together but aren't able to get over their issues. She sees Bonnie and Ed getting along well and it drives her crazy. Nathan and Ed get into a war of words and even have go at each other, until Renata breaks them up. Jane is on a date, but can't put her past aside and decides it is time to tell him about Perry. Celeste walks around the party drinking champagne and looking like a zombie. Bonnie tries to have fun but her mom warns her that the energy in the room is "weird."
Weird is the right word to describe where the episode goes from this point. Bonnie's mother has a stroke and is taken to the hospital. She moves in and out of consciousness, and we see her having visions of Bonnie drowning. Meanwhile, Celeste has a sexual encounter with a stranger, while high on Ambien, and has visions of Perry watching her. And finally, Mary Louise sends Celeste a petition to reconsider custody of the kids because she feels Celeste isn't mentally well.
It is weird, this (almost) supernatural twist of the sequence of events, but we're finally inching closer towards the finale. And I can feel it in my bones that something explosive is coming. Bring it on, Big Little Lies.