Big Little Lies season 2 episode 6 review: Showdown between Celeste and Mary Louise is just what we need
Post episode 6, there's no doubt that the Big Little Lies finale will be explosive.
(For the reviews of the first 5 episodes, click here)
Celeste (Nicole Kidman) has been all over the place in season 2 of Big Little Lies. She has struggled with sleep, with her sexual needs, her relationship with her twin sons and her mother-in-law, Mary Louise Wright (Meryl Streep). She is a strong character, and yet, she spends almost all of season 2 seeming weak and like she's about to fall apart.
In episode 6, titled "Bad Mother," the show finally gives Celeste her spark back, just ahead of the season finale. And what better way then a legal case to get started?
The first half of the episode tracks Celeste as she's being questioned by Mary Louise's lawyers, and it is hard to not feel sorry for her. Here's a woman who has lost her abusive husband to an accident, that's not really an accident but murder by-the-books. She's living with the burden of this secret. She's not sure if her warped relationship with her husband has birthed a monster who likes rough sex and won't settle for anything else. This is revealed in the cross-questioning when we are told Celeste has had multiple one night stands under the influence of Ambien. She's also fighting for custody of her twin sons and battling her mother-in-law, who is hell bent on proving that she is a Bad Mother. Anyone in her position would crack. But not Celeste. This episode sets up the scene for a courtroom drama, where it is revealed that Celeste has a witness against Mary Louise, and will fight the case for herself. There's no doubt that the finale will be explosive.
Speaking of bad mothers, we are finally shown that Bonnie's mother used to abuse her as a child. Bonnie dreams of killing her mother often. Infact, Bonnie also has dreams about confessing to the police about the night of the accident. These are signs of a troubled, repressed person, and the show toys with the nagging suspense of Bonnie's psyche and what she could do once she cracks. But these dream shots, as important as they are to Bonnie's character, are somewhat of an unnecessary distraction as the season is now finally picking up pace.
Last week's episode ended with Bonnie noticing Corey outside the police station and it is revealed that the police called him in for questioning. We are also shown that Detective Quin has hired a PI to track the Monterey Five (who is not Corey, thankfully), and she may know a lot more about the night of the accident than is being led on.
This episode was all about Celeste and Mary Louise Wright, though, so much so that the tracks involving Madeline and Ed, and Renata and Gordon seem like mere fillers. Ed meets with the same woman from the last episode in a bar, and it revealed that she is Joseph's wife (the theatre director who Madeline cheated on Ed with). Ed being the quintessential good guy that he is, only meets her but does nothing. Looks like he wants to keep his options open, should Madeline screw up again, but won't go the whole hog. Renata's bankcrupcy case is trailing by, and her constant breakdowns are almost comedic. But I'm not sure how they are adding value to the show at this point.
Over the weekend, IndieWire broke the news that the director of this season, Oscar-winner Andrea Arnold, had lost creative control and her scenes were replaced by Season 1 director Jean-Marc Vallée. Indiewire reports that this was done by HBO and showrunner David Kelly to unify the tone and feel of the two seasons since the first won multiple Emmys. It is hard to negate this development while watching the latest episode, and it repeatedly came to mind in the scene when Celeste was being examined by Mary Wright's lawyers. Even though the focus of the scene was to dramatically put Celeste on the spotlight, one couldn't help but wonder why it was being painted as if Celeste genuinely had a sex addiction problem. A cutaway to the therapist would have worked here, but the show does no such thing to humanise Celeste. Instead, Mary Louise's lawyer continues to slut-shame Celeste. The show chooses to linger with the possibility (and lead audiences on to believe) that Celeste could actually be a bad mother. This is even reinforced by the Judge. Could this be because of the last minute changes behind-the-scenes?
There's no denying that this episode sets up a wonderfully dramatic premise for the finale. Who doesn't want to watch a showdown between Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep. But at what cost is this drama coming to us?
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