If weekends were made for Michelob, then Sunday nights were made for prestige television. HBO, of course, created this cardinal rule with appointment viewing hits like The Sopranos, True Blood, Game of Thrones, Veep, and Big Little Lies, whose Season Two finale debuted Sunday night.
While fresh in their minds, Jillian Conochan, Meg Kearns, Sydney Mineer, and Erin Vail caught up to exchange their reactions to the last ep and season in general. Spoilers ahead!
Overall I thought the finale was… effective? Which is to say, it was less inspired than I hoped for, given the number of Oscars between the cast equals the number of Big Little Liars in Monterey (5).
Celeste’s custody hearing had me on the edge of my seat, and I was very relieved it went her way. Nicole Kidman’s whispery brand of acting was the star of the whole series for me, and I savored every moment she graced the screen. I’ll leave it to my astute colleagues to comment on Celeste representing herself in cross-examination, but say that I did find pathos in the moment when the boys hugged Mary Louise.
There were moments in the Bonnie storyline I liked, like when her father walked in on her lying next to Elizabeth in the hospital bed (as opposed to smothering her) and all the close-ups with her and Skye.
I think it’s fair to say this episode used suspense quite nicely, but the payoff was like an mid-career M. Night Shyamalan film: self-indulgent and a little listless.
The post-climax ending was too neatly wrapped for my taste. When Madeline picked up the phone from the counter, I had hoped it was Ed’s, with a text from Tori revealing he had gone through with adultery too (explaining why he was finally ready to move forward). But alas, it was just one of the gals needing to unburden the lie that—I dunno, maybe I’m a sociopath, but I think by then I would have been able to rationalize.
So, while that wasn’t the outcome I personally wanted, I can see how it might be satisfying for other fans, enabling the series to end a second time.
And a burning hot P.S. Meryl Streep’s GOATness is equivalent to Bill Walton’s GOATness, in that the playing field she spent much of her prolific career didn’t contain modern greats like Cate Blanchett, Amy Adams, *cough* Reese Witherspoon, and Nicole. Effing. Kidman.
Look, I know no one is watching Big Little Lies for the realism, but the courtroom drama that was built up to be the centerpiece of the finale was laughably bad. At this point it is safe to assume almost everyone on the planet has seen enough of [insert film/TV legal drama of choice here] that we all feel we have a passing knowledge of how legal proceedings generally work, and I’m pretty sure it’s not by representing yourself, cross-examining your mother-in-law, and then allowing multiple people to interrupt the judge while she’s giving her ruling? The whole thing had me feeling like
Seeing Renata flip her shit on Gordon was funny and satisfying and… that’s about all I can say on the positive side here! The rest of the finale had me realizing how little basically everyone other than Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, and Nicole Kidman had to do this season. Seriously, where was Reese?! Once Madeline (pretty comically) spilled the beans about her infidelity to Ed early on this season, she basically spent the remaining episodes groveling while he pouted. Did he ever cheat on her in return? What about the Abigail-going-to-college subplot? Jane also was almost entirely passive, as was Bonnie, reduced to sulking in her mother’s presence and then sitting contemplatively by her bedside.
I think this season thought it was about how The Lie was wearing all of The Monterey Five down, but… it really wasn’t? Almost all of the storylines were about unrelated issues: Celeste’s custody battle with her meddling MIL, Renata’s suddenly unbelievably shitty husband, Reese being shitty to her husband, and Jane and Bonnie just drifting on the sidelines. It never convincingly showed the pressure they were under, let alone why they lied in the first place. There was so much wheel-spinning in the form of flashbacks to Celeste’s relationship and to the night of the murder, and so many clandestine and weirdly brief meetings of The Five where everyone repeated a form of a “stick together, stick to the story” pep talk.
So after all of that, for it to just end with everyone suddenly game to appear at the police station, presumably to finally come clean, just felt like a major letdown, a total shrug/sigh of an ending. Just, why? Why then? The show didn’t lay the groundwork of anything having meaningfully changed in the preceding six episodes, so the sudden change of heart in the finale just cemented the nagging feeling that I think we all had; that this season was unnecessary from the get-go. Meryl’s fake teeth and Renata’s freakouts only got the show far, so in the end it feels like Season Two failed to justify its own existence. The main characters are literally in the same place they were at the end of the season one finale! With very little growth having occurred in between! So what was the point?
The finale was… fine. I liked that Celeste’s court case led to all the women standing up for themselves and trying to get what they deserved. The court room scene definitely had some good moments from Meryl, and I think that was the only point of the scene at all. I also enjoyed that moment of Bonnie tucked in with her mom instead of smothering her because for a moment I was holding my breath for that. I do like that we got more of Bonnie this season and got to know her a little better, but there was not enough of a balance between the Monterey Five’s screen time.
I definitely don’t need another season so I appreciate the lengths they went to halfheartedly wrap everything up even though the ending itself was a shrug of “Why did we even do this???” proportions.
My favorite thing about this season was Renata’s storyline. Laura Dern was at a level 10 and her problems were so first world compared to Celeste’s that it felt like a great balance and a sort of comedic relief.
I did not care about Ed’s storyline at all. He is boring. Madeline settled for him after her tumultuous relationship with Nathan. I am always bored when our attention was refocused to what the husbands were up to. The conflict between Madeline and Ed also ended with a halfhearted shrug. He was mad and then… he wasn’t mad anymore. Okay, cool.
Now that we know the background of how this season was cobbled together in post, I understand all of the flashbacks and the hard cuts etc., but I didn’t enjoy how disjointed a lot of the season felt because of this. I also felt cheated with a lot of the episodes because they were reduced to 47 minutes when there was plenty of room for extended scenes and further fleshing out of the character’s journeys this season. Like remember when they all went to the school to talk about the effect that the discussion of climate change was having on their children and then… we never went back to the school again after that? So much of this season was like “hey let’s think about this right now!!!” And then… never again.
So, what did we gain from this season? Some really great Reneta memes and an Emmy nod for Meryl who was terrifying as Mary Louise but who somehow still seemed under-utilized in the season.
I would give this season a gentlemen’s 6 out of 10. And beg HBO not to do this to us again.
Agreed on all counts here. I think the biggest sin of the season is beyond how hyped I was to see Meryl and Laura Dern fight in a Starbucks, I didn’t feel the emotional resonance/payoff that Season One had. I thought the second season overall was like a nice glass of rosé at 6pm on a Sunday: delicious, not super necessary, and sometimes hard to sip because of my hangover from the night before.
However, I will say, it is truly a joy to see these actresses onscreen together. I loved seeing Meryl be absolutely deranged, I loved every single one of Renata’s epic freakouts, and I think Nicole Kidman was astounding. Of course, Reese, Shailene, and Zoë Kravitz had little to nothing to do, but even seeing them meet in the dead of night on the beach was fun.
I wish the courtroom scenes with Meryl had been longer! After building Mary Louise up to be basically the Thanos of the BLL universe, she was brought down so quickly in the end. Mary Louise actually was a sociopath in most regards. Let Meryl be bad! Also, shoutout to the number of scenes in the Monterey Aquarium, just because aquariums are cool and I liked the scenes of Shailene and Not Cillian Murphy kissing there.
What happened with any of the kids this season? There was so much classroom drama at the beginning of the season, but then it immediately shifted to focusing on Josh and Max and Ziggy. I miss the world of the Monterey school system! I missed the drama with the other moms! I missed Chloe and Amabella!!!!
The season almost felt like an epilogue—considering the concreteness of the Season One finale. There, the characters found some semblance of closure, but here, they’re still dealing with the fallout. It’s almost like a “Ten Years Later” catchup of sorts where nothing really matters, but it was fun to get the gang back together again. Considering the behind the scenes nonsense, it seems like there will definitely not be a Season Three! So why close with the Five going in to confess? Baffling, ridiculous, sometimes fun, but yes—mostly unnecessary.
…And you? Which Renata GIF best describes your opinion of Big Little Lies Season Two?