A Reflection on Big Little Lies Second Season
It’s always harder to measure when a ‘season’ begins for a cable network, where original programming can be found every few weeks. But if one measures HBO’s season starting last July and beginning in June, there is an interesting symmetry. Last July, HBO debuted Sharp Objects, a female dominated drama, written by Gillian Flynn, and directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, which was based on the best selling novel that was centered on the poisoned relationship between a mother and her daughters that involved decades of psychological and emotional abuse, and culminated in murder. Led by the formidable actresses Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson (who received much deserved Emmy nominations for their work last week) it dripped, dripped, dripped until the climax came.
Yesterday, almost a year ago to the day, the second season finale of Big Little Lies aired. Originally based on a best-selling novel, when the second season was announced late in 2017, many (myself included) had considerable doubts whether it made sense to do another season of a work that seemed utterly complete when it ended. The doubts were resolved very quickly when we first saw Meryl Streep’s superb work as Mary Louise White, Celeste’s mother-in-law, a woman whose quiet behavior hid the fact that she was just as emotionally disturbed as her son — she just dealt psychological damage rather than physical abuse.
It is clear that the fallout for the actions of the Monterey Five (as they were referred to repeatedly throughout the second season) was internal. Each of them had to deal with their own level of damage during every aspect of their lives. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) spent most of the second season trying to repair the damage with her husband, who was doubly scarred when he learned about Madeline’s lie about Jane and her infidelity. Of all the survivors, she did everything she could to try and save her marriage, and her relationship may be saved.
The damage was far darker and not always the same for everyone else. Jane (Shailene Woodley) had to deal with Ziggy learned the truth about his conception and his parentage. She spent most of the season trying to build a relationship with a co-worker, who she clearly liked, but couldn’t connect with sexually because of the trauma of her assault. She was also further betrayed by the fact that he was brought in by the police for questioning, but it was the help of Ziggy (the incredible Ian Armitage)…