The second and apparently last ever season of Big Little Lies has come to a rather abrupt end with its finale, “I Want to Know.” In a recent interview with TVLine, HBO President Casey Bloys told us that “Season 2 was a chance for everyone involved to end in a way that feels satisfying. We like where our closure is at the end of Season 2.” But was the ending really satisfying? Did we genuinely get the closure to everything that we wanted in the Big Little Lies finale? I’m not so sure.
Over the course of the highly successful first season, we had the ever-present mystery of who was going to die at Gala night. As each episode passed by we were slowly shown how interconnected these women’s lives were. Each of their stories was just as important as the others and they were all leads. Season 2 felt different as the importance of the women and their individual storylines felt a little messy and unfair.
When you add an actress like Meryl Streep into the mix, obviously you want to give her the opportunity to give another performance of a lifetime. And boy did she do that. But you should never forget the extraordinary talents of the women who made the first season so superb. Each of them is an acting heavyweight in their own right and none of them should be put on the sidelines. This definitely felt like case as everything seemed to be pushed to one side in favor of the all-out war between Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) and Celeste (Nicole Kidman). This is the storyline that has dominated the majority of the season.
It didn’t need to be that way. Without going into too many details, it’s hard not to think of the recent revelations about the behind-the-scenes drama. Would we have gotten a different finale, or at least one that felt different, had Andrea Arnold been given complete creative control? Would the plot of each of the women have felt more relevant in the end?
While the courtroom scenes have been truly amazing to watch, I can’t help asking myself if they were really necessary. As the first season slowly built up to Perry’s death, the second has been building up to this moment: the showdown between Celeste and Mary Louise as they do battle for custody of the twins.
We knew that there would be some sort of twist or revelation with the Wright family and we knew this would no doubt be revealed in court. There have been too many mentions of Perry’s twin brother and the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death for it not to be something big. But was it really that big in the end?
Before the final showdown comes we see Mary Louise preparing with her lawyer Ira (Denis O’ Hare) and he tells her to only answer the questions that are asked, though we all know that isn’t going to happen. She tells him how Perry used to refer to Celeste as his Sleeping Beauty: “He was her prince, and she killed him.” Boom! Just like that we finally know for sure that Mary Louise thinks Celeste killed him. Despite having her suspicions of the other women in various episodes, we never really got any clarification as to who Mary Louise blamed till now.
She takes the stand and Celeste quickly and efficiently exposes Mary Louise. It’s revealed that Perry’s brother Raymond was killed in a car crash caused by Mary Louise herself. She lost her temper whilst driving and that was that. But why does nobody ever question why she lost her temper? Were the boys fighting? Was Perry showing early signs of violence by hurting his brother? What doesn’t make sense is that, if this was really how the crash happened, why hadn’t Mary Louise learned anything from it?
Think back to the first episode when Mary Louise shouts at Max and Josh as they fight in the back seat. Would she really risk history repeating itself by doing this? Or was she really shouting at them because she knows what might happen if little boys fight in the back seats of cars? There are no real questions being asked about what really happened, just accusations.
The accusations don’t stop there as Celeste asks Mary Louise if she ever blamed Perry for Raymond’s death. She asks if she ever kicked him, or beat him, or emotionally abused him, and goes on to point out that most abusers were themselves abused. It feels like a cheap trick to resolve the plot if I’m being totally honest. In a convenient flashback, we learn that Perry once told Celeste how his mother blamed him and abused him. But why would we, and especially her, just accept that as a truth and use it in court as evidence?
It doesn’t seem to cross the judge’s or anybody else’s minds that a confirmed rapist, abuser, and liar would fabricate something like this to explain away his own rage problems. The man spent the majority of his adult life lying to his wife about where he was on his business trips and what he was up to, so why does she never consider that this is a lie? If this was something that happened, there’s no way Celeste would have allowed Mary Louise to be a part of the boys’ life. She would have also warned Jane (Shailene Woodley) of this woman’s history when she began to form a relationship with Ziggy.
Mary Louise calls Celeste a liar. She even shows up at the house later still claiming her innocence, but it doesn’t matter. Nobody ever seems to consider that Perry invented it, which is strange. Celeste and the others, who were so terrified to tell the truth about Perry through fear of not being believed, have now shamed another woman in court based on nothing more than a rapist’s possible lies. Obviously, there could be some truth in it, but we haven’t been presented with anything that confirms it so why should we accept it? I don’t.
Perry was a monster through and through; that’s a fact that we know. But by trying to blame his behavior on a woman the show begins to undo all of the important messages it was telling us about women in its first season. Women abused in a man’s world have now become the abusers. It’s a really damaging twist in the show’s tale that wasn’t necessary and was all too convenient—especially as we’ve been forced, through Celeste, to spend the season romantically remembering Perry. Now they’ve tried to humanize him and put the blame of his behavior elsewhere.
Speaking of convenient, a video of Perry beating up Celeste appears from nowhere and is used in court to prove the abuse. The fact that Celeste actually even needs proof of the abuse is bad enough; a woman should be believed. But why was this video only discovered the night before the big showdown? The video is on a tablet amongst other videos which show Perry being all lovely. If you recall from an earlier episode, the boys told Mary Louise that their Mom had helped them make a memory book of their Dad. So why was this video undiscovered till now?
The children in the show have always been silently listening to their parents and talking among one another. We know that Max and Josh learned their bad behavior from hearing their father abuse their mother. We didn’t know they’d been filming it, however. I just can’t help thinking that the video would have emerged by now. Mary Louise even had access to the tablet and she’d watched the videos with the boys. You would think that after spending all this time trying to say her son was a good man that she would have watched every nice video on that tablet. I can’t buy that it’s sat there in secret until now. It’s too convenient and too neat.
The judge eventually rules in Celeste’s favor and she’s granted full custody of the twins as she felt they had already been through too much. Celeste takes a moment out from her celebrations to allow the boys to go and hug their grandma. Eventually, Mary Louise is seen driving out of town in the rain. There is no happy ending for her. Why was it necessary for the show to paint her in such a bad light and have her flee Monterey in the end? Could they not just expose Perry and have Celeste and Mary Louise come to some sort of understanding with the boys? They are family, they’re both women, and nothing huge has really been gained from this whole plot.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely made for some explosive television, but this plot point could have been wrapped up in the previous episode. The Big Little Lies finale should have focused more on the lie that these women told and how they were trying to put things right. By putting too much focus on the custody battle, other characters’ stories have felt a little lackluster.
I think out of all the women, Jane was dealt probably the unfairest hand of all this season. It kind of feels like the writers forgot how important she was throughout Season 1 and just gave her anything they could think of for her to do in Season 2, and what they did give her was just so weak compared to everything else.
When the season began we got glimpses of a whole new Jane. She’d finally discovered who her rapist really was and she’d been given the chance to confront what had happened. This resulted in us seeing a Jane who had tried to move on, someone who danced down the beach as she tried to finally live her best life. But where did that Jane go? She faded into the background while she tried to finally have sex again with her new boyfriend Corey (Douglas Smith). It is great that they wanted to show how much of a struggle it would be to sleep with someone else after being raped, but they didn’t show enough. They could have done so much more with her and it genuinely feels like her character’s journey has either been lost along the way or just completely wasted. I am happy that Jane moved on and found a new romance, I really am. I just wanted more for her.
The same goes for Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) who has finally begun to reconnect with her husband Ed (Adam Scott). Ed, who has infuriatingly spent the majority of this season being silent and looking angry, is finally ok about everything. While he can’t just forget Madeline’s infidelity and automatically trust her again, he wants them to renew their wedding vows. Erm, ok then? But it actually happens; they renew their vows and do their best to try and be happy again. But were they ever even happy to begin with? Previously Ed had expressed his concerns that Madeline had just settled for him as a safe choice and a stable father. Madeline didn’t even deny this and it’s something I’ve always thought was the case with these two. Is he now ok with the fact that Madeline potentially settled for him?
And what happened to Tori (Sarah Sokolovic)? She’d confessed to wanting to sleep with Ed and considering he’d chosen to meet up with her more than once I thought he was game, too. Or I thought that it was at least going somewhere. Perhaps he’s secretly slept with her, feels that he’s equal to Madeline, and that’s why he’s suddenly ready to move on. It feels odd that we didn’t see him reject Tori in some way and instead it’s been left up in the air with no answers about their meetings.
Unsurprisingly, some of the best scenes in the Big Little Lies finale came from Renata Klein (Laura Dern). Laura has absolutely owned every scene that she’s been in this season, and I am so in love it’s upsetting there will be no more of Renata’s meltdowns on my screen. It felt like, out of all the women, she got the cleanest ending to her individual story. But that’s not to say it was a perfect one.
Gordon Klein (Jeffrey Nordling) has well and truly cemented himself as one of the show’s biggest dicks. Not only did he lose his own and Renata’s fortune, but it also came out that he had been sleeping with their nanny for god knows how long. Now he’s going to actually be smug about it. When Renata discovers that he gets to keep his $410,000 train set she is furious. I mean she’s sat downstairs in a practically empty house while he gets to sit there surrounded by his toys without a care in the world. He’s truly awful. To make things worse, he tells her that now that the nanny has gone he needs something to play with.
Renata loses it and rightly so. Taking a baseball bat from the wall she obliterates not only his beloved train set but also the room and then finally she whacks him one in the gut with the bat. She announces that they’re done and later we see her telling Amabella that they’re going to be ok. Has she left Gordon?
It’s a tad unclear. Renata has previously announced that women just forgive and stay with men because that’s just what they do. Is that the case here? I wanted to see her throw Gordon on the street or to leave with Amabella to start their new life together. I’m going to believe that Renata finally realized she can be a powerful woman and a good mother on her own as that’s where her story has been heading. She doesn’t need Gordon and she doesn’t need a man’s money. She’s made her own fortune once and she can definitely do it again.
Another wasted character this time round was Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz). What could have been an interesting insight into PTSD and a history of abuse ended up with her spending a lot of time in a hospital not really knowing what to do with herself. Out of all the Monterey Five, she probably had the most to lose as she was the one to actually push Perry. There’s been so much foreshadowing surrounding her in every episode but it was all oddly abandoned in the end.
We’d been given glimpses that Elizabeth’s (Crystal Fox) predictions had come true in the past so we allowed ourselves to believe that Bonnie would drown at some point. This wasn’t really the case, though. It sort of feels like it was all just a metaphor for Bonnie drowning in the lie and the guilt. There was no physical drowning and there was no water, despite the fact that Bonnie had even felt the premonition herself at one point. Despite the endless amount of daydreaming about killing her mother, nothing came of that either. Instead Bonnie forgives her mother and finally tells her that she loves her. We never really find out why she has such a change of heart, though.
Perhaps saying out loud what happened to her in last week’s episode finally helped her come to terms with it all and accept it. If she accepted it then no doubt she’ll be able to begin moving on. After Elizabeth whispers she’s sorry, she dies sometime later after suffering another stroke. This gives Bonnie the strength to finally tell Nathan (James Tupper) that she’s never loved him. He’s upset and for probably the first time ever we finally see how much he does love her. If he’d have only shown her that love before then maybe things could have been different. He spent more of his time bickering with Ed and trying to get other people to sort out Bonnie’s problems.
After her confession to Nathan, she decides she’s finally going to confess to pushing Perry. Before she does, she replicates Elizabeth’s behavior by placing a feather, a bone, and a crystal next to her daughter Skye’s bed. We already know that Bonnie was against this as she told Elizabeth not to bring that stuff into her home. Is it not damaging to give the only black people in the show a brief story surrounding witchcraft and magic? It feels unnecessary and a little over the top. It was obviously something that hurt her in the past so I don’t believe that Bonnie would try to pass this ritual on to her daughter before she goes to accept her fate. Or does she do it because she sees herself as no better than her mother after killing a man?
As Bonnie heads out to the police station she texts her “friends” to tell them what she’s about to do. I say “friends” as I really can’t say that they are true friends, especially in Bonnie’s case. These women weren’t really her friends before the incident at Gala night and none of them (with the possible exception of Jane) have particularly been there for her or given her proper support. Regardless of that, the other women all join her at the police station to confess. And so the season ends.
It seems doubtful that we’ll ever learn the fates of these women but I’m sure the Big Little Lies finale has ended this way to make us want more. In the episode, Ed tells Madeline, “This is not some put a ribbon on it, bygones be bygones ending, OK?” So why does it feel like that is actually the ending we’ve been given?
They’ve tried to resolve each individual story by tying a neat little bow around them. So why do things still feel so incomplete? There are still some things left unresolved or unanswered and they likely always be will now.
It’s a shame that a show that boasts one of the most impressive casts of all time has fizzled out into nothing. Considering the lie was such a big thing that almost tore these women apart, you’d think that the resolution to it would have been a lot neater. The custody battle could have wrapped up in the previous episode and the aftermath of telling the truth could have been explored in the ending of the show. Instead, it’s up to us to decide what’s happened. Detective Quinlan (Merrin Dungey), who has been a silent threat throughout the whole season, was nowhere to be seen. She wanted one of the women to crack but instead she’s getting them all at once.
I feel like the final confession was brought about because they now had video proof that Perry was a monster. This probably spurred them on in some way, but it won’t excuse the fact that they lied for this long. There will be consequences. In the novel, Bonnie turns herself in and is given community service as a result of it, but I honestly can’t see that being the outcome here.
While still being thoroughly entertaining, it’s hard not to see that this season’s plot was weak in comparison to the mystery of Season 1. It feels like they didn’t really know what they wanted to do with the characters or how they wanted us to see them. As Renata destroys Gordon’s playroom she screams, “No more lies.” Now that they’ve confessed, I suppose there aren’t really any more lies. If this is all we ever get of the show, then it’s honestly quite an underwhelming final curtain call.