The aftermath of trauma: on Big Little Lies

After a stellar first edition, the new season of Big Little Lies is firing on all cylinders once again

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Few seasons of a TV show are as perfect as the first run of Big Little Lies.

Normally, you yearn for an exceptional show to return to your screens as soon as a season ends, but Big Little Lies’ close-ended approach lent it a certain perfectness. Personally, I had mixed feelings about the show coming back for a second season even though the new storylines would be written by Liane Moriarty (who wrote the novel on which the first season was based), and David E Kelley would return to write the new episodes. On one hand, it looked like a cheap trick to capitalise on the show’s humongous popularity. And yet, the news of its return coincided with the announcement that Meryl Streep had been cast in a pivotal role, bolstering an already-heavyweight cast. Two episodes in, and all my misgivings have been washed away.

Secrets have a way of festering, and all of season one’s secrets seem to have turned uglier with time. The secret about a child being the product of sexual assault. The secret of a woman who looks to be in a perfect marriage, but who carries within her scars of marital abuse. Secrets parents keep from their children, and the children who keep knowledge undisclosed too. Every character of the show has, at some point or the other, nurtured a lie that has the potential to ruin lives, and most of them come to a head in the new episodes.

The biggest secret of them all, of course, was that five women — Celeste, Madeline, Jane, Renata and Bonnie — covered up the murder of a man so despicable, you were glad they went scot-free. But bad things don’t end with bad people. Celeste — played by Kidman, whose heartbreaking performance as the abused wife of Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgård), anchored season one — isn’t in a better place after the death of her abuser after all. She suffers from PTSD, her kids are yet to come to terms with their father’s demise and, in a rather twisted development, she misses the presence of her tormentor.

And while season one, eventually, had us all invested in Celeste’s fate, it worked best when all of its tracks were functioning in sync, as they are now. Jane (Shailene Woodley) must grapple with her son Ziggy finding out that his father was Perry after all, a man he never knew and never will, even as his young mind struggles with the meaning of ‘assault’. Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz), who pushed Perry down to his death, is herself on a downward spiral as a result of her actions. Madeline (Witherspoon) is trying her best to ensure the women’s cover-up persists, even as an earlier instance of infidelity threatens to ruin her marriage. Meanwhile, Renata (Laura Dern) has to deal with potentially losing all her wealth due to her husband’s fraud, which will seemingly give the terrific Dern more to do this time around (“I will not, not be rich!”).

Which brings us to Streep, playing Perry’s grieving mother Mary Louis, who when confronted with her son’s history of perpetrating physical abuse, is affronted at the accusation. Committed to uncover the reason behind his death, Mary Louis threatens to blow the lid off the women’s secret, and her eerie, icy presence (All hail, Streep!) is sure to cause an upheaval in the lives of the Monterey Five. Things are heating up, and the new season may be worth its salt after all!

Season 2 of Big Little Lies is now streaming on Hotstar

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 3:54:04 AM |

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