Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 5, 2020)
Based on a novel by Liane Moriarty, 2017’s Big Little Lies offered a “limited run” series from HBO. I thought those seven episodes would offer all we got from that narrative, but 2019’s Season Two proves me wrong.
The 2017 series wrapped up the content of Moriarty’s novel, so S2 branches out into new material. At the end of the initial year, a major character got killed, an event that shook up a swanky Northern California seaside community.
In particular, we followed a group of women connected because their kids went to the same school. S2’s seven episodes pick up in the aftermath of S1’s events and follow the same characters.
What Have They Done?: “Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) worries about Bonnie’s (Zoë Kravitz) state of mind. Jane (Shailene Woodley) learns that people in town are talking about the ‘Monterrey Five’”.
Inevitably, “Done” acts as a series reset/reintroduction. With a couple years between shows, we need to get acquainted with the roles and situations again.
“Done” works well in that regard. It doesn’t spoonfeed us rehashed plot points, but it jogs our memories and points toward new events.
Tell-Tale Hearts: “Renata (Laura Dern) faces an uncertain future. Madeline’s secrets threaten her marriage.”
Because S1 wrapped up its narrative arc succinctly, S2 threatens to feel like an extended epilogue. That doesn’t make it without value, and “Hearts” proves more than moderately engaging. However, I think S2 needs to find its own overriding plot before too long if it will bring the same impact as S1.
The End of the World: “Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) tries to get closer to Jane. Madeline is forced to confront her issues in therapy.”
Though most of the cast comes from the same actors found in S1, Streep becomes a major new participant. She mainly acts as a fly in various ointments so far, but hopefully she’ll evolve into something more eventually.
As for the rest, “World” continues the trend toward a focus on the aftermath of S1’s events. Though this continues to feel like a loose theme for an entire season, I do like the evolution of these notions so far, especially in the way “World” confronts messages conveyed to children.
She Knows: “Mary Louise grows increasingly concerned about Celeste’s (Nicole Kidman) parenting. Madeline tries to make things right with Ed (Adam Scott).”
Halfway through S2, I give up on any hopes that it’ll pursue a true plot – and I’m fine with that. Initially I felt a little disappointed that it seemed to act as a glorified epilogue, but as seen here, S2 manages enough involving character threads that it grows and satisfies.
Kill Me: “Renata deals with the fallout from Gordon’s (Jeffrey Nordling) legal troubles and attempts to help Celeste. Bonnie relives painful memories of her mother.”
Given the season’s general lack of specific drama, “Kill” ramps up the “action” to a substantial degree. It still emphasizes the orientation toward the impact of S1’s events, but this material plays out in a more aggressive manner, and these factors help push us toward the season finale.
The Bad Mother: “Celeste is blindsided by Mary Louise. Bonnie contemplates a solution to her ongoing guilt.”
As expected with the season’s penultimate episode, “Mother” acts to ramp up the drama before the final show. Though it occasionally threatens to go a little over the top, “Mother” largely works well in that regard and allows us to prepare for the finish.
I Want to Know: “Celeste questions Mary Louise about a tragic event from Perry’s (Alexander Skarsgård) childhood.”
S2 concludes on a pretty climactic note. Some of the choices threaten to go over the top, but the episode connects them in an emotional manner. All of this adds up to a compelling conclusion to a solid collection of episodes.