BIG LITTLE LIES Season One Review
Please be warned that major, mystery-ruining spoilers follow…
I am so relieved that BIG LITTLE LIES is just as good as I expected. After my initial, hesitantly positive review on the BIG LITTLE LIES pilot, in which I was somewhat concerned over whether or not the central mystery would hold up, I kept up with the Monterey murder mystery drama show. I am forced to admit that the mystery really did work—mostly because the focus was rarely on the mystery itself and was instead on the contributing, tension-building factors that led to the eventual aforementioned murder. However, it is the finale of this mystery-less mystery which, as Madeline would say, “gives me pause” about the potential of a second season—which seems to promise a cat-and-mouse chase between a detective and the newly-bonded women of Monterey. A focus on the gritty details of the police force and investigation does not actually seem right for the show at all, and I fear the loss of my beloved interactions between bitchy white women.
Speaking of which, I must give high praise to the filmmakers, author, and actresses for developing such rich and nuanced female characters. None of them are perfect (as much as their exteriors and lifestyles may suggest) and they each have their own demons, fears, talents, and lies. The perfectly chosen soundtrack and beautiful landscapes of Monterey don’t hurt the overall appeal of the show, either. And, as I mentioned in my pilot review, BIG LITTLE LIES boasts exceptional production value (thanks, HBO!) which is apparent in its cinematography and production design, both details of television which are often overlooked or underappreciated.
Also, I know for a fact that this background stuffed giraffe is at least 100 bucks . . . #richpeopleproblems
However, that is all not to say that the show was perfect by any account. In fact, there were several middle episodes which were excessively boring and almost forced me to give up. Fortunately I didn’t, as immediately after these snoozers passed, the pace quickened and the plot thickened. Car crashes, violence, affairs coming to light, and much more revealed itself within the last few action-packed episodes. If only this amount of intrigue and clue-giving could have come to be in the prior episodes of the season, the show as a whole would have been impossible to turn away from.
Although the final episode does deliver a lot of juicy and previously unknown details to the audience, it also often favors Hitchcock’s preferred storytelling tool: suspense. Throughout the show, we’ve been slowly building to the highest point of Celeste’s abusive relationship with her husband Perry, and we are absolutely on the edge of our seats as she tries to both quickly and conspicuously escape from him at the infamous Trivia Night. This suspense is deliciously earned and a treat to marvel in; watching Celeste skirt around the guests and dodge her angry and terrifying monster of a husband is marvelous, terrible fun and the epitome of what makes the show really great.
One qualm that I initially had about the final moments of the season was over the identity of the murderer. After all the suspense over Celeste and Perry, and with the added realization that he was also Jane’s rapist, it felt wrong and unsatisfactory that neither of the two victims were able to enact the revenge. Bonnie, on the other hand, only put the pieces together at the last minute and had no personal connection whatsoever to Perry; as an audience, it felt random and undeserved for her to be the ultimate passion-filled killer. The only sensical payoff for a season-long build up about Perry and his abuse, in addition to the mystery of Ziggy’s monstrous father, is for the man to be killed by the women he’s been hurting. However, after researching the original novel, I realized that there may be one more reveal about Bonnie than we were given in the first season, and that her reaction to the abuse is less out of place than it seems.
She got a crown for being the queen of inserting herself in other peoples’ problems
Sure, it’s not a perfect show, but to see media of this caliber which so accurately and impressively displays the lives, feelings, and emotions of women fills me with hope and joy. Especially because it looks at wealthy white women, a group which is (often rightfully) mocked or chastised, the show’s ability to take the stories and pain of the characters seriously and with good respect and consideration should not be overlooked. I’m even further impressed by the portrayal of rape and domestic abuse, two subjects which are often diminished to providing easy “sympathy” or “depth” for female characters (cough cough, GAME OF THRONES, cough). The detail, seriousness, and specificity with which Celeste’s abusive relationship is treated is both rare and important. Instead of being glossed over or a simple way to give her a dark backstory or false depth, we as viewers identify with her pain, as we learn more and more about the gory details and hear her psychiatrist’s concerns.
BIG LITTLE LIES had a few minor disappointments and rough patches, but all in all, the show is one of the best in recent memory. The subtleties of the performance, writing, and direction are perfectly created and contribute heavily to the show’s status as exemplary television production. With all performances award-deserving and even career-defining, the lead actresses astound and consistently impress (and some even manage to completely change my mind about their abilities and talent). An absolute joy, and a progressive step for female characters in film and television, BIG LITTLE LIES is utterly refreshing.