Big Little Lies started as a mini-series but HBO’s plans changed soon after the enormous success of the first season and we got another season that, in hindsight, wasn’t needed. The first season ended with the death of the physically and emotionally abusive Perry and though there was no legal justice in the end, it felt like the show’s motive of breaking the cycle of abuse was achieved. Which makes us ask, did we need a second season? The short answer is no but in the world of big corporations where milking the success of a popular property is the norm, this was a resounding yes.
This time around, the story starts with Perry’s mother Mary-Louise trying to find out if there was any foul play in her son’s death. She gives that up halfway to focus on her grandkids’ custody and because the show portrays her to be an interfering and creepy old woman from the start, you don’t even want to root for her even though she makes some valid points.
Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Mary-Louise (Meryl Streep) are at loggerheads trying to prove which one’s the bad mother but you realise that neither of them deserves the custody they are fighting for. The final scene further proves that the courtroom drama, that was visually exhausting to watch, was inconsequential.
With Emmy bait performances by both Streep and Kidman, you applaud the performers but as the show goes on, it’s starkly visible that Kidman’s path of self-destruction and Streep’s detective skills aren’t taking the plot ahead but repeating what we already know. But, at least, these two got the better scenes.
Laura Dern’s Renata spends the entire season telling everyone that she “can’t not be rich”. Zoe Kravitz’s Bonnie spirals down a whirlpool of guilt with the makers choosing to spend more time on Madeline’s (Reese Witherspoon) marital woes. Shailene Woodley’s Jane grows in her individual story but it’s jarring to realise that none of them but Bonnie are consciously aware that they killed someone.
The women here aren’t as well-rounded as they were in the first season. It appears that most of them were given a single line of brief and it was up to their expertise to add more elements to their already existing characters and not all of them achieved what Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman could.
Over the last few weeks, the show has been more in the news for its off-screen hypocrisy and the effects of the same are visible. In a report by Indiewire, it was suggested that director Andrea Arnold did not get the creative control that she was promised and various parts of the show were re-shot and re-cut to match the style of the first season. The truth about the same is still unknown but to a viewer, it is evident that this wasn’t a smooth-sailing ride. Just looking at the rigid style of the last two episodes confirms your doubts that not everyone was on the same page here.
Domestic abuse was the central issue of Big Little Lies and during the first season, many story arcs delivered the message. The one where Perry’s kids turned abusive with a classmate jolted the viewers but this season, that shock value is simply missing.
The finale suggests that there is going to be a third season as well and it is quite certain that HBO will not let go of its big-ticket to Emmys in the post-Game of Thrones world but just like the second one, it makes us ask again, do we need it?
Big Little Lies is streaming on Hotstar.