One of the best shows to grace HBO in recent memory just wrapped its limited seven-episode run last weekend and it has its audience crying out for more.
Before it even premiered, Big Little Lies had the star power to draw a crowd, but it would take a lot more for them to stick around. Just take the infamous season two of True Detective: Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn and Rachel McAdams is a pretty heft cast worthy of following up Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson’s season one, but the story and the execution was so off-point it quickly became a laughing stock of the internet – something I’m sure HBO was and is determined to never repeat again. Because of True Detective’s sophomore season gaff and the downhill slump of The Night Of, another limited series that started out with a bang and slowly slipped away into the boring void, I suffer from high expectation PTSD for any show, really, but especially HBO shows. But, Big Little Lies was just what I needed to restore a little faith in HBO’s ability to make a great limited series from start-to-finish.
As we follow a group of well-to-do mothers in a small ocean-view town in California called Monterrey, we see that their picture-perfect lives are not all that they seem from the outside.
Reese Witherspoon plays Madeline Martha McKenzie, who is more or less the head hen in the coop. She’s a stay-at-home mom with a part time job putting on productions at the community theater. She talks a mile a minute and stands up for what she believes is right with no fear or intention of backing down — she makes me think this is what Elle Woods would’ve turned into if she hadn’t attended law school. Her marriage to Ed (Adam Scott) is rocky at times but seems normal enough as they try to raise their first grader (who has killer taste in music) and a teenage daughter from Madeline’s previous marriage to Nate (James Tupper) — who is now married to Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz), a free-loving, easy-going Yoga and fitness instructor with a knack for getting under Madeline’s skin. Madeline’s best friend is Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman), who was a successful lawyer in a previous life but gave all that up for her short-tempered husband, Perry (Alexander Skarsgard), and their twin boys. Madeline also takes newcomer Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley) under her wing after her son, Ziggy (Iaim Armitage), who was product of rape, is accused of physically bullying Amabella (Ivy George), the daughter of Renata (Laura Dern) and Gordon Klein (Jeffrey Nordling).
We learn in the very first episode through witness interrogations someone in this central focus of parents was murdered by someone else in the group, though we take the long and winding road to find out in the very last episode who murdered who, which child is bullying Amabella, and who raped Jane. It’s a slow burn that is well worth it.
It’s enough that Liane Moriarty’s novel provided ample material for the showrunners to work with, but the casting and performances of our five women complimented by our lead men was truly outstanding. It would be shocking if Kidman, Skarsgard and Witherspoon weren’t nominated for a smattering of awards during the 2017 award season.
Though there are no official plans for a season two, Kidman and Witherspoon, who optioned Big Little Lies also grabbed onto Moriarty’s other best seller Truly Madly Guilty, but perhaps the cries for another season may be loud enough to persuade Moriarty to write more life for Celeste, Madeline, Renata, Bonnie and Jane, too.
The full season of Big Little Lies is now available on HBO on-demand.