In the legendary opening credits sequence for Big Little Lies season one, the audience is introduced to our crew of rarefied Monterey moms driving their kids to school. We see them gliding down the Pacific Coast Highway, kids in the back, intercut with moody and breathtaking establishing shots of coastal California: the ocean, waves crashing, that beautiful goddamn bridge. The season two intro isn’t really all that different, and on the surface, neither are the women. They’re still driving....somewhere, but we don’t see any kids in the backseat anymore, and as the theme draws to a close, we no longer see them vogueing to the camera, one by one, clad in Audrey Hepburn costumes. This time they’re side by side—handbags secure, sunglasses on, strolling down the beach—the very place where we saw them last.
The changes make sense. The entire thrust of the first season was based on the fact that we were careening toward a ruinous murder, but we didn’t know the victim or the killer. In season one, everyone was on their own, trying to stay alive and innocent, socially and literally. Now, the Hunger Games are supposedly over, and the “Monterey Five” are united in their quest to cover up what actually happened on the night that Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) killed Sexy and Evil Perry (Alexander Skarsgård). But we wouldn’t have a second season without any drama, and so it goes: something is still rotten in Monterey and cracks are forming in the quintet. Let the second grade begin.
We meet everyone on the first day of school and initially, it seems as though each one of our frenemies is firmly back on their bullshit: Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) is incensed about the mommy rat race in the drop off line, Renata (Laura Dern) is still fully On One about Amabella being a fragile genius, and Jane (Shailene Woodley) is still young and free, playing Joan Jett while getting Scary Ziggy ready for school. And what did Bonnie do on her summer vacation? Don’t hold your breath for her five-paragraph essay. Bonnie seems to have descended into a depressive episode while she was away in Tahoe, and her husband has no idea why. Honestly though, her fate is not the darkest in the timeline. That distinction goes to Celeste (Nicole Kidman).
Following the death of her monstrous-but-hot husband, Celeste is having horrific nightmares (about his abuse and her friend accidentally murdering him) but her true nightmare is in waking life and it goes by the name of Mary Louise (Meryl Streep!!!). Turns out the only thing worse than vivid nightmares recounting recent trauma is your mother-in-law rousing you and asking why you were chattering on about rape in your sleep. I’ll be honest—I had my reservations about BLL coming back at all (let some things end!!) and about Meryl’s casting, but you know what? The rumors are true, she is good!!!! Also please give her hair and makeup people all the awards, because they are doing some incredible work.
Anyway, Mary Louise is helping out with the kids in the wake of Sexy and Evil Perry’s death but she also seems to have some serious SUSPICIONS about the events surrounding his death and is also NOT COPING well with her grief, let’s go to the tape:
(It should be noted that BLL has now firmly established itself as a great show for screaming.)
Mary Louise isn’t just a thorn in Celeste’s side—she’s also set her sights on a more formidable opponent: Madeline. They have some weird interactions where both actresses get to chew right through the scenery and spit it back out, and because of the magic of 2019, we know that the passive aggressive battle will culminate at some point in this:
Meanwhile, our less tortured heroines are still doing their respective things. Jane and her bangs seem to have gotten a job at an aquarium. Is it THE Monterey Bay Aquarium? I hope so, and I pray those gorgeous tanks are employed at some point in the name of human drama. In any case, Jane is working alongside a hot squirrel boy who does some weird as hell flirts and tips her off to the fact that the town is still talking about her and the rest of the Monterey Five. We also see Renata in an INCREDIBLE dress singing along to Diana Ross and doing a photoshoot for some sort of spread about “women in power” (IDK), while her husband gets drunk with his model trains (truly what?? lmao). Elsewhere, Madeleine’s daughter is determined to not go to college, which frankly seems like a less dire problem than her auctioning off her virginity so...there’s that.
Let’s get back to Bonnie, whose husband (I’m NOT looking up his name) is telling anyone who will listen that Bonnie has checked out and will not engage with him. He even asks Adam Scott’s character (also not looking up his name) to take her out to lunch and try to talk to her, but Adam Scott is a “snide fuck” about the whole thing. (That character also had an odd scene in a grocery store involving breast implants which will CERTAINLY come back around.) Madeline finally talks to Bonnie herself after Bonnie misses the bimonthly girl gang meeting and they have this exchange:
Bonnie: “You know I can’t talk to my husband? Or my kid. I have to just swallow it all.”
Madeline: “You can talk to us. We’re here for you, all of us.”
Bonnie: “Well it hasn’t really felt like that.”
Madeline: “Well I’m sorry but you’ve been in Tahoe, it’s not like you can put that shit in Gmail.”
We discover that Bonnie blames Madeline for the biggest little lie happening in the first place—believing that if they had all just told the truth, Bonnie would have gotten off and the whole thing would have been fine. This thread (at least according to the previews) appears to continue throughout the season and at the end of the episode, we see Bonnie lingering outside the police station, mulling the confession that she believes will free her.
Part of the reason I had reservations about season two of BLL is that it’s basically impossible to top the drama built into the structure of season one. At the onset of season two, there’s no murder, no mystery, no searching for the root of all evil in Monterey. What we’ve got are lies, guilt, social warfare, personal politics, wigs of varying quality, and a mother-in-law from hell. For now, it seems like the biggest threat to the Monterey Five might be one of their own. And honestly, can you really blame her? Bonnie has been dealing with the aftermath of her crime (however justified) in isolation, and right now, the concern from the others seems as much about covering their own asses as anything else. For Bonnie, the biggest little lie of all might have been the sham friends she made along the way. Why not light that beautiful bridge on fire?