The Custody War Begins
With only three episodes to go, Big Little Lies continues to unravel its intricate web of drama and excellent characterisation with another strong episode in its second season. With the focus squarely on Celeste and the ensuing custody battle for the boys, the 40 minute episode boasts a wealth of dramatic moments.
We begin with Celeste heading to a preliminary hearing where a deciding date for custody of the children is set. A psychiatric evaluation is planned too and, still reeling from the meeting, Celeste heads to Renata’s to ask her for advice. She decides to “take a crack” at Mary Louise’s tough exterior, with knowledge of her not being selected for the upcoming Women In Power magazine only adding further fuel to the fire.
Unfortunately, Mary Louise is more than capable of holding her own and Renata’s meeting doesn’t go to plan. She matches Renata blow for blow and comments on her bankruptcy and failure to spend time with her kids, stabbing Renata right where it hurts.
Ed and Madeleine then head off for the Couple’s retreat while Bonnie reflects on what’s happened over the past few days. Madeline and Ed have a heart to heart where he tells her he’s having trouble trusting her.
Ziggy finds himself bullied at school until Max and Josh arrive to stick up for their half-brother. They gang up on the bully and kick him badly, busting his lip and getting themselves suspended from school in the process. After class, Jane speaks to her son calmly and learns what the bully actually said. Silently, and fighting back sadness, she hugs Ziggy tightly.
Meanwhile, Bonnie flashes back to her troubled childhood at the hospital, with images of her Mum angry and presumably intoxicated while she was little. Later on, she has a cryptic talk with her Dad too which further reinforces this idea that violence playd a key role in her upbringing. The subtlty and vagueness around this is really nicely worked and the realistic dialogue helps keep the show grounded in reality – one of the strong points of Big Little Lies.
Celeste talks to her boys about the bullying incident before Max curses her, prompting Celeste to slam her fist on the table and tell the boys not to talk like that. As she heads off to the custody meeting later that night, she’s offered joint custody with Mary Louise in exchange for seeking anger management and rehab, which she vehemently disagrees to. Disgusted, she asks her lawyer what she’s even paying her for given the silence. Celeste then tells the Monterey 5 later that evening about her meeting and they agree that they need to be prepared for questions about Perry to come up.
The episode itself then ends with one final montage of all our characters who seem reasonably happy. This ultimately feels like the proverbial deep breath before the chaos – which comes to a head when the montage ends and Ed gets closer to Torie at the bar. The same Torie who happens to be the wife of the theatre director. The final shot then shows Bonnie heading to the police station and pausing outside as she spots Corey leaving.
While there isn’t much in the way of dramatic, stand-out moments this week, the episode itself does do well to set the foundation for the final two episodes to follow. Mary Louise continues to command the screen though and seeing her effortlessly match Renata’s fiesty attitude and hitting her where it hurts really helps soldify how strong this woman really is.
The use of rapid cuts and slick editing helps set the series apart too and this is masterfully blended with the sound design, which certainly deserves some credit for this. A picture speaks a thousand words and the flashback scenes are all the stronger for the injection of silence here. It’s something that was also used in the first season too but here it really helps drive home the drama, especially with the repeated segments of Perry’s death.
With two more episodes to go, Big Little Lies continues to deliver strong drama, ending things with a big cliffhanger ready for next week’s penultimate episode. Quite what will happen remains to be seen but if the way the first season ended is anything to go by, we’re in for a real rollercoaster ride of emotion.