Big Little Lies

Four members of the Monterey Five (from left to right, the actors are Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley) hang out at a "Monterey" coffee shop, set on Lovers Point. 

The Monterey Five are breaking into pieces and using dress-up parties as a band-aid to cover a much bigger problem in Sunday’s episode of Big Little Lies

Elizabeth (Crystal Fox), Bonnie’s (Zoë Kravitz) mother, acts as a third eye to them all; she knows there is something wrong and that her daughter is in serious trouble. But the title of episode 4, “She Knows,” could apply to a few characters: the detective who popped up multiple times during the show; deeply suspicious Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) who continues to meddle with the lives of the Monterey Five; or Elizabeth.

The episode in its entirety left viewers with more questions than answers. That a good thing—it takes this season up a notch in terms of conflict, and the storyline about reckoning with Perry’s death has faded into the background as no longer the only open question. 

Renata (Laura Dern) is focusing on herself—not in the healthy, mindful way, but in the same vein of a toddler’s meltdown. She is watching all of her status, wealth and lifelong dreams be thrown out the window by her husband, who’s facing federal criminal charges and filed for bankruptcy. Although she seems to have lost everything, Renata wants to put on a show as if everything is fine. She throws a wildly lavish disco birthday party for her second-grade daughter with live music by The Trammps, personalized party gifts for attendees, and enough wine to make at least a few people turn dramatic. (It’s clearly a party for herself more than for the kids.)

Meanwhile Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) is trying to heal her relationship with her husband Ed (Adam Scott), who seems indifferent to reconciling. While she watches her marriage slipping through her fingers Madeleine is also losing faith in her relationship with the Monterey Five, accusing Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) of talking behind her back. 

Celeste is beyond exhausted, and coping—barely—with Ambien and alcohol. The abusive behaviors she shared with Perry (Alexander Skarsgård), her late husband, are starting to come out in new ways. In this episode, she slapped her mother-in-law—proof for Mary Louise, played as unwaveringly calculating and sinister by Streep, that she should take custody of Perry and Celeste’s twin boys. 

Jane (Shailene Woodley) is a beacon of hope in this episode, moving forward and working through past trauma. She’s opening up when it comes to sharing—secrecy versus sharing is at the core of so much of this show—and she sticks up for herself, confronting Mary Louise. But deep down, she’s clearly still unsure.  

The episode ends on an appropriately dark note, though it’s not clear what it means. Bonnie’s mother, Elizabeth, has visions. Bonnie has clearly discredited her mother’s mystical leanings; are viewers supposed to believe them? After being hospitalized for a stroke, Elizabeth wakes up in the hospital and resumes her vision here it left off: her daughter in the deep ocean, drowning. 

The ocean is a heavy-handed metaphor in this season so far, a foreboding and dangerous place. 

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