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. 

Sunday’s episode 3 of Big Little Lies builds up all of the drama so far this season to a climax of cover-ups, lies, loose ends and drama that may seem like the end of the world for the Monterey Five. It’s also a big week for Meryl Streep’s character, Mary Louise, who is new this season and adds a sinister vibe. 

Against that character drama, this week also saw some kinder moments for local scenes, with another visit to Monterey State Beach and to Old Monterey. Alexander Skarsgård also gets part of the local fame this week for appearing in old family videos reading a copy of, yes, the Monterey County Weekly with his morning coffee. 

After a visit from her mom in episode 2, Bonnie’s (Zoë Kravitz) backstory starts to show why she is so resilient. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) is working through the aftermath of her infidelity in Season 1, and she and her husband (Adam Scott) go to marriage counseling together. Unlike the public persona she puts forth, she is clearly emotionally unstable in this episode, which leaves her vulnerable to any danger coming her way. 

While Mary Louise (Streep) is new this season, it’s already been established that she has no respect for personal boundaries; that’s further emphasized in episode 3, when she goes as far as to show up at Jane’s (Shailene Woodley) workplace—the Monterey Bay Aquarium!—to ask for a paternity test for Jane’s son, Ziggy. And that’s just the beginning of Mary Louise’s invasive and persistent behavior that’s got the Monterey Five on edge. 

They pretend to be a big happy family until Mary Louise asks who initiated the introduction the night Ziggy was conceived, followed by the fear flashing in Jane’s eyes.  

Mary Louise also pays another visit to the investigator on the case, and delivers one of those searing lines we’ve all been waiting for since the trailers for Season 2 came out: “You don’t believe my son just slipped, do you?”

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Meanwhile, Renata (Laura Dern) gets even more irrationally controlling when it comes to parenting Amabella. The second-grader is suffering from anxiety partly because of her parents, but also some seriously big-picture stuff: She’s been learning about climate change at school, and fear of the future is the biggest issue on her little kid plate. In her eyes, it’s time to panic over rising temperatures. To the Monterey Five, the world is also looking bleak—but for other reasons.  

The question remains whether those reasons, and the surrounding lies, are petty (are they just trying to protect their image?) or big (Mary Louise has yet to reckon with her son’s violence).  

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