‘Big Little Lies’ Season 2 Recap: Episode 2 — The Kids Are All Wright
Those lies? They keep getting bigger.
This week’s episode is called ‘Tell-Tale Hearts’, an appropriate title for the delightful melodrama of the season’s second instalment.
A surprising amount went down — the writers are already chewing through story like Meryl Streep and Laura Dern are scenery, in the best possible way. It also turned out that my grave concerns for Gordon Klein from last week’s recap were well-founded, and Mary Louise continues to be the High Inquisitor of Monterey.
As always, these fraught circumstances gave life to so many new iconic moments, from Renata’s Armin Tamzarian moment to Madeline’s cutting digs at Mary Louise.
So let’s run through all the latest untruths and recap Big Little Lies, shall we?
Renata In De-Klein
If the season premiere was light on Renata, this week was a gift from the heavens.
It was a terrible time for Amabella’s mum, though; Gordon, who we last saw drinking a lot while staring at his model trains, has been arrested for securities fraud (which he committed so he could buy a private jet — rich people, folks.)
Renata is furious, but not so mad that she can’t first put her coffee down on the ground while Gordon is being restrained on the hood of their car and handcuffed. She really can’t catch a break, because she keeps setting off the metal detector when she goes to visit Gordon.
Gordon informs her that he fucked up big time, betting pretty much everything they had on a bad deal. But Amabella’s trust fund is safe, so we can sleep easy that Renata will still be able to Felicity Huffman her daughter’s way into college someday.
The Kleins will otherwise likely be broke within a year, causing Renata to scream, “I WILL NOT NOT BE RICH!”
This all seems to indulge the version of Renata we were initially presented in season one: a ruthlessly ambitious, powerful and wealthy career woman.
This image deepened towards the end of season one as her confrontations with Madeline became a case of game recognising game, and Renata’s apology in the finale — bringing her to the scene of Perry’s death — allowed them to connect and form the friendship we see now.
But when Renata tells Madeline about the Gordon fiasco, she gives us a key insight into her interior life. In the same way we’ve learned about Renata’s hardened response to the societal mistrust of powerful women, she says “this fucker put me back in the hole”.
“This is my fucking childhood all over again,” Renata hisses. “This is everything I’ve worked to get out of.”
Later in the episode, we get an incredible Renata moment after she bails Gordon out after appearing in court in a gorgeous scarlet ensemble.
First, she turns the radio off, and Gordon says she used to like the song that was playing.
“I used to love to sit on your face, do you think that’s ever going to happen again?” That’s a one-hit K.O., but can Renata Klein pull off a fatality?
(Sidebar: it is here I would advise Liane Moriarty to commission a Big Little Lies-inspired version of Mortal Kombat with Renata as Kitana, Jane as Sonya Blade, Madeline as Mileena, Bonnie as Jade, Celeste as Sindel, and Mary Louise as Yoshimitsu. Please @ me.)
She kicks Gordon out of the car, speeds away while flipping him the bird through both the sunroof AND the window, and screams, “WILL SOMEONE GIVE A WOMAN A MOMENT?!”
Now is the time to note that if you’re loving what Laura Dern is serving us in BLL, you absolutely need to watch Enlightened’s two perfect seasons.
Madelyin’ Martha Mackenzie
Speaking of perfection, Madeline has once again fallen short of it.
In the season one finale, she told Abigail about cheating on Ed, and we also find out that Spotify playlist obsessive Chloe overheard Madeline talking about Ziggy’s father being Perry, which finally brings this fact out into the open because Chloe fully told Ziggy and Celeste’s kids, Max and Josh.
Chloe likely felt compelled to tell the truth in part because her (extremely hot) new teacher gave them a talk about holding onto secrets, and whomst among us wouldn’t do anything this man told us to?
Chloe gets in trouble, but her main takeaway from the whole thing was to simply ask for her phone back, prompting one of many great Mum Faces from Reese in this episode.
We also get another tremendous confrontation between Mary Louise and Madeline after she picked Celeste up from her Ambien-induced car accident, which the pair are concealing from Celeste’s mother-in-law.
When Mary Louise asks what kind of emergency it was, Madeline pulls this face and shrugs: “The kind short people have?”
Mary Louise tells Madeline that her father once advised her to seek out the biggest bully and make friends with her.
Meryl Streep then makes an acting choice so galactically absurd that it really shouldn’t have worked — she pulls her crucifix necklace up around her chin and strokes the damn cross, telling Madeline, “On your awesome days I suspect you are a godsend. But on your bad days? Decidedly less so.”
Abigail tries to score points on Madeline by bringing up her affair, thinking Ed isn’t home, because she’s still being nagged bout her college future.
Madeline’s apology consists of her repeating that it’s not about Ed, it’s about her, but that it’s also about “us”. Ed say’s they’re done because he isn’t sure what “us” means to her, since — as her ex Nathan notes to Bonnie this episode — divorce creates trauma, and often that trauma doesn’t get confronted.
Nathan, meanwhile, has called in Bonnie’s parents for support. It seems as though the show might be setting up her mother, Elizabeth (Crystal Fox), as the problem parent, with Bonnie calling out her mother’s drinking at dinner.
We also learn that Elizabeth gets visions of some kind, including one of someone drowning with what appears to be Bonnie’s face reflected somewhere in the swirling water. It’s quite odd but compelling.
Elizabeth seems to hint at an incident in Bonnie’s past, or possibly her own, asking, “What have you done — this time?” and noting that Bonnie lives somewhere where no one looks like her, or seems to really know her — and that she’s fond of having walls up to the world around her.
The Celeste I Know The Better
Celeste, still struggling with memories of Perry, took a sleeping pill and woke up reminiscing about banging him in a car… while driving one, which soon causes her to drift off the road into a guardrail.
Celeste tries to break up a fight between her kids — who at one point tell her they don’t think they’re the kind of family’s that is honest with each other — pushing Max to the ground and shouting, “You will not be like him!”
Mary Louise also gets to tell Celeste that she’s “mistaken” about thinking Madeline is a wonderful person and give her this consummate I-know-better-than-you look:
We also finally get to see Celeste and Jane talk about the fact that their sons share a father, which for some reason takes place at a café which looks like it was furnished by the Yellow King from True Detective.
Ultimately, Jane tells Ziggy about what happened — and Max, Josh and Mary Louise learn some version of the truth. Mary Louise seems to refuse to accept that her son was an abuser, and manages to connect the dots about the timing of Celeste’s plans to leave Perry and his subsequent death.
As the episode closes, we see Jane and Celeste introducing their kids to each other as brothers — a new family unit in the making, defined by the honesty of how they came together. But it could all so quickly be torn apart.
The ‘in the coming weeks’ promo for the next episode reveals that Mary Louise is about to get all up in Jane’s shit, there’s a lot more Bonnie being underwater imagery coming, and Gordon’s trains will make an ominous reappearance.
This Week’s Biggest Little Liar:
Madeline once again takes the cake, only admitting to her numerous lies when pressed on it. She might already be the frontrunner for the season’s biggest fibber.
Monterey Death Pool:
Gordon’s just going to jail, so he’ll be fine. At this point, given Elizabeth’s visions, I’m most worried about Bonnie, or even her daughter Skye. Stay away from the beach, sis.
Notes On A Scandal:
- Reese muttering, “Fuckin’ weirdo,” as she walks back to her car, and both she and Meryl’s wonderfully turn back to shout, “What?!” at each other should be in their Emmy clips next year.
- In one of the show’s most unsettling scenes, Celeste’s therapist asks her to recall a scene of Perry abusing her — and then to imagine Madeline in her place, which is extremely heavy. But it brings up the anger towards her dead husband that Celeste is repressing in favour of safeguarding positive memories, so… progress?
- Ed’s other great scene involves another run-in with Nathan where he pitch-perfectly deflects Nathan’s aggression towards him with, well, the kind of passive-aggression that would make Mary Louise proud. Maybe Celeste should scoop him up since her therapist keeps telling her to start dating again.
- Elizabeth brings crystals and feathers and shit into Bonnie’s bedroom in the night while she and Nathan are sleeping. When people said they wanted Big Little Lies to tackle race more, I’m not entirely sure they meant this.
- Fun fact: Sunday Rose Kidman-Urban and Faith Margaret Kidman-Urban make cameos as schoolkids in this episode in the scene between Madeline at Bonnie at school pick-up. Get those IMDb credits, girls.
Big Littles Lies is currently streaming on Foxtel Now.
Laurence Barber is a freelance writer, editor and award-winning film and television critic based in Sydney. He is on Twitter @bortlb.