Big Little Lies Season 2 Recap: Episode 5 – The Ice Cream Storm
There's a whole bunch of new lies!
A significant factor in the hype around Big Little Lies season 2 was a simple question: who wouldn’t want to see Reese Witherspoon pelt Meryl Streep with an ice-cream cone?
The answer, of course, is no one — and yet no one is exactly who has seen it because the fated cone came and went this week, remaining in Madeline’s vicelike grip.
Who knows why the cone went un-thrown: is it a potent metaphor for regret, for lives left unlived? By clinging to the cone, is Madeline thereby clutching at the innocence she lost when she walked in on her dad cheating on her mother as a child?
Such are the deep veins of subtext I can simply conjure out of thin air because of the glorious slow drip that is this show’s storytelling.
But the Monterey Five have bigger fish to fry in “Kill Me,” especially with the two rather seismic reveals that occur at the end of the episode.
But before we get there: Nathan can’t believe the nutfuckery of it all, Renata and Mary Louise have tea, and that ominous bridge has never felt more foreboding. Let’s take a kayak and recap Big Little Lies!
See You in Family Court
Celeste is in full protective parents mode, following Mary Louise’s legal challenge to her guardianship of Max and Josh.
On the bright side, she drew wonderful Freaks and Geeks and Girls character actress Becky Ann Baker as the judge, who hopefully will continue to be disinclined to put up with Mary Louise’s shit.
The first hearing is mostly perfunctory, until Mary Louise attempts to give an opening statement about Celeste’s ability as a parent.
If we’re running with the theory that Mary Louise is a manipulative sociopath, which seems increasingly likely, insisting that you’re not a mother-in-law on a rampage seems… ill-advised.
That said, if the desired effect is simply to place Celeste under immense pressure while she attempts to process the death of her violently abusive husband, it’s sadly working.
At a meeting, Mary Louise’s lawyer puts down the offer of a joint custody arrangement and Celeste loses her shit, in part because her lawyer Katie has a very Jinkx Monsoon-style ‘water off a duck’s back’ approach to like, practicing the law.
Celeste also struggles not to snap at Max and Josh, too, who alongside Ziggy, beat the hell out of a kid who bullies Ziggy over the identity of his father, prompting a suspension and a healing kayaking trip.
Both mothers have touching moments with their boys, with the twins promising they want to stay with Celeste.
Jane continues to handle Ziggy learning about all of this pretty wonderfully, but there are some aesthetic choices in this episode that feel very premonitory.
The way the camera frames Jane looking into the backseat without showing Ziggy, then cuts back to her asking him about the fight with dulled audio, before cutting back to the car window rolling down, seemingly of its own accord? I’m so worried about Ziggy, you guys.
Women in Powerlessness
Madeline and Ed go to the couples retreat Madeline suggested, and swiftly figure out that it’s…not for them.
But the experience does bring them to a point of getting their shit out in the open, in a very Emmy clip-ready scene for both Reese and Adam Scott, who continues to be absolute dynamite this season. He should have Best Supporting Actor locked down at this point.
Madeline says she can’t promise not to fuck up, but she can promise when she does it won’t be infidelity again. Ed says he’s trapped with an impossible choice because he just can’t trust Madeline.
But lo, what is this? In the dizzying final montage, we see Ed approached at a bar by Tori, wife of Joseph Bachman, with whom Madeline cheated.
Fucking just to get revenge on your spouses who had an affair is the kind of petty I expect from the rich white people on this show, but then — holy shit — they look over and Joseph is sitting there watching it all go down.
Is Ed about to help cuckold the dude who boned his wife? I really, really, really hope so. LET. ED. FUCK.
Renata, meanwhile, is counselling Celeste on the capabilities of her (conspicuously non-white) lawyer, only to be informed that she has been cut out of that magnificent Women in Power photoshoot because of “the bankruptcy thing”.
Ah yes, that old chestnut.
Interlude: here is Renata going through the five stages of grief over this news, communicating almost solely by Laura Dern’s hands.
Renata tells Celeste she should take a crack at Mary Louise to get her to back down, so she invites Mary Louise over for tea in her now cavernously empty house.
Now, there are conspiracy theorists out there who believe Big Little Lies season two was only made to create GIFs and memes, and by and large I find that insipid and potentially misogynistic.
But when you have Laura Dern saying, “What kind of tea would you like?” and Meryl Streep delivering, “I was hoping this would just be about… teaaa!” in the same scene, well, I have such doubts.
So, Mary Louise successfully disarms the Medusa of Monterey.
This confrontation puts Renata in a mothering mood, telling Amabella that they’ll spend the day together instead of going to school or work. Amabella just asks, “Is this because we’re broke?” And well, Renata drops some truth on her: “Sweetie, everything isn’t about money. Well…it is. But it isn’t.”
Bonnie to Run
Here’s the thing about Bonnie this season: Zoe Kravitz is putting in the damn work, but after five episodes I’m very wary about where her story is going.
Bonnie started season two on the edge of things, frustrated at being sidelined by the very white Sex and the City 3 recast (Jane is Charlotte, Madeline is Carrie, Celeste is Samantha, Renata is Miranda, absolutely do not @ me).
Now she seems pretty comfortably back in the fold, with all that quiet racial tension pushed aside because of their unity over the lie, and because of the significant element of her mother, who this week gasps the episode title at her: “Kill me.”
We see the abuse Bonnie suffered at her mother’s hands fleshed out further in flashbacks, but it’s mainly through her conversation with her dad — first, an uncomfortable encounter at her work, and then a more painful realisation at home — that we get a sense of how much underlying trauma there is in this family.
Her dad’s admission — that he thought he’d done enough to protect her, but still knows he didn’t — is pretty heart-breaking.
This week’s impromptu “beach time” meeting involves Celeste making the crew aware that she’s going to have to go under oath before a judge, opening a back door to questions about Perry’s death.
This means arriving via the telltale bridge, which appears repeatedly in this episode and I am convinced will play a pivotal role in the final episodes to come.
Madeline insists that they stick with their story, to which Renata replies, “That’s perjury, babe!” which is now my text notification sound.
Madeline says they probably can’t prove anything, but Bonnie — who would be affected the most by the truth coming out — asks, “What if they can?”
And truly, they could, for all we know.
In part because we know that Mary Louise has been in contact with Detective Quinlan, who shares her suspicions. Which means the custody battle could be orchestrated specifically to put the Monterey Five under pressure in a courtroom they might not be able to dragged to otherwise — they’re all on the witness list in support of Celeste.
The pressure clearly mounting on Bonnie’s shoulders, she taps into one of her mum’s visions of her drowning while holding her hand at the hospital, and she resolves to go to the police station and confess once again.
But as she arrives, who walks out with an officer? Corey, a.k.a. The Artist Formerly Known As Aquarium Guy himself.
Is he a cop? Is he an informant? Is he reporting that Perry raped Jane out of protectiveness for her? Did he just fuck everything up regardless? All signs point to yes. Hang up on the Corey hotline, Jane. No amount of words that rhyme with Corey — gory, story, allegory, Montessori — could make up for this.
Next week: Courtroom drama, and more importantly, courtroom outfits! Plus Renata wailing in a car, Celeste disowning her family ties to Mary Louise, and Bonnie has something to confess.
This Week’s Biggest Little Liar:
Corey for going behind Jane’s back in whatever manner he did. Or maybe he didn’t. Even if it turns out he remained tight-lipped, I’m still mad at him.
Monterey Death Pool:
I get the feeling that Bonnie’s previewed confession next week is going to be about her mother’s request and not about Perry.
Also: rest in power, Ice Cream Throwing Scene. [Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” begins to play]
Notes on a Scandal:
- Ed’s pass-agg confrontation with Nathan, simply saying, “We don’t have to like each other. Must we try so hard not to?” and Nathan responding by yelling, “HEY NUTFUCK!” at Ed as he rides off, only to turn and run away? There’s a lot to love about how the men on this show are written.
- There’s also a tender moment when Chloe comes in and just gives Ed a huge hug, which seems — more than anything — to explain why he hasn’t left Madeline, beyond the obvious love he has for her mixed in with the disdain for what she’s done.
- Laura Dern tweeted out that the actress playing Renata’s assistant, Bellina Logan, is her oldest friend and that they’ve known each other since they were one. Logan has also appeared in multiple David Lynch projects, occasionally alongside Dern.
- Ugh that Corey probably fucked up this hard right after Jane managed to work up the courage to kiss him, but ultimately break down in tears, makes me mad. But that scene is yet more evidence that Shailene’s low-key work on this show goes underappreciated.
Big Little 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.