It was the final scene that gave Big Little Lies a meaning and importance that transcends the merits it had notched up until then. It was the purifying value of that scene on the beach, that moment of sisterhood between a group of women who had been facing each other for the majority of the story, that’s what earned Big Little Lies its momentous status. The miniseries, which had initially been pitched as a mystery (with a crime we didn’t know anything about), connected with the #MeToo movement at that very moment, acquiring a dimension that transformed it into the feminist series (before The Handmaid’s Tale, which would later take over) and that earned it awards for both its artistic merits, especially the role played by the stars, as well as for a moment that called for applause for a drama that connected with something in the air and that meant so much to so many of us. The powerful cathartic effect of the finale placed Big Little Lies on a pedestal where it could well have remained. This conjuring of the ideal of sorority, of women who join forces when the chips are down, was a powerful image that brought the storyline to a clearly optimistic climax.
Big Little Lies season two’s virtue (of which I’ve seen three episodes prior to penning this review) is precisely the desire to dismantle that finale. It’s easy to hang onto the idea that they came together and will therefore always remain united. The difficult and uncomfortable part is facing the following day in a realistic manner. Realizing that this union was destined to dissolution in favor of the usual dynamics and that these five women would soon once again drift apart, allowing distrust and obscurity to undo what a crime had united. Despite owning a shared secret, they handle the fall-out from what they’ve done separately, without supporting each other. This makes the group vulnerable to the suspicious eyes of characters like Perry’s mother, played by Meryl Streep. The actress, who predictably steals every scene she’s in, plays a woman who sometimes appears to be a mother clinging to the idealized memory of her son denying what she now knows about him, and other times who is there to question the official version of the facts and find evidence that her daughter-in-law and her friends are responsible for his murder.
The first episode hints that the truth may be discovered at some point. Despite this, the series doesn’t labor the point to generate tension but focuses rather on personal storylines. Little secrets take centre stage as the biggest secret of all remains a backdrop. That doesn’t mean that it won’t return to the limelight, which it surely will, but initially it’s discarded to one side and, as a consequence, the series loses some of its bite. This coupled with the fact that there’s no longer any mystery to be solved as was the case in season one, and you’re guaranteed to have plenty of viewers yearning to mentally put the pieces of the puzzle together. In terms of formalities, the series maintains a similar style, with Andrea Arnold imitating Jean-Marc Vallée (especially in the first episode, overloaded with musical montages) but to assist in delivering an intimate portrayal of women who unsuccessfully try to act as if nothing has happened. The work of the cast remains, by far, the best of Big Little Lies, along with the ability to highlight lives that are perfect only on the surface. We shall continue to discover the little lies, as we wait for the final lie to be uncovered.