WARNING: some light spoilers for Big Little Lies series 2 episode 1 below. Still catching up? Take a first look at the new season here.
Liane Moriaty’s novel Big Little Lies was first published in hardback in 2014, with a paperback version hitting shelves a year later. A smash hit and number one bestseller, it didn’t take long for the wily folk at the US cable network HBO to snap up the rights to the book, correctly sensing that – in the right hands – they could add another hit to their already quite impressive pile (one that includes the likes of The Wire, Oz, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Sex and the City, Veep, Boardwalk Empire, Girls and Sharp Objects).
It was excellent news for both fans of quality TV and Moriarty’s work as the series did end up in the right hands. In fact, the eight-part debut run of Big Little Lies was HBO’s biggest award winner yet. Series 1 picked up an almost incalculable number of Emmys, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Screen Actors Guild awards, Satellite awards, Writers Guild awards, AFIs, you name it.
A follow-up series was inevitable. The critics and awards types made that pretty clear. Plus there’s now a legion of Big Little Lies fans across the world. And a TV network with a stone cold hit on their hands. The only trouble was – the 460-odd pages of material had been adapted.
So what to do…?
Well, everyone involved in making the show got their heads together and made a very smart decision indeed. Instead of rushing a second novel out or attempting to come up with a second storyline themselves, they wisely decided to let the powerful plot of the book and first series continue to propel the characters here through another series. After all, five women uniting and conspiring to cover up the ‘accidental’ death of one of their abusive husbands is hardly inconsequential and likely to be fallout-free, is it?
If this opening hour of series 2 is anything to go by, it appears as though we’re all in for performances over plotting here. And why not? When you’ve got the likes of Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoë Kravitz to hand, it kind of makes sense to play to their strengths.
That’s not it, though. There’s more. Someone pulled a true masterstroke of casting genius here. Joining the cast for (at least) the seven episodes of series 2 is The World’s Greatest Living Actress™, the one and only Meryl Streep…
The Out of Africa and Sophie’s Choice thesp plays Mary Louise, the ostensibly helpful mother of Celeste’s (Nicole Kidman) chronically abusive late husband Perry (The Little Drummer Girl‘s Alexander Skarsgård, seen here only in flashbacks). She’s in town to assist her daughter-in-law and look after her two grandchildren. All while poking gently (at first) at the official story of what happened to him.
She’s grieving, angry and more than a little suspicious. Think Miss Marple, only a good deal more passive aggressive – and quite possibly more dangerous – than her. This first episode is never better than when Streep’s Mary Louise and Witherspoon’s Madeline are trading barbs, hinting at some explosive moments between the two down the line, no doubt.
Meryl Streep’s introduction apart, it’s very much business as usual here for Big Little Lies. That’s not to accuse it of repetition or complacency, though. The similarities between the beginning of this series and the opening of the last are firmly intentional. It’s a new school year, the faces are the same… Yet there’s a major difference. Our five main characters are no longer just five separate women. They’re five women connected by a lie. A big little lie, no less.
Are ‘The Monterrey Five’ strong enough to hold out against three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep’s powerhouse of a character, Mary Louise? We wouldn’t bet on it.
What did you make of Big Little Lies series 2 episode 1? Let us know in the comments below!