WARNING: contains some minor spoilers. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.
The third part of Big Little Lies’ triumphant return to our screens, we’re informed after the opening titles, is called ‘The End of the World’. It’s coming, after all. When? We don’t know. But according to the climate change-obsessed teaching staff at Monterrey’s Otter Bay Elementary School, it’s not all that far away. So, according to them, the children there better act soon and be a part of the solution before the planet goes kaput and we all die horrible deaths.
It’s pretty heavy stuff for a kid to take on board. So it’s no great surprise when one of the pupils has an anxiety attack over it all. That kid being Amabella Klein, the daughter of highly-strung Renata. Overwhelming fear overcomes her, makes her pass out in a cupboard and require a trip to the hospital. She’s fine, but Renata is anything but. The fallout is weighty – an emergency meeting called by parents convinced that their children don’t need to be worried onto unconsciousness over the possibility of future water shortages.
The idea of seven-year-olds with existential dread is a wonderfully absurd, amusing and yet eminently plausible scenario and pure middle class farce. These moments are some of the very best in Big Little Lies. The crime and murder and lies and deception all drive the series, of course. But the satire on privileged rich white people keeps things light, while still packing a punch. Watching a child therapist dressed as Bo Peep extracting information from a child’s psyche – for presumably hundreds of dollars an hour – is hilariously bizarre and yet entirely believable.
Okay, so a child needing hospitalisation might not sound light and breezy, but as respite from the idea of the erosion of humanity and personality from lying about a not so accidental accident/murder, it’s welcome relief.
Speaking of which, Meryl Streep’s Mary Louise is still on the prowl, of course, looking to clear her son’s name and get to the ‘truth’. She’s heard the actual truth several times now, but won’t stop until she’s manipulated it into far more palatable one. The kind of truth that doesn’t include her son Perry as a wife-beating rapist.
This week she visits Jane to try and get her to – somehow – reassess her sexual assault. Mary Louise must be CORGI-registered, given all the expert gas-lighting she’s doing. First it was to Celeste over her son’s abuse. Now it’s Jane that’s feeling her heat. She ends a relatively cordial discussion about the possibility of being a grandmother to Ziggy with a grilling where she practically accuses Jane of coming on to Perry and leading him on.
“I can’t surrender to this notion that he was evil,” Mary Louise confesses. “I just do so want to believe that there was good in him.”
Meanwhile, Ed is enjoying torturing Madeline because of her affair. Madeline, however, is enjoying it less. A breakdown during a rambling speech at the school meeting demonstrates that.
And Celeste is seriously losing her grip, falling deeper back in love with her violent dead husband – or, more specifically, the memory of the nicer side of him. Nicole Kidman plays Celeste with such soul that it’s easy to understand how her motivations, even if it is all so totally heartbreaking.
Big Little Lies series 2 episode 3 took on a gentler pace than last week’s instalment and the first week’s hour. That’s no great critique, though. There are multiple plot threads to explore and enjoy here and more than enough going on to justify laying off the gas a little. Plus this was easily the funniest episode to date.
You could argue that this follow-up series lacks the impact of the first somewhat, given that it can’t rely on the ‘who killed who?’ device that the maiden season had. So far it’s not perhaps been as impactful as 2017’s Big Little Lies, but all the wit, intrigue and incredible performances are still there. And that’s more than enough for us.
What did you think of Big Little Lies series 2 episode 3? Let us know in the comments below!