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– by Anthony Esteves

After just over two years since the finale of its award-winning inaugural season, the leading ladies of one of HBO’s hottest dramas have returned. HBO’s Big Little Lies—starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz, and Laura Dern—premiered the first episode of its second season last night to an eager fanbase, hanging on the unforgettable climax to season one. And as if those five names above weren’t enough, Academy-award winning legendary actress Meryl Streep has joined the cast.

Be warned: there will be season one spoilers in this review. If you have yet to complete that season, STOP READING RIGHT NOW AND GO WATCH SEASON ONE!

Picking up months after the “accidental death” of Perry (Alexander Skargård), these five friends attempt to continue on with their lives as a new school year begins. Madeline (Witherspoon) is thriving in real estate while at odds with her daughter Abigail (Kathryn Newton), who has decided not to attend college after high school. Renata (Dern) is basking in her recent success, landing an interview and photo shoot with a business magazine. Celeste (Kidman) faces a continuous internal battle with her deceased abusive husband Perry, waking up from nightmares in a panic. Adding to Celeste’s stress is her mother-in-law Mary (Streep), who while helping Celeste with her twin boys continuously pursues information regarding the death of her son.

Related – Review: HBO’s Chernobyl

Having a harder time dealing with the events of that fateful night is Bonnie (Kravitz), who has shut herself out from not only her friends but her own family. She is so plagued with having been the one that pushed Perry down the stairs, it has crept its way into everything she does. And as Jane (Woodley) finally feels she and her son are free from the cloud that weighed on her regarding the assault, she discovers—through an awkward conversation with a coworker—the term that has been used to define the five women by those in the community: “The Monterey Five.”

This premiere moved stunningly fast for an episode that clocks in at 48 minutes. It steadily jumps between our five main characters, giving an introduction to each woman’s new set of obstacles, some of which are minor while others are suffocating. Given their separate issues, the five are still connected by the events of that night and this was perfectly aligned to cover each portion. This premiere is a perfect beginning chapter in the next dramatic story arc between these five characters, who are masterfully played by a group of commanding actresses.

The talented performances of Witherspoon, Kidman, Dern, Woodley, and Kravitz are perfect. Witherspoon and Dern fire on all cylinders with their confident businesswoman/protective mother attitudes, while Kidman is heartbreakingly superb displaying Celeste’s inability to project the inner turmoil she is going through. Woodley’s young mother working to make ends meet speaks for the viewing audience that doesn’t live like Madeline, Celeste, or Renata. And Kravitz’ alteration from a yoga-loving, inner peace persona to one that is now tortured by an event that she is unable to confide in anyone with is an element that will most likely create an impact as the season develops.

Things are developing quickly and there are still six more episodes to go. Don’t miss any of the dramatic twists and emotional turns that are bound to affect the lives of “The Monterey Five.” Big Little Lies airs Sunday nights at 9 pm and is available to stream on both HBO Go and HBO Now.

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