Review: Big Little Lies – ‘She Knows’

Halloween is just around the corner and the “Monterey Five” are all together at Madeline’s house. The kids are carving pumpkins and preparing for upcoming events when there is a knock at the door. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) answers the door and standing in front of her—cake in hand—is Mary Louise (Meryl Streep), looking to join in on the activities. Madeline and the rest of the ladies are less than thrilled to be in the surprise presence of the meddling mother-in-law to Celeste (Nicole Kidman).

This sets the tone for the fourth episode of season two of the HBO drama Big Little Lies. One that reveals the early stages of what seems to be Mary Louise’s endgame. The events are set in motion when—in private at Madeline’s home—Mary Louise makes a degrading claim against Jane to Celeste, resulting in a vicious slap across the face from Celeste. In response, Mary Louise puts in motion her plans to remove the children from Celeste’s care. Plans that involve seeking counsel from multiple liars and initiating a court order to seek custody of Josh and Max.

Related – Review: Big Little Lies – ‘The End Of The World’

Renata (Laura Dern) and her husband Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling) begin their bankruptcy proceedings, causing Renata to think back on her life. Believing she has lost everything she has worked for at the hands of her husband, she is forced to keep a positive attitude for the day as they prepare for her daughter’s party. She refuses to allow any negativity around her daughter’s special event.

Madeline and Ed (Adam Scott) are still dealing with Madeline’s adultery. Ed is like an emotionless figure wondering around the house, contributing nothing more than a few comments and a far-off gaze. At the costume party at Renata’s house, the only sign of joy Ed exudes is when he tends to the dance floor with Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz)—a sight that isn’t lost upon Madeline or Nathan (James Tupper).

Jane (Shailene Woodley) brings Corey (Douglas Smith) along to the party as her date. As she begins to let her guard down in his presence, Jane reveals to Corey the rape she endured years ago and how Ziggy was a result of it. In a sign of sincere empathy, Corey places his hand atop of Jane’s—a move that brings comfort to Jane, who understandably hasn’t been able to trust many people in her past.

Throughout the party, Bonnie and her mother Elizabeth (Crystal Fox) continue their back-and-forth regarding what Elizabeth sees as negative energy surrounding her daughter. Elizabeth sees the other four (Madeline, Celeste, Renata, and Jane) as negative influences, citing what she believes was an argument the group was having earlier. Every attempt Elizabeth makes in channeling her daughter’s emotional state results in Bonnie pulling away. As the party comes to a close and Renata sends everyone off one-by-one with gift bags, Elizabeth pauses in front of Renata, zones out, and collapses to the floor.

Having suffered a seizure and a stroke, Elizabeth is in recovery at the hospital. As Bonnie and her father Martin (Martin Howard) sit by her side, we are provided a window into what Elizabeth’s mind is experiencing—the sight of her daughter Bonnie drowning in the ocean.

In this latest chapter of Big Little Lies, a deeper focus is placed on Renata. Having come from a lower class background, she has independently created her wealth and reached the high levels she has always dreamed of. Having now lost everything and once again being driven down in status, Dern does a masterful job of portraying the strong, bulldog of a woman who, for the first time, is knocked down and powerless in her current situation. She is defeated, feeling she has failed not only herself in choosing an untrustworthy husband, but also has failed her daughter and destroyed her daughter’s future.

Next week’s episode intends to bring more unforeseen obstacles for the “Monterey Five.” Bonnie tends to her mother, Celeste fights to keep her children, and the marriage of Madeline and Ed barely clings on by a thread—all while Detective Quinlan (Merrin Dungey) continues to make her presence felt.

Big Little Lies airs Sunday nights on HBO, and is available for streaming on the HBO Go and HBO Now apps.

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