Review: Big Little Lies – “The Bad Mother”

Celeste’s day in court is approaching and the “Monterey Five” attempt to maintain control as everything around them seems to unravel. As the second season of Big Little Lies quickly approaches its finale, the personal relationships of Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), Jane (Shailene Woodley), Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz), and Renata (Laura Dern) continue to hit rough patches—especially in the case of Mary Louise (Meryl Streep).

The sixth chapter of season two features Jane (Shailene Woodley) confronting her boyfriend Corey (Douglas Smith) over his visit to the police station. Corey reveals that the detective called him in for questioning regarding any knowledge of the death of Perry (Alexander Skarsgård), which Corey confided in Jane that he knows nothing. Madeline attempts to earn the trust of Ed (Adam Scott) while still keeping the secret from him—and while Ed deals with the advances of Tori (Sarah Sokolovic).

During a bankruptcy meeting where former employees and contractors confirm how much they were paid, Renata discovers that her husband Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling) paid their nanny $160,000 for “stress relief.” To say she was not overjoyed with this information would be an understatement—and Dern’s delivery of emotion in the moments after is flawless. Meanwhile, Bonnie is emotionally tortured not only by the secret the five have kept, but by the tumultuous and abusive relationship she had with her now comatose mother in her youth. Bonnie has visions of suffocating her mother, fueled by the words “kill me” uttered by her mother in the previous episode. Eventually, Bonnie confesses to her unconscious mother the pain she’s endured under her and how it negatively impacted her life today—and confessed that it was her anger toward her mother that drove her to kill Perry.

Related – Review: Big Little Lies – “Kill Me”

All this builds up to Celeste’s day in court, fighting for full custody of her twin boys. Mary Louise’s attorney Ira Farber (Denis O’Hare) drills into Celeste, bringing up numerous one-night-stands she’s had and her mental health around the children. He even goes as far as to bring up Perry’s death and how he would have required added force to fall as far as he did. Celeste counters Ira by appealing to the judge and court, explaining that while she has made mistakes, she is getting better and turning away from her vices.

This episode gave a balanced, multiple angle approach to its “The Bad Mother” title. It features multiple motherly characters and the flaws that impair their judgements. While Celeste is the one fighting for her kids, the title also shines the light on Bonnie’s mother Elizabeth and the rage that she unleashed on her daughter. It places a light on Madeline’s continued conflict of fighting to keep her marriage intact while still holding back on the secret of Perry’s death. Celeste is not the only mother dealing with accusations and the inner demons of her errors.

Additionally, that title of “The Bad Mother” may also be used on Mary Louise herself, as the climax of this episode featured a turning point for Celeste. Before the judge could render her verdict, Celeste launched out of her chair and asked to call one more witness: Mary Louise. Moreover, Celeste requested that she represent herself and question Mary Louise herself. Having passed the bar and worked as an attorney, the judge had no choice but to allow Celeste to do so.

It looks like the big season finale of season two will feature a courtroom showdown between Celeste and Mary Louise. A showdown with the fates of two young boys—and the fates of the “Monterey Five”—hanging in the balance.

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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